Using The Snake Fence with Common Core Standards

Francis Holleran,  past president of Florida Council for the Social Studies and the National Social Studies Supervisors Association, suggested that The Snake Fence works well with the new Common Core Standards for Social Studies, Grades 6-8. With his encouragement, I have devised discussion topics and projects related to The Snake Fence to help teachers achieve those standards.

If English Language Arts teachers collaborate with social studies teachers in using The Snake Fence simultaneously in both disciplines, it will be a much richer experience for their classes than if either used the book alone.

I will be working on using the standards for grades 9-12 and will post additional lesson suggestions from time to time.

Common Core Presentation

English Language Arts Standards »Using The History/Social Studies » Grade 6-8   Snake Fence

Key Ideas and Details

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Braddock’s defeat, p.120 ff. There are many descriptions of this battle, in journals written at the time, other newspaper articles, letters home to England, even George Washington’s memoirs written much later. Google “General Braddock’s defeat” for secondary sources of information and compare them with The Pennsylvania Gazette article.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Minutes of the dinners at Pembertons’: p.175-6, 182-186

The description of these dinner conversations was taken from the minutes written at the dinners, although not all of the minutes were used in the story. These minutes are part of the Special Collections Library of Haverford College. Have students read the account here and tell or write what they have learned from this primary source. The two quotations from The Pennsylvania Gazette, found on pages 4 and 121-122, could also be used here. See also the discussion questions on this chapter, p. 227.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text’s description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

How negotiations work: p. 201-204, 210

Primary source materials for this section come from Minutes of the Provincial Council.  Choose another negotiating topic, such as found in President Jimmy Carter’s book, The Blood of Abraham, about peace negotiations between Palestine, Israel, and several other countries in the 1970’s and analyze them. Have students assume roles of diplomats from each country and have a mock peace conference of their own, to see if they can achieve peace in the Middle East, using the background information in Carter’s book.

Alternatively, let students pick a topic relevant to their own lives and set up a series of negotiations based on Noble’s description of how these things work.

Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

Was Israel Pemberton a traitor? P. 185, 195-96

Look up the definition of “traitor.” Does this apply to Israel Pemberton, Jr.? Was he charged with treason? Look up information on his biography. Would you consider him a successful man? Why or why not? What traitors have been convicted in the United States? If time allows, you might have the class conduct a trial of Israel Pemberton.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

The Walking Purchase, p. 42-44

The author presents a great deal of information about the Walking Purchase in a narrative, causal way. Have students write or tell the information in a comparative way by finding other sources of this information, either on-line or in print sources, and comparing them to this account. Are students convinced that the circumstances of The Walking Purchase were the cause of Indian violence on the frontier? Could there have been other causes? What might they be? Then analyze the effectiveness of conveying history in each form.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts)

“savage,” “heathen,” “redskin.” p. 211-213

The author has Noble thinking these terms during a moment of extreme stress, although he is saddened later that he thought that way. What does this tell you about the author’s purpose?

John McCowen’s response to Braddock’s defeat, p.120 ff.

Describe the differences between the Butler family’s response and John’s response. Why did they react so differently? What do you think is the author’s point of view here?

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Map, p. vi

Compare the 1756 map on p. vi of The Snake Fence with a map of Indian paths found in Indian Paths of Pennsylvania, by Paul Wallace or another source on line. Explain why the same area is portrayed so differently. Research descriptions of travel in colonial times, such as are found in Into the American Woods, by James H. Merrell. Then look again at the map on p. vi of The Snake Fence and compare it with maps of 1856, 1956, and 2006. If you don’t live in Pennsylvania, do the same kind of research for your own state as well.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.8 Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.

“Stories in the Rain,” p. 39-46

In this passage we learn that Daniel’s and Christopher’s attitudes toward Indians differ. Can you distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in this scene? What are they based on? Can Noble tell the difference? At this point are his thoughts and feelings based on fact, opinion, or reasoned judgment? Do they change by the end of the book? Choose another topic about which people feel strongly. Can you identify and distinguish between fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

Account of Braddock’s Defeat, p. 120-122

See Standard 6-8.1 above.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.



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