A WebQuest for 5th Grade (Language Arts)

Designed by

Suzanne Bare, Lavonne Fortner, Julie Hedrick, & Sandy Speaks

ntroduction | Learners | Standards | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits | Student Page


This year we are studying orphan trains and preparing for point of view/clarificatoin writing.

You are to read A Family Apart by Joan Lowery Nixon and prepare a point of view essay. 


New York City in the mid-1800's is a rough place to raise six children alone.  When the widowed Mrs. Kelly realizes that she can't keep her children from starving, or from breaking the law. she makes the agonizing decision to send them west on the Orphan Train.  At least they'll be raised by families who can care for them. 

The children do not understand the love behind her decision.  The oldest child, 13-year-old Frances Kelly, is further dismayed when she realizes that her siblings will be divided among different families.  In order to care for her youngest brother, Frances disguises herself as a boy and becomes "Frankie."  When she joins her new family, she finds herself not only in a new environment, but also right in the middle of breaking the law-helping slaves to escape on the Underground Railroad.  This exciting adventure story takes readers on a thrilling ride through one of the darkest chapters in American history.

By Michael Foster, Seneca, KS

Websites containing related information on Orphan Trains.


Teacher guides



This lesson is designed for fifth graders and involves reading, language arts, and social studies.

Main Lesson

     Also, expository writing is taught using a prompt related to A Family Apart.

Other Lessons

     The lesson discusses genre with a focus on historical fiction. 
The lesson also explains what the word sacrifice means since it is such an important part of the book, A Family Apart.

     The art activity is the diorama depicting a scene from the book.

Additional Assignments:
Study the genre-historical fiction
Historical Topics Mentioned in A Family Apart

  • Orphan Train
  • Underground Railroad
  • Missouri Compromise
  • Immigration
  • Irish Potato Famine
  • Pony Express
  • Buffalo Bill Cody
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Election of 1860
  • Border Wars ("Bleeding Kansas")
  • Fugitive Slave Act

Create newspaper using historical facts found in A Family Apart.

Title: St. Joseph Weekly West 

Year: 1856

Key Word:  Sacrifice

Art Activity:

Create your own version of a diorama.  Depict an important event.  Show the setting and characters in 3-D format.  Be prepared to show and explain the event shown in your diorama to the class.

Curriculum Standards
Fifth Grade
Students in fifth grade expand and deepen concepts, skills, and strategies learned at earlier grades. They make new connections as they experience more sophisticated ideas and begin to study subjects in more formal ways. They read and write a variety of texts with greater breadth and depth, critically analyzing and evaluating information and ideas. Fifth graders revisit and refine concepts and their knowledge of English Language Arts conventions as they become more sophisticated, independent learners. The learner will:
Use reading and writing to learn about and understand their world and other cultures. 
Evaluate text to determine the authorís purpose and point of view. 
Increase vocabulary knowledge through wide reading, word study, discussion, and content area study. 
Use print and non-print media to persuade an audience. 
Use metacognitive skills to accomplish a task independently or as a group member. 
Research multiple sources to deepen understanding and integrate information and ideas across varied sources and content areas. 
Apply comprehension strategies critically, creatively, and strategically. 
Use media and technology as resources for extended research and as tools for learning. 

Strands: Oral Language, Written Language, and Other Media/Technology

Competency Goal 1 The learner will apply enabling strategies and skills to read and write. 

1.02 Select key vocabulary critical to the text and apply appropriate meanings as necessary for comprehension. 

1.03 Increase reading and writing vocabulary through:

wide reading. 
word study. 
content area study. 
writing process elements. 
writing as a tool. 
examining the authorís craft.

Competency Goal 2 The learner will apply strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and viewed. 
2.01 Use metacognitive strategies independently and flexibly to monitor comprehension and extend vocabulary (e.g., skim, scan, reread the text, consult other sources, ask for help, summarize, paraphrase, question).
2.02 Interact with the text before, during, and after reading, listening, and viewing by:

making predictions. 
formulating questions. 
supporting answers from textual information, previous experience, and/or other sources. 
drawing on personal, literary, and cultural understandings. 
seeking additional information. 
2.03 Read a variety of texts, such as: 

fiction (tall tales, myths). 
nonfiction (books of true experience, newspaper and magazine articles, schedules). 
poetry (narrative, lyric, and cinquains). 
drama (plays and skits). 

2.07 Evaluate the usefulness and quality of information and ideas based on purpose, experiences, text(s), and graphics.

2.09 Listen actively and critically by: 

asking questions. 
delving deeper into the topic. 
elaborating on the information and ideas presented. 
evaluating information and ideas. 
making inferences and drawing conclusions. 
making judgments. 
2.10 Identify strategies used by a speaker or writer to inform, entertain, or influence an audience.

Competency Goal 3 The learner will make connections through the use of oral language, written language, and media and technology. 
 3.01 Respond to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive, critical, and evaluative processes by:
analyzing word choice and content. 
examining reasons for a characterís actions, taking into account the situation and basic motivation of the character. 
creating and presenting a product that effectively demonstrates a personal response to a selection or experience. 
examining alternative perspectives. 

3.03 Justify evaluation of characters and events from different selections by citing supporting evidence in the text(s).

3.06 Conduct research (with assistance) from a variety of sources for assigned or self-selected projects (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people, libraries, databases, computer networks)

4.02 Use oral and written language to:
formulate hypotheses. 
evaluate information and ideas. 
present and support arguments. 
influence the thinking of others. 
4.03 Make oral and written presentations to inform or persuade selecting vocabulary for impact. 

4.05 Use a variety of preliminary strategies to plan and organize the writing and speaking task considering purpose, audience, and timeline.

4.06 Compose a draft that elaborates on major ideas and adheres to the topic by using an appropriate organizational pattern that accomplishes the purpose of the writing task and effectively communicates its content.

4.09 Produce work that follows the conventions of particular genres (e.g., clarification, essay, feature story, business letter).

Social Studies Standards Addressed

Social Studies Curriculum
Grades 4-5 Introduction...

Goals and Objectives: Grade 5
The Western Hemisphere: The United States, Canada, and Latin America
In fifth grade, students build on the concepts, generalizations, and skills developed in the fourth grade North Carolina study as they extend their focus to geographic regions of the United States, Canada, and Latin America. They will learn about the peoples of the Western Hemisphere and the physical environments in which they live. As they examine social, economic, and political institutions, they will analyze similarities and differences among societies. 

As fifth graders learn about the Western Hemisphere, they refine concepts developed in the fourth grade study of North Carolina. These concepts will be further refined in sixth and seventh grade studies of other world regions. Concepts for this study of the Western Hemisphere are drawn from history and the social sciences, but the primary discipline is geography, especially cultural geography. Given the swiftness of change and our global information systems, students' examinations of these concepts must require continuous reference to current events and trends. 

2.3 Analyze economic, social, and political situations which involve ethical and moral dilemmas. 

 6.1 Analyze the movement of people, goods, and ideas within and among the countries of the United States, Canada, and Latin America and between the Western Hemisphere and other places. 
Competency Goal 11 The learner will analyze changes in ways of living and investigate why and how these changes occurred. 
 11.1 Identify and describe changes which have occurred in ways of living in the United States, Canada, and Latin America. 
11.2 Identify examples of cultural transmission and interaction within and among the regions of the Western Hemisphere. 


Using information from the book. Complete the following chart to assist you as you choose your point of view.
Reasons Ma Kelly should send her children on the Orphan Train: Reasons Ma Kelly should keep her children:

Resources Needed

Point of View Writing
*  Class set of books
*  Graphic Organizer - Thinking Maps - Tree Map
*  Shoebox
*  Construction Paper
*  Glue
*  Crayons & Markers
*  Computer

Other Resource - 
text   -    Looking For A Home from Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story
by Andrea Warren


The Expository Composition 
Focused Holistic Score Scale

Score Point 4
The response exhibits a strong command of expository writing.  The writer has focused on the subject matter and has provided specific relevant reasons and details to support reasons as a means of elaboration.  The writer's organization provides a clear strategy or controlled plan with a clear sense of logical progression and overall completeness.  The composition is coherent.

Score Point 3
The response exhibits a reasonable command of expository writing.  The writer has focused on the subject matter and given reasons to support the main idea.  Some responses contain a few well-elaborated reasons or more reasons with less elaboration.  The writer's organization provides a reasonable sense of logical progression.  THe response is generally coherent and complete overall, although minor weaknesses are present.

Score Point 2
The response exhibits a weak command of expository writing.  The  writer has focused on the subject matter and given at least one or two reasons or else a list of reasons with little or no elaboration.  These responses may be poorly organized and may not establish a logical progression, but some sense of strategy exists.  Some responses introduce reasons and ideas which are not explained or related to the subject matter, causing the reader to have to make inferences.

Score Point 1
The response exhibits a lack of command of expository writing.  There is evidence that the writer has seen and attempted to respond to the prompt.  However, the response may not sustain focus on the topic.  The writer may attempt to support ideas, but there may be no sense of strategy or control.  Many responses exhibit skeletal control but may be too sparse to be scored higher than a "1."

This code may be used for compositions that are entirely illegible or otherwise unscorable:  blank responses, responses written in a foreign language, restatements of the prompt, and responses that are off topic or incoherent.

How will you know that this lesson was successful? Describe what student products or performances you'll be looking at and how they'll be evaluated. This, of course, should be tightly related to the standards and objectives you cited above.

You may want to just copy and paste the evaluation section of the student page into this space and add any clarifications needed for another teacher to make use of this lesson.


This lesson helps to prepare fifth graders for the seventh grade expository writing test.  It also helps the students to reflect on there readings and put themselves in the place of the characters in the book therefore reaching a deeper understanding of the text.

Credits & References
Text:  A Family Apart
By Joan Lowery Nixon

Websites containing related information on Orphan Trains:

Teacher guides:

Rubric was developed from the following website:

Animated image provided by:

Book image provided by:
Barnes and Noble

Last updated on August 15, 1999. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page