Wendy Belcher
Material Type:
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary
Outlaws, Railroads, Utah Geography, Utah History, march21
Creative Commons Attribution
Media Formats:

Education Standards

"An Outlaw Thanksgiving" Read Aloud Lesson

"An Outlaw Thanksgiving" Read Aloud Lesson


A library lesson in which "An Outlaw Thanksgiving" by Emily Arnold McCully is read aloud and then discussed to discover text to history/geography/reader connections.   

4th Grade Utah History Library Lesson: "An Outlaw Thanksgiving" by Emily Arnold McCully

4th Grade Utah History Library Lesson Plan Summary:  

Subject:  Read Aloud of  An Outlaw Thanksgiving by Emily Arnold McCully + Companion Material

Curriculum Connections: (4th Grade) Utah History: Utah Outlaws, Utah Homesteads/Counties, Utah Railroads, Western Expansion

Group Size: 15-35

Authors: Emily Arnold McCully (Book), Wendy Belcher (Lesson plan)


Background for Teachers

The following resources will help you teach this topic:

  • Robert LeRoy Parker = Butch Cassidy, cowhand, train robber, cattle rustler

eMedia link:  Utah History Encyclopedia. Cassidy, Butch






  • Harry Longabaugh = Sundance Kid, cowhand, train robber, cattle rustler
  • Anne Bassett = Queen Ann, rancher’s daughter, alleged cattle rustler (tried but acquitted)



A Peoples' History of Utah: The Coming of the Railroad. Tieing of the transcontinental rails.

  • “The Atlantic” magazine website link:  A brief history and analysis of Railroad Monopolies:


Student Prior Knowledge

Prior to this lesson, students will need to have an understanding of basic Utah history (define: “Railroad Tycoons” or “Robber Barons” & “Outlaws”, “cowhands”) and Northern Utah Geography (UT, WY, CO border & Ogden Railroad Depot).    A basic explanation of the greed and unfair employment and business practices of the Railroad Tycoons will help students understand in better context the romantic and positive portrayals of train robbers like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  

Real life connection:  Have any of the students gotten stranded on I-80 in a snowstorm?   Some  may know exactly what it is like.  

Student Learning Intentions & Success Criteria

Make connections between this historical fiction picture book story and Utah history and geography.  


Success Criteria

Students will be able to share verbally in small or large discussions or in writing at least 3 text to history/geography connections they have made.  


Instructional Procedures

  1. Introduce Title, Author, Copyright date, and Publisher pointing out at appropriate moments the information on the front cover, publication info page, and title page.  
  2. Point out the information on the spine label and how it directs students to the picture book section and “M” shelf of the library.   That is where they will find this book.  Also explain that in the library catalog, this book will have a call number listed as “PIC M”, which means “Picture Book Section”, “M” shelf.  
  3. Read the story
  4. Read the Author’s note in its entirety if time allows.   If not, focus on the following:
  • Paragraph 3: on Railroad Tycoons and Robber Barons
  • Paragraph 4: on Butch Cassidy and Ann Bassett, highlighting that this is “Historical Fiction.”   The characters of Clara and her mother are fictional.  All others are historically documented.   The story is based on a firsthand account as told by Ann Bassett.   Since the story was related verbally by Bassett to the Maybell, Colorado Women’s Clubs, who would re-create the event.  There is no primary source written by Ann Bassett.  


Strategies for Diverse Learners

Consider using alternate options for measuring success for those who might do better with a verbal assessment rather than a written one.  


Assessment Plan

Option 1:         Students will demonstrate that they have made successful connections to the

text through a post reading discussion and answering some verbal questions.  


Option 2:         Students will demonstrate that they have made successful connections to the

text by participating in a “shoulder share” with one of their neighbors, in which they will develop a list of three connections to Utah history and geography that they recognized in the story.  


Option 3:          Students will demonstrate that they have made successful connections to the

text by writing in a journal or filling out a short exit ticket where they will list 3

connections they have made.

Outlaw Thanksgiving Exit Ticket