Friday, June 7, 2013

Common Core in the Content Areas: Charley the Female Stagecoach Driver

Following our thematic unit on biomes, we spent the last couple weeks of school focusing on Westward Expansion.  As the last couple weeks are always hectic and filled with last minute items we forgot to do, I did not have as much time with this unit as I wanted. I wanted to have them do a web quest on different locations on the Oregon Trail and write a journal as a pioneer moving west.  The other thing I really wanted to do was one more read aloud.

While reviewing the novel units earlier this year at, I came across a book called Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan.

It sounded like a great book and since Readworks already had a free novel unit to go with it I thought it would be perfect.  The novel is an easy read that is only about a 127 pages. It would be perfect to read with grades 3-5 as the chapters are short (which also makes for a great read aloud). The book is about Charley Parkhurst, who was an orphan girl who disguises herself as a boy to become a stagecoach driver. The historical fiction novel is based on a real story. As the Gold Rush commences, Charley moves West with some other stagecoach drivers to find opportunity.  She ends up losing an eye in an accident and still is able to drive a stagecoach with one eye.  She disguised herself as a man most of her life and built a reputation as one of the best stagecoach drivers in California.  She was the first woman to vote in California (even though she really voted under the pretense of a man.)

In order to integrate this book with Common Core, you could compare settings in the novel, you could discuss theme, you could look at Charley's development throughout the novel, and you could also discuss point of view in the novel. Readworks does a great job with their novel units of emphasizing the CCSS.  You could choose to write an informative essay about the life of Charley Parkhurst or stagecoach drivers.  Students could write a persuasive essay about whether or not women in the West should get the right to vote.  They could write their own narrative inspired by the story.

Another great book on Charley to pair with Riding Freedom is Rough, Tough Charley by Verla Kay.  This biographical picture book includes the story of Charley's life but is told in poetic verse.

This would be a great book to pair because you could discuss any differences in details about her life between the two.  You could also compare and contrast the portrayal of Charley.  Rough, Tough Charley would be a fabulous book to discuss narrative poetry.  I love the idea of even having students write a biographical poem of a historical figure.

I hope you are having a great start to summer.  I look forward to being able to get back into a blogging routine now that the end of the school year is over.


  1. I love the book Riding Freedom! I used it with a group of third grade girls who loved horses, and they had so much fun reading it. I have never heard of Rough, Tough Charley and will have to check it out!

    And isn't ReadWorks awesome?! I have used it for everything!!

    Have a wonderful summer!

    Reading Toward the Stars

  2. I love this! This is great! We teach westward expansion and I love that you can compare both pieces! I've never used the units from readworks. I will have to check that out!

    Collaboration Cuties

  3. I've been working very hard to compile book lists to integrate SS and ELA. Thanks so much for the suggestions. :)
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners


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