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Learn All Year Long

Learn All Year Long

Learn All Year Long

Kids and teens should read and write even when they are out of school. Why is this so important?

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Postcards from the Trail


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Postcards from the Trail

Grades 3 – 5
Activity Time 30-60 minutes per postcard
Activity Author

Kathy Wickline

Kathy Wickline

Tolono, Illinois

Publisher National Council of Teachers of English

What You Need

Here's What To Do

More Ideas To Try



What You Need

  • An informational, nonfiction, or fiction book that features traveling (e.g., Wagon Train Adventures, Voices from the Oregon Trail, or one of these Books Featuring Journeys)

  • 8 x 11 cardstock or heavy paper

  • Crayons, markers, pencils, pens or colored pencils

  • Informational books about the stops of the selected books (optional)

  • Sample postcard

  • Computer with Internet access (optional)

  • Printer (optional)

  • Postcard Creator Tool (optional)

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Here's What To Do

  1. If using the Postcard Creator Tool, test it on your computer to ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.  Familiarize yourself with the Postcard Creator Tool.

  2. Discuss with the child where he has traveled on vacations or school field trips.  Prompt the discussion by asking questions about sights and activities.  Ask questions that encourage the child to communicate his reactions to the trip. Share with the child that you together are going to read a book about traveling west.

  3. Choose an age-appropriate book that features a journey, like Wagon Train Adventures or Voices from the Oregon Trail, and read it.  For additional book choices, see Books Featuring Journeys for suggestions or Google Lit Trips, a website that combines books with Google Earth.

  4. Before reading the selected book, discuss with the child any knowledge he has about the journey west (oftentimes, children will have knowledge of the Oregon Trail).  Have the child share with you everything that he knows about this time period, and share with him information you know, as well. This handout has some information that may be helpful.

  5. While reading the chosen book, create a list together of the locations along the journey that will become the points for postcards.  If the chosen book is from Google Lit Trips, then the stops on the journey will be mapped on Google Earth.

  6. Explain that another way to take a trip is through a book.  Share a little about Wagon Train Adventures, Voices from the Oregon Trail, or other selected book. Either read together or have the child read independently to the first new location the main character travels.

  7. Discuss the personality traits of the main character.  If desired, use the printout Sample Character Traits for your discussion.  If the child is having a difficult time naming character traits, use the interactive Character Trait Chart to analyze the character.

  8. Ask if the child has ever written or received a postcard. Share a postcard, if possible, with the child that shows all the parts of a postcard:  postcard description, salutation, body, closing, and mailing address.  If that is not feasible, Zazzle has several postcards that could serve as examples as to what is on the front of a postcard.  Use the Postcard Creator for the explanation of what is on the back of a postcard.

  9. Using the Postcard Creator or cardstock, have the child write a postcard as if he were the main character, explaining the character’s reactions to this new place and current situation as well as summarizing the story thus far. Use the sample postcard as inspiration if needed. 

  10. For the front of the postcard, have the child look at print materials or Internet sources about the location of the first stop.  Either have the child draw or print an image to be added to the front of the postcard. Print the completed postcard.

  11. Continue reading the book and stopping at each location to write a postcard.  Remind the child of the character’s personality before writing a postcard.

  12. At the end of the book, reread the postcards in order to review the plot of the book and see how the main character might have changed.

  13. Share the completed postcards with friends and family!

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More Ideas To Try

  • Invite the child to write a postcard to a family member or friend who lives in another city.

  • Using the Postcard Creator, have the child create postcards that can be delivered to friends and relatives who live nearby.

  • Read together a second book from the booklist and expand the idea of writing postcards to writing letters from the main character.

  • Let the child send online e-postcards using Blue Mountain.

  • After reading the graphic novel, Wagon Train Adventure, create your own graphic novel using the Comic Creator.

  • Read Journey of a Pioneer and compare/contrast the stories and information.

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Graphic novel


A book that uses drawings and dialogue to tell a story but is longer than a traditional comic book.



A person, animal, or object represented in a story or play.

Comic book


A book or magazine in which stories are told through a sequence of drawings and character speech.



Discussion is a natural way for children and teens to express or explain what they already know or what they are learning. When possible, let children and teens lead the direction of a discussion. Ask questions that lead to an extended response (“What do you think about…?” or “Why do you think…?”) rather than questions that might result in a yes or no or a simple answer.

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