Classroom Resources, Educators

Great Chicago Stories: Elementary Students

Sep 22 2016

Enrich your instruction with Great Chicago Stories, an award-winning suite of twelve historical fiction narratives and supporting classroom resources. Download the narratives, which were written and classroom-tested by local teachers, and corresponding artifact sets.

Please note: Due to website maintenance, the Great Chicago Stories interactive map and audio features are unavailable at this time. If you have questions or would like access to the full unit plans, please contact Megan Clark, school programs coordinator, at

Stories for grades 3 and 4

Great Migration: “A Bronzeville Story”
It’s 1949 when eleven-year-old Penny arrives in Bronzeville, Chicago’s famous African American neighborhood. As part of the Great Migration, she and her family have left Mississippi to start a new life in the North. Luckily, Uncle Obie is already in Bronzeville to lend a helping hand and lots of encouragement. Cousin Lurlene, however, is just the opposite. Read more about how Penny reacts when Lurlene begins to hint about race problems in the big city.

Sports History: “A Tough CalI”
Meet Danny, a Little League baseball player faced with a tough choice. Should he lose some games to get even with a mean coach and earn extra money? As Danny thinks about what to do he looks through his great-grandfather’s scrapbooks, which document the dramatic past of his favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox. Read more to discover how learning history helps Danny make his decision.

Early Chicago: “Trading Mystery”
When Joseph and Lily travel home to Chicago from a train trip to Nebraska in 1898, they are surprised when they are joined by their very old and very grouchy Great-Uncle Boots, who they learn is coming to live with them! As Lily and Joseph get to know Uncle Boots, they explore the interesting history of the city’s fur trade and grow to appreciate Uncle Boots’s stories of life in early Chicago. Read more to discover the secrets Uncle Boots has locked up in his dusty old safe and to uncover his mysterious reasons for returning to Chicago!

Innovation and Entertainment: “Best of the Fair”
It’s 1893, and Grandpa is taking nine-year-old Lily and her little brother Joseph to the world’s fair where there is so much to see and do: entertaining shows, new inventions, and exciting rides. Lily has been looking forward to going for weeks! The family plans to enjoy a special tour with their friend Mr. Weller. But there is a mix-up about where to meet! All they know is that he is waiting for them at the “best place” at the fair. Read more to learn how Lily tries to save the day by thinking through clues, asking questions, and using the fair map to find Mr. Weller.

Transportation: “Joseph’s Railroad Dreams”
Joseph likes to watch the trains in the rail yard near his house, and he loves riding the elevated train high above the city streets. Although his older sister Lily and his grandfather don’t understand Joseph’s fascination with trains, he dreams of the day when he can go to a faraway place, on a trip that is so long that passengers even eat their meals and sleep on the train! Read more to share in Joseph’s train adventure.

Economics and Culture: “Hot Dog!”
It’s 1955, and a street vendor challenges Allan, a picky eater, to earn a free hot dog made just the way he likes—with ketchup only—if he finds out why hot dogs are important in Chicago. With his sister Ruth keeping him company, Allan talks to friends and family members to solve the puzzle. During their adventure, Allan and Ruth explore the Maxwell Street Market, listen to blues music, and discover Chicago’s amazing meatpacking history. Read more to find out if Allan wins his hot dog and if he eats it his way or tries it Chicago style!

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