Texas Ranch House -- For Teachers
Meet the Adventurers
Visit the Cooke Ranch
Interactive History
Adventurers Take Stock
1867: Places, People & Events
About the Project
For Teachers
Lesson Plan 1
Lesson Plan 2
Lesson Plan 3
Print this page
Email to a Friend
Video Podcast What's this? Video Podcast
Procedures for Teachers
In the decades immediately following the Civil War, cowboys and ranchers herded millions of cattle out of Texas to markets in Kansas and Missouri, in one of the greatest mass migrations of animals in American history. The cattle drive era, which lasted less than thirty years, spawned some of the most enduring, romanticized myths about the American West.

In this lesson, students will examine the lives and lifestyles of 19th century cowboys, the dangers and difficulties faced during cattle drives, and the harsh realities of life on the trail. Students will engage in the topic through a series of hands-on activities, investigation of dynamic, interactive web sites, and structured viewing of selected video segments from the PBS series TEXAS RANCH HOUSE. After participating in a virtual cattle drive experience, students will write a first-person account of life on the trail, incorporating their knowledge of the period's history gathered throughout the lesson.

This lesson can be used as a pre- or post- viewing activity for the PBS series TEXAS RANCH HOUSE, or as an independent lesson on the cattle drive era in the American West. A basic knowledge of 19th century US history is required.

Grade Level: 5-8

Time Allotment: Three 45-minute class periods (excluding homework time for Culminating Activity)

Subject Matter: US History, English/Language Arts

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • Explain the events and facts which led to the great cattle drives of the latter half of the 19th century;

  • Describe the day-to-day life and conditions faced by cowboys on 19th century cattle drives;

  • Describe common misconceptions associated with cowboys, and how these misconceptions differ from historical fact;

  • Apply historical knowledge to a decision-based online interactivity;

  • Synthesize information from a variety of print, online and video resources into a creative writing activity.


From the National Standards for History Grades 5-12, available online at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/nchs/standards:

Historical Thinking Standard 2: The student thinks chronologically; therefore, the student is able to read historical narratives imaginatively, taking into account what the narrative reveals of the humanity of the individuals and groups involved--their probable values, outlook, motives, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. The student is also able to describe the past on its own terms, through the eyes and experiences of those who were there, as revealed through their literature, diaries, letters, debates, arts, artifacts, and the like. The student is also able to draw upon visual, literary, and musical sources to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented in the historical narratives.

Historical Thinking Standard: The student conducts historical research; therefore, the student is able to formulate historical questions from encounters with historical documents, eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, historical sites, art, architecture, and other records from the past.

Era 4, Standard 2E: The student understands the settling of the West. Therefore, the student is able to explain the lure of the West and the reality of life on the frontier, and analyze cultural interactions in the trans-Mississippi region.

From the English Language Arts Standards, available at the National Council of Teachers of English web site at: http://www.ncte.org/about/over/standards/110846.htm:

Students will read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g. conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively for a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Media Components:

Video: TEXAS RANCH HOUSE, Episode 7, "Blazing Trails"

Web Sites:

The Chisholm Trail: Exploring the Folklore and Legacy
This web site, from the Texas Historical Commission, features an excellent detailed brochure about the Chisholm Trail, one of the primary routes of 19th century cattle drives. Requires the Acrobat Reader plug-in, available for free download at www.adobe.com.

The Texas Cowboy: Myths and Reality
On this web site, from Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, students can try their hands at a "Cowboy Myths and Truths" game.

Texas Ranch House: Lead a Cattle Drive: Mooo've 'Em On Out
This interactivity, part of the web site for the PBS series TEXAS RANCH HOUSE, provides users with the opportunity to be a Trail Boss on a 19th century cattle drive. Users must answer a series of multiple-choice questions and complete a series of three interactive games to finish the drive. Requires the Flash plug-in, available for free download at www.macromedia.com.


For the class:
VCR or DVD player
TEXAS RANCH HOUSE, Episode 7, "Blazing Trails"
Computers with Internet Access
Stopwatch, or clock/watch with second hand
"Hide and Horn" answer key (download here)

For each group of five students:
Manila folder
Six marbles

For each student:
"The Chisholm Trail: Exploring the Folklore and Legacy" brochure, available from the Texas Historical Commission, at http://www.thc.state.tx.us/publications/brochures/Chisholm_Trail.pdf (The brochure can either be printed out and copied, or students can view online.)
"Hide and Horn" organizer (download here)
Pencil and paper

Prep for Teachers:

Prior to teaching the lesson, review all of the web sites and video segments used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students. Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload them to an online bookmarking utility such as http://www.portaportal.com. Download the Flash plug-in from www.macromedia.com, and the Acrobat Reader plug-in from http://www.adobe.com, to each computer in your classroom. If you choose to, print out and make copies of "The Chisholm Trail: Exploring the Folklore and Legacy" brochure, available from the Texas Historical Commission, at http://www.thc.state.tx.us/publications/brochures/Chisholm_Trail.pdf. Students can also view the brochure online.

CUE the video to the appropriate starting point, which is where you see a wide shot of a herd of cattle grazing on the broad prairie, and you hear the narrator say, "With a herd of 131 cattle rounded up, the drive can begin."

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Continue for Procedures for Teachers