In a House Divided, 1850-1890

Teachers Level One

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 3 - 5

Voices and Choices--Henry Starr
Note: It is a good idea to print Level One for easy reference.

Voices and Choices

Henry Starr is a 12-year-old boy who lives in Rockford, IL, with his mother, father, two sisters, and a baby brother. Henry has just sold his wooden hoop to a friend and needs to decide how and when to spend his money.


These themes can be explored with either a social studies or language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other cultures, students' own lives.


What do you think?

These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as homework.

How did Henry get his money? How much does he have?

In August, 1852, Henry decides that he no longer wants his hoop and sells it to Albert for 10 cents. He also has 50 cents that the servant Eunice gave him for Christmas. We know this because Henry kept a detailed diary of his daily life from 1852 to 1853.

Why do you think his father tells him to save his money? Do you have any money saved?

Use this question to discuss the idea of saving money for the future with your students. Why do people save money? What are the benefits of saving money vs. immediately spending it?

What does Henry decide to do with his money?

Henry decides to buy a penograph from his friend Roscius.

What could you buy for 60 cents today?

Write students' answers on the board. See if students can organize their answers into categories of goods. In what category would the penograph fit?

What toys does Henry already own? Do you have any similar toys?

Henry owns marbles and a sled. Some students may not know what marbles are, in which case, locate "marbles" in the object section under "Toys" to show your students what Henry's might have looked like.

If you had been Henry, what would you have done with your money?

This is an open-ended question to see if students understood the story and whether they can remember the options from which Henry had to choose.

Describe Henry's day, then compare it to your own. What is your day like? Do you have any younger siblings? Do you help your mom care for them?

Even though Henry is on his summer break, he still spends the morning hours doing lessons with his mother. He spends his afternoon helping his mother with his baby brother and playing with his friends.

What are Henry's responsibilities? What are yours?

Henry has a carefree childhood. However, he is expected to study hard and help his mother care for his younger siblings.


These are suggested classroom activities and student projects that you may want to use with your students or as models to create your own.

1. Diary activity

Read Henry's diary account of Christmas. Keep a diary for the next week, recording what you do during the day. At the end of the week, exchange it with a classmate and read it over the weekend. What did you learn from your classmate's diary? Did you enjoy reading the diary? Why? Did you enjoy writing your diary? Why?

2. Play a game from the 1800s

What games do you play that are similar to Marbles or Hoops? Write a letter to Henry and describe these games to him.

3. Draw a comparison between the childhoods of Antoine Bienvenu and Henry Starr

For each boy record:
  1. his role in his family
  2. his responsibilities
  3. how he celebrates Christmas
  4. his homelife--who does he live with and where does he live?
Make a table to record your information and include yourself.
Your table might look like this:
Person Roles Responsibilites Celebrations Homelife
Antoine - - - -
Henry - - - -
Me - - - -

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