At a Century of Progress: 1920-1950

Teachers Level One

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 3 - 5

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

Voices and Choices

Ella Oelke is a fourteen-year-old girl who lives in rural Illinois. She and her family are originally from Germany. Ella has just graduated from grade school and wants to attend high school. The only high school is located in town which is miles from her home. She needs to find a way to get to town everyday or will have to put off her schooling.


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.

From what country do you think Ella and her family came? What language do they speak?

Ella and her family speak German at home. Where they came from in Germany is unknown. You might play a tape of spoken German so that students can experience what Ella's mother toungue sounds like.

Ella tells us that at first she didn't understand English and was sometimes sad at school. Why do you think she was sad?

If your students have trouble understanding Ella's situation ask them if they have ever changed schools and been the new kid in class. Maybe they can remember what it was like to start school as a very young child. How did they feel about being placed in this new and unknown environment?

What do you think it would be like to live in a foreign country and not know the language?

You may have ESL students in your class who can share their experiences of arriving in America and having to learn English for the first time. If you know another language speak to your students in that language then ask them to imagine living where that language is spoken and having to learn it for the first time. Some of your students may have lived or visited a foreign country and might like to share their experiences. Ask your students to choose a country that they would like to visit. What language would they need to learn?

Can you describe Ella's grade school? Compare your school to Ella's school. How are they different?

Ella graduated from a one-room school house where all seven grades learned together. Ask your students to think about how many rooms their school has and how many different grades are in their school. Do these grades interact and learn together or are they separate?

Why is Ella's schooling going to end? How old is she? How old do you think you will be when your schooling ends?

Ella is fourteen and about to enter high school. The public high school she would attend is located in town. Because of the lack of daily transportation into town Ella's schooling must end. If your students end up going to college and on to graduate school, their schooling will not end until they are in their late 20's or 30's.

What does she love about school? What do you love about school?

Ella says she loves books. We can assume she loves the process of learning and acquiring knowledge. Help your students concentrate on aspects of school that they enjoy including the learning process.

Do you think education is important? Why or why not? What does Ella think?

Many farm families did not think a girl needed a higher education. Girls were expected to marry and keep house for their husband and children. For Ella, education would have been a luxury. In today's high tech world of double-income families, higher education is necessary to establish one in a career that will enable one to help support a family.



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. Oral Interviews

The theme of this interview is the importance of education and what people are willing to do to receive higher education. Like Ella, many college students must be willing to work in order to pay for their education and living expenses.

Interview a college student and find out about their experiences. You might ask the following kinds of questions:
  1. Why did you decide to go to college?
  2. Is college expensive?
  3. Do you have to work in order to pay for college? What kind of work do you do?
  4. Is your family helping you? How?
  5. Do you think a college education is important? Why?
If you don't know anyone in college right now, then interview an adult who has been to college. You can even interview your teacher!

2. Map Activity: Comparing the Past to the Present

Compare the 1921 road map of Illinois in Maps Maps with a road map today.

Make a list of the most important roads in your life: Write a story about living without roads. You may want to begin like this:

3. Creating a Flip Book

Create an illustrated Flip Book for your story.


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