Home on the Range - Texas Cattle Industry

Social Studies, Grades 4-7

Using prior knowledge and archival footage, students will analyze the impact of the cattle industry in Texas, specifically focusing on cattle drives and the role of the cowboy. Students will discuss the conditions on cattle drives, evaluate the daily activities cowboys, assess technologies that were invented to aid ranchers, and the role of the Texas Rangers in the protecting the cattle industry.

  • Prior Knowledge Prior Knowledge
  • Hook Hook
  • Lesson Lesson
  • Extended Learning Extended Learning
  • Independent Practice Independent Practice
  • Resources Resources
  • Worksheets Worksheets
  • Lesson Plan Use Lesson Plan Use
  1. Students should have a working knowledge of late 19th century Texas history, including the economy of Texas, the concept of the open range, and the changes brought about by the railroad '''or''' the oil industry at the turn of the 20th century.
  2. Students should possess background knowledge on the basics of cattle ranching; this is not intended to be an introductory lesson.
  1. Group students in pairs and give them a sheet of paper; instruct them to divide the paper in two.
  2. Ask the students to write down on the left side of the paper the economic and social changes that occurred in Texas as a result of the arrival of the railroad (late 19th century) or the discovery of Spindletop in 1901.
  3. When students have completed their brainstorm on the left side, ask each group to share one of their answers and record it on the board. Encourage students to ask questions or discuss their answers; they can also add answers to their brainstorms.
  4. Ask students to write down some of the changes that occurred in Texas as a result of the development and resulting boom of the cattle industry on the right side of their paper.
  5. After they have finished, have them share one of their answers that you will record on the board. Encourage students to ask questions or discuss the answers; have them add shared answers to their brainstorm.
  6. Working with the paper in front of them, have students circle similarities between the two sides in one color, differences in another.
  7. Have each group select the three most important similarities and differences of the impacts of the railroad or oil industry and cattle ranching in Texas.
  8. Have three or four pairs of students volunteer to share the similarities and differences they found.
  9. Discuss: Ask the students why they think the similarities and differences they discussed existed? Which similarities and differences do they think were most important? What impact all of the changes they discussed had on Texas?
  1. Give each student a copy of a map of the United States. Have them use their books or the Internet to label the following trails:
    1. Shawnee Trail
    2. Goodnight-Loving Trail
    3. Chisholm Trail
    4. Western Trail
    5. OPTION: Students can also be asked to label certain towns that are associated with the ranching industry, such as Fort Worth, Abilene, Cheyenne, Denver, etc.
  2. Ask students to discuss with their partner why they think the trails were located where they were. Discuss as a class.
  3. Show students the films listed below. Have them write on the back of their map the conditions on the trails, any problems cowboys and ranchers had to deal with while moving cattle, and the benefits of raising and selling cattle.
    1. Sole Survivors of ‘Longhorn’ Herds End March from Mexico, 1:01
    2. Texas - Troubled Times in the Southwest, 47 seconds
    3. Breeders Show Fat Cattle, 42 seconds
    4. Rustlers Range – Texas Rangers Thwart Cattle Thieves, 27:41 (CLIPS)
      (Use the “Mark Video Segment” feature to view specific time segments of the film.  Simply enter the “begin” and “end” time and then press play.)
  4. Working with their partners, have students add any additional condition, problems, or benefits that they know about from previous classwork. Have students share and discuss their answers with the group.
  5. Using their prior knowledge, the text book, class discussion, and the archival footage, have students create a diary entry about life on the cattle trail or ranch. Students could choose to be any of the following characters:
    1. Ranch Owner or his Wife
    2. Ranch Hand or Cowboy
    3. Vaquero or African American Cowboy
    4. Trail Boss
    5. Trail Cook
    6. Texas Ranger searching for Cattle Thieves

Diary entries should include at least 10 specific facts from the information discussed in class, should address both the positives and negatives, and should only include items or events from the relevant time period.

Using the film, “The Goodnight-Loving Trail,” have students discuss the changes that occur to a trail based on technological innovations. This film highlights road safety by focusing on the path created by the Goodnight-Loving Trail; although the film, in its entirety, may not be beneficial to the ranching lesson, the visual of the changes that occurred to an original trail should be as it allows for discussion regarding the changes brought about by technological innovation.
To demonstrate their understanding of the ranching industry, students will use the  “Cowboy Caricature” instructions to create a drawn caricature of a cowboy.
  1. Show students examples of caricatures online; explain to them that the caricature they draw should have many pictures to represent the ideas they are trying to express. Make sure they understand the following:
    1. In caricatures, pictures are used to represent ideas rather than complete sentences, however, words can be used to clarify.
    2. Everything drawn on the caricature should be done with meaning and purpose.
    3. The questions on the instruction sheet are meant to guide their thinking and planning process; they should symbolically include answers to each of the questions.
    4. The butcher block is big; make sure the caricature is too!
  2. Give groups of 3-4 students a large sheet of butcher block to create their caricature.
  3. Make sure the students have access to their notes, textbooks, the internet, and any sources necessary to research what they will be drawing.
  4. For fuller engagement, ask students to briefly explain their pictures on the back of the caricature OR when students have completed their caricatures, have them present the caricature to the class, discussing their specific symbols and decisions in the drawing of the cowboy.
Social Studies Grade 4
4B - Explain the growth, development, and impact of the cattle and oil industries including contributions made by Charles Goodnight, Richard King, and Lizzie Johnson
9A - Describe ways people have adapted to and modified their environment in Texas, past and present, such as timber clearing, agricultural production, wetlands drainage, energy production, and construction of dams 
9B - Identify reasons why people have adapted and modified their environment in Texas, past and present, such as the use of natural resources to meet basic needs, facilitate transportation, and enhance recreational activities
9C - Compare the positive and negative consequences of human modification of the environment in Texas, past and present, both government and private, such as economic development and the impact on habitats and wildlife as well as air and water quality
20A - Identify famous inventors and scientists such as Gail Borden, Joseph Glidden, Michael Debakey, and Millie Hughes-Fulford and their contributions 
20B - Describe how scientific discoveries and innovations such as in aerospace, agriculture, energy, and technology have benefited individuals, businesses, and society in Texas
21A - Differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software; interviews; biographies; oral, print, and visual material; documents and artifacts to acquire information about the United States and Texas
23B - Use a decision-making process to identify a situation that requires a decision, gather information, identify options, predict consequences, and take action to implement a decision
Social Studies Grade 5
4C - Identify reasons people moved west
7A - Describe a variety of regions in the United States such as political, population, and economic regions that result from patterns of human activity
7D - Locate on a map important physical features such as the Rocky Mountains, Mississippi River, and Great Plains
8A - Identify and describe the types of settlement and patterns of land use in the United States
8B - Explain the geographic factors that influence patterns of settlement and the distribution of population in the United States, past and present
9A - Describe how and why people have adapted to and modified their environment in the United States, past and present, such as the use of human resources to meet basic needs
9B - Analyze the positive and negative consequences of human modification of the environment in the United States, past and present
11B - Describe how the free enterprise system works in the United States
11C - Give examples of the benefits of the free enterprise system in the United States
13A - Compare how people in different parts of the United States earn a living, past and present
13B - Identify and explain how geographic factors have influenced the location of economic activities in the United States
23B - Identify how scientific discoveries, technological innovations, and the rapid growth of technology industries have advanced the economic development of the United States, including the transcontinental railroad and the space program
24A - Differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software; interviews; biographies; oral, print, and visual material; documents; and artifacts to acquire information about the United States
Social Studies Grade 6
4B - identify and explain the geographic factors responsible for patterns of population in places and regions
4D - Identify and locate major physical and human geographic features such as landforms, water bodies, and urban centers of various places and regions
7B - Identify and analyze ways people have modified the physical environment such as mining, irrigation, and transportation infrastructure
7C - Describe ways in which technology influences human interactions with the environment such as humans building dams for flood control
8A - Describe ways in which the factors of production (natural resources, labor, capital, and entrepreneurs) influence the economies of various contemporary societies
Social Studies Grade 7
6B - Identify significant individuals, events, and issues from Reconstruction through the beginning of the 20th century, including the development of the cattle industry from its Spanish beginnings, the myth and realities of the cowboy way of life
6D - Explain the political, economic, and social impact of the agricultural industry and the development of West Texas resulting from the close of the frontier
7B - Define and trace the impact of "boom and bust" cycles of leading Texas industries throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, including cattle ranching such as farming, oil and gas production, cotton, ranching, real estate, banking, and computer technology
10A - Identify ways in which Texans have adapted to and modified the environment and analyze the positive and negative consequences of the modifications
20C - Analyze the effects of various scientific discoveries and technological innovations, such as barbed wire, the windmill, and oil, gas, and aerospace industries on the developments of Texas 
21A - Differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software, databases, media and news services, biographies, interviews, and artifacts to acquire information about Texas
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