Main Core Tie
Social Studies - 2nd Grade
This activity uses Patricia Polacco's book "Thunder Cake" to help students understand how daily life has changed over the past 150 years.
- Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco; ISBN 0698-11581
- Interview form (pdf)
Background for Teachers
Thunder Cake is a story based on the author's memories of life on her
grandmother's farm in Michigan. It explores a young girl's fear of a
thunderstorm and how her grandmother helped her overcome her
Intended Learning Outcomes
5. Understand and use basic concepts and skills.
6. Communicate clearly in oral, artistic, written, and nonverbal form.
Invitation to Learn
- Direct the students to sit in a circle.
- "Games, in the old days, often helped sharpen skills needed in
adult life. Games were also sometimes played just for fun." The Rain Game was played along time ago on the Northwest coast by
the Native American children who lived there. It rained a lot, and
so the children often stayed inside and made up games, often
imitating mother nature. One game they made up created the
sound of a rain storm.
- Rain Game
Ask your students what often goes before the rain. (the wind)
- Rub hands together so they make a swishing noise. (wind
Ask your students what usually comes next. (small drops of rain)
- Slowly begin to snap the fingers of both hands.
- Continue snapping fingers picking up the tempo. Add a
clicking sound with your tongue. (Rain is beginning to fall.)
- Slap hands on your knees. (The rain is really beginning to
- Pound the ground with the palms of your hands. (The
storm is reaching its climax.)
- Slap hand on your knees a little more quietly. (Begin to
slightly slow down motions. the storm is beginning to
- Snap fingers very gently.
- Rub hands forward and back, pressing lightly.
- Stop all movements and sit quietly.
After the students have learned how to create the various sounds,
they are performed starting with the teacher and then continuing
around the circle one by one. Each time around the teacher starts
the next step. If available, a cymbal can be used at the climax of
the storm to create thunder.
After the students have mastered the various steps, it might be fun
to have them close their eyes and listen as the storm is created.
They love to turn off the lights and do it in a dark room.
- Prompt the students to examine the illustration on the front of the
book and read the title. Ask them to predict some of the problems
characters might face in this book.
- Read Thunder Cake. Encourage the students to look at the
illustrations and describe what is happening.
- Explain that many years ago farm families provided for many of
their own needs, such as growing gardens, raising chickens to lay
eggs, animals for providing meat and milk, sewing their own
clothes, etc. Sometimes they were able to go to the store and buy
some items like wheat or sugar. Stores were usually quite a
distance away, so they bought these things in bulk. They often had
separate buildings on their farm designed to store these things,
such as a smoke house, granary, dry shed, etc. Daily life was very
different from ours today.
- Ask to students to compare how life has changed over the past
150 years. (transportation, food, houses, technology, etc.)
Draw a chart on the board and list student responses.
Many Years Ago | Now
- To help students more fully understand how life has changed,
assign students to interview a much older relative or neighbor,
such as their grandparents or great-grandparents.
Pass out Interview form and explain what they are
expected to do.
Demonstrate an interview for the class, modeling good
interviewing techniques (i.e., stating the purpose of the interview,
asking questions, listening to the speaker, repeating or rephrasing
ideas, recording information).
Have the students bring their completed Interview Forms back
and share them with the class.
- Use the information gathered and write a biography for the
- Write a personal narrative about a storm they might have
experienced. Remind them to tell what the storm was like and
how they felt during it.
- Write a poem about a noisy storm.
- Find out about the accuracy of Grandma’s method for figuring out
how far away a storm is. There are many types of resources
available such as books from the library or Web sites on the
- Invite grandparents or older citizens of the community into your
class to share experiences or tell stories.
- Write follow-up letters to the people interviewed.
- Create original dance movement to accompany the rainstorm.
- Assessment is based upon teacher observation of participation and
cooperation and by the completion of their interview form.