Author: Mary Bowers, Barre Town Elementary School, Barre, VT
Grade Level: Three
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Historical Context

  • Theme: Economic and Technical changes and their Relation to Society, Ideas, and the Environment
  • Era: The Development of Modern America (1865 to 1920)
  • Freedom and Unity Link: Butter is King!

Essential Question: What was life like for Vermont children in the late 1800s? How does it compare with children’s lives today?

Background Information:
For an historical overview of 19th century Vermont, click on: Economic and technological changes and their relation to society, ideas, and the environment

I have adapted an activity from the Vermont Historical Society’s online resource’s website, The primary source is a journal written by Porter Perrin, a boy who lived in Berlin, Vermont.

During my read-alouds this year, I focused on books that take place in the past, from the time of Native Americans to (most recently) the 1800s. Each book has generated discussions on differences and similarities between the characters’ and students’ lives. I thought Porter Perrin’s journal excerpts would be a great way to continue our study and literally bring it home to the students, as the author lived less than ten miles away from the location of our present day classroom.

Materials/Primary Sources:

  • Porter Perrin’s Diary (provided as a .pdf file, downloaded from the Vermont Historical Society website)
  • Compare and Contrast Chart
  • Scoring rubric for Compare and Contrast Chart

Activity Plan:

Teacher leads discussion on past chapter books read, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie and Michael Dorris’ Morning Girl, recapping ways of life for the characters, differences and similarities from today’s way of life.

Students and teacher read Porter Perrin’s journal entries.

Teacher clarifies questions students have.

Discussion of journal entries; examples of questions include:

  • What do you notice about each entry?
  • What are differences in the work performed by Porter and his family members?
  • Are there any places mentioned that you recognize?
  • How different or similar is his life compared to your life today?

Students work on Compare and Contrast chart (go over chart with class).