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The Wild West Unit Study

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

This unit study contains a list of resources and activities for you to use in your studies. Choose those that will best suit your students, time, and learning environment. My hope is that you will enjoy the process of learning and not feel constricted by the timeline or activities. I do recommend that you read at least one book aloud together from each unit as it is something you can experience and enjoy together. Make changes as they suit your needs and enjoy your time learning together!


  • Books

  • Games

  • Videos

  • Writing

  • Activities


The Wild West Unit for Grades 4-8


Which Way to the Wild West? by Steve Sheinkin Available on SCRIBD

1805: Explorer William Clark reaches the Pacific Ocean and pens the badly spelled line “Ocian in view! O! the joy!” (Hey, he was an explorer, not a spelling bee champion!)

1836: Mexican general Santa Anna surrounds the Alamo, trapping 180 Texans inside and prompting Texan William Travis to declare, “I shall never surrender or retreat.”

1861: Two railroad companies, one starting in the West and one in the East, start a race to lay the most track and create a transcontinental railroad.

With a storyteller's voice and attention to the details that make history real and interesting, Steve Sheinkin delivers the wild facts about America's greatest adventure. From the Louisiana Purchase (remember: if you're negotiating a treaty for your country, play it cool.) to the gold rush (there were only three ways to get to California--all of them bad) to the life of the cowboy, the Indian wars, and the everyday happenings that defined living on the frontier.

Old Yeller By Fred Gipson Available on SCRIBD

When his father sets out on a cattle drive toward Kansas for the summer, fourteen-year-old Travis Coates is left to take care of his family and their farm. Living in Texas Hill Country during the 1860s, Travis comes to face new, unanticipated, and often perilous responsibilities in the frontier wilderness.

A particular nuisance is a stray yellow dog that shows up one day and steals food from the family. But the big canine who Travis calls “Old Yeller” proves his worth by defending the family from danger. And Travis ultimately finds help and comfort in the courage and unwavering love of the dog who comes to be his very best friend.


Circle the Wagons

Button Shy Games

Each player in Circle the Wagons is fixin' to build up their own boomtown, but only one'll build the best in the West!

Blaze a trail by draftin' cards 'round the circle and placin' 'em in yer town, tryin' to connect matchin' territories to score prosperity points! But don't forget about them three bonus cards in the center of the circle that can score ya even more points — that is, if ya play yer cards right. With darn near five thousand unique ways to score and millions of draftin' and placin' combos, you'll never build the same town twice!

Game review here!

Or try:

  • Coloma

  • Bang! The Dice Game

  • Colt Express

  • Flick 'Em Up

  • Great Western Trail

  • Tumble Town

Learn more about using games for learning here.



  • Choose a person from the time period to study and do a research paper about them.

  • Write a short story about the settlement you created in your game of Circle the Wagons, or other game, using the settlement you created as the setting.


  • Using the Old Yeller Lit. Kit by Chad Ibbotson (available on SCRIBD) will give you talking points and activities for the book.

  • Explore this Wild West website. Read or watch about the various topics. Do the puzzles, and play the online games.

  • Choose a wild west themed movie to watch. Discuss the similarities and differences between the movie and what real life was like in the wild west. If you want an extra writing project, have your students write an argumentative or persuasive paper about why the movie is/isn't like the historic wild west.

  • Draw a map of the United States showing the territories at the time.

  • Construct a replica old west town in Minecraft or as a diorama.


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