Information on this page provided for classroom use only; not for publication. 2001


This was a fun unit to teach, and the students loved it!  I started off the unit by visiting the local school and party supply store to purchase some things to display in the room that would create some excitement in the students.  I found GIANT sized wall displays of boots, cactus, cowboy hats, a horse head and even a 3 foot tall bendable cowboy!   I really, really wanted to have a hay bale and a saddle in my Reading Center, but I never was able to accomplish that. You can create speech bubbles to use also, by gluing twine (looks like small rope) in a sort of circle with a tail (looks like a lasso).  You can write things like "Howdy Partner", "Howdy Y'all", "Rootin' Tootin' Cowboy", "Wild, Wild West", or "Giddy Up!" inside.  If you're real adventurous, you could try and create a horse from a sawhorse or two, a stick horse head, and add a saddle for a mock horse!
How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague: This book is one of the selections in the 2nd Grade Harcourt Trophies series.  It's an imaginary tale of a boy who said he was kidnapped from a train to be a cowboy.  Below are printables for the story:


adapted workbook pages from the Trophies series

pg 10

pg 12

*warning- the toy chest on pg 15 may not copy unless you darken the page*

pg 15

pg 16

oi/oy matching cards

pg 1

pg 2

pg 3



Sara Tomon created these vocabulary cards to share.

Vocabulary Cards



Vocabulary Planning Sheet




*Be sure to check links section below*


Another thing that I found at the school and party supply store were brown paper vests (and I believe they even had chaps).  I purchased one vest to use as a pattern, then I cut out one for each of my students from brown bulletin board paper.  The students added the details and fringed the bottom.  You could even have them glue on yarn to the shoulders and the bottom to create fringe.  They turned out really cute and were the perfect size because the pattern was child sized.
Lasting Lessons publishes a teacher's resource book that's perfect for this unit.  It's titled "Giddy Up, Round Up" and it has some great activities.  Not only does it give you ideas to use with 5 or 6 books, but it includes the patterns to go along with the activities.
The Mailbox (Kindergarten Aug/Sept 2000 edition) also has ideas for this unit.  It's titled "Welcome to the Kindergarten Corral!" 
If you have access to an Ellison cow die-cut, you can create a Math counting activity.  Cut out white cows, then add black spots to them.  Program half of the cows with numbers.   Laminate.  The students count the spots on the cow and match it to the cow with the correct number.



For a color words matching activity, cut out enough boots of one color to cover all the color words that you teach.  Program each boot with a color word.  Then, cut out a matching boot from all the different color construction paper needed to match the color words.  For example, a brown boot with the word blue on it.  The student would find the blue boot and match it to the color word.    If you're a pre-k teacher, you might want to just cut out two boots of each color and have the students find the matching pairs
Ellison also has cactus die-cuts that can be used as well in making matching games.  You could also program them with numbers or letters and have the students sequence them in the correct order.
One of the books that you have to incorporate into this unit is Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett.  You can visit Jan's website and print out ideas and activities to go along with the book.  Visit her at    Armadillo Rodeo is also one of
the featured books in the Lasting Lessons book Giddy Up! Round Up!
Texas Style Nursery Rhymes
Class Book ...   "A Cowboy Can ____________________". Each child fills in the blank and then illustrates. Bind into a book.
Going on a Trail Ride: Provide each student with a stick horse by adding a paper horse head onto a yard stick.  Cut two horse heads (one for each side) and add a yarn mane, wiggly eyes, and a bridle and reins using twine.  Make a corral in your classroom as a holding pen.  On the day of the ride, have the students wears their cowboy clothes and 
give each one a bandanna. They can carry along Trail Mix for a snack that they prepared the day before.  Head out looking for signs of TX .
Trail Mix: The students can add whatever ingredients to their mix that they’d like.  Possible ingredients could be M&Ms, pretzels, nuts, Cheerios, cheese crackers, Quaker Oat Squares, peanuts, pecans, peanut butter chips, Skittles, raisins, mini marshmallows.  It can be put into a ziploc bag for carrying on “the trail” or served in a mini pie plate.
Games to play: horseshoes, race your stick horse around "barrels"; cowboy dressing relay, etc.
Take-Home Activity:  Photocopy a boot shape onto construction paper.  Send home for the students to decorate and return.  Display in the classroom or hallway.  You can add a caption like “Havin a Boot Scootin’ Good Time!”
This is an idea that came from the ‘net that sounds really cute.  Read Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson.  It tells about a saguarao cactus that  has many different animals living in it. Then have your students make their own cactus from clay. The clay is made from 1 cup flour , 1 cup salt, 1 tsp. alum.  Add water containing green paint to the dry mixture, stirring as you add. You can tell when it's ready to knead. 

Each child fills a 4x4 black plastic pot (that plants come in from the nursery) with packed sand. Then they stick a tongue depressor in the middle of their pot. They mold their clay around the tongue depressor and shape it into a cactus. Then they used uncooked spaghetti for the spines. They stick tiny pieces of art tissue that they twisted, on like fruit flower. They can then discuss what kind of animal would live in theirs. The clay dries in a day or so depending on how thick it is.

You could teach your students to line dance if you know how. 
Discuss with your students that a cowboy’s dress is determined by need and not by looks. 
Hat -shields eyes from the sun; used to drink water from a creek or river; used as a pillow
Bandana - keeps dust out of his eyes; used to blindfold a horse so it does not get "spooked"
Boots - the high heels keep feet in the stirrups; the high sides keep dirt off of feet and helps protect legs against snakebites
Spurs - used to urge a horse forward
Chaps - protect legs
Rope - used to lasso stray cows
Snack: eat baked beans on an aluminum pie plate 
Pretend Campfire:  use scrap wood or paper towel rolls and stack them in a campfire shape.  Put white Christmas lights underneath the stack and stick red tissue paper inbetween. 
Make and decorate a construction paper cowboy hat.
Take pictures of each cowboy and cowgirl with a real cowboy hat on a rocking horse or other suitable substitute.
Cut out a construction paper cow and have the students put on their own "brand" with markers.
Make a book about Texas: 
Page 1 ~ the students color an outline of the state
Page 2 ~ they do fingerprint bluebonnets.  Us the thumb with blue paint pressed on white paper; then put white on little finger and press on top of the blue. Make stem and leaves with index finger and green paint.
Page 3 ~ they paint the state flag .  Provide them with mini white stars cut from the Ellison machine to be pasted in the middle of the blue area.
Page 4 ~ their handprint and a friends handprint and they copy the words "Motto:  Friendship"
Make Wanted Posters for each of your children or send them home to be completed.  They could read like:

Wanted  _________________ (Nickname)  "Pile Up Pat

Wanted for  __________________ (crime)  "Piling up dirty clothes in bedroom"

Last seen. ......

Reward …

Attach a picture of each student and display the criminals in the hallway.

Branding activity:  cut out various "brands' from sponges and hot glue to long dowel rods. Kids dip the sponge in paint and "brand" large cut outs of cattle or horses.
Reading Rainbow has a video called Meanwhile Back at the Ranch
I'm a Little Cowpoke 
(tune: I'm a Little Teapot)

I'm a little cowpoke (point to self)
Here is my hat (point to hat)
Here are my spurs (point to heels)
And here are my chaps (pat legs)

As soon as I get up (stretch, pretend to wake up)
I work all day (pretend to lasso a cow)
I get on my horse (pretend to get on a horse)
And ride away (pretend to gallop on a horse)

Songs to sing around the campfire :
"Pawpaw Patch" 
"Buffalo Gals" 
"Turkey In The Straw" 
"Shoo Fly" 
"Home On The Range"
Game:  About five kids are the cowboys.  You can distinguish them by letting them wear a bandana or a cowboy hat; all of the other children are cows.  The "cowboys" must “lasso” the cows by touching them. When the cows are lassoed, they sit down until all the cows are caught. Then different children become the cowboys.
Counting Tumbleweeds
10 little tumbleweeds by the corral gate,
The wind whooshed two away, and then there were eight.
Eight little tumbleweeds said,"Oh! fiddlesticks!"
"We may as well dance with the wind." Then there were six.
Six little tumbleweeds went out to explore;
Along came a whirlwind, and then there were four.
Four little tumbleweeds admiring the view; Then came a gentle breeze; so there were two.
Two little tumbleweeds; round and round they spun
Until they were out of sight; then there were none!
The pre-k Mailbox Magazine issue of Feb/Mar. 1990 has a cute unit on cowboys. More ideas were in the April/May 1993 issue.
Alligators All Dressed (as cowboys)
5 little alligators get up to dress.
The 1st one buttons up his vest.
The 2nd one wears tall boots with taps.
The 3rd one laces up his chaps.
The 4th one ties a big bow tie.
The 5th one tips his hat. Good-bye!
(could probably substitute cowboys for alligators)
10 Little Cowboys
10 little cowboys (10 fingers)
Standing in a row-
When they see the foreman
They bow just so-( curve fingers)
They ride to the left, and
They ride to the right (move hands left and right)
And then they shut their eyes
And sleep all night. (cheek on hands)
Ten Little Cowboys to Ten Little Indians tune.
Sing a variation of "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain"
Oh, a cowpoke sings a riding song. Yah-hoo!
Oh, a cowpoke sings a riding song. Yah-hoo!
When a cowpoke goes a ridin',
When a cowpoke goes a ridin',
Oh, a cowpoke sings a riding song. Yah-hoo!
Additional verses:
Oh, a coyote sings a howling song.  Ah-ooo!
Oh a pony sings a bucking song.  Neigh-ay!
Oh a doggie sings a roaming song.  Moo-ooo!
Oh, a rattler sings a sliding song.  Hiss-sss!
Five Little Cowboys
5 little cowboys sitting on a gate.
The 1st one said," Gee, rodeos are great!"
The 2nd one said," There are buzzards in the air."
The 3rd one said, "But we don't care."
The 4th one said, "Let's watch the horses run."
The 5th one said, "I'm ready for some fun!"
Ooooooo went the wind and off went their hats,
And the 5 little cowboys fell from where they sat."
Teacher's Helper, Apr/May/June 1998, has a mini-unit on Armadillo Rodeo.
Cattle Roundup
The dust begins to fly
As the cattle run by.
It starts with one mooo-
First one cow and then two.

The dust begins to fly
As the cattle run by.
A cowboy brings two more,
And now there are four.

The dust begins to fly
As the cattle run by.
Spurred on by cowboy tricks,
Our bunch is up to six.

The dust begins to fly
As the cattle run by.
These cattle just can't wait!
The group now totals eight.

The dust begins to fly
As the cattle run by.
Two more run past the men.
Wow! The herd is up to ten!

Schooldays, Jan/Feb 1998 also has reproducibles for Whoa! Rodeo Round Up!
Math Addition or Subtraction Activity:  Cut out boot shapes and program half the boots with addition or subtraction facts (or both) and the other half of the boots with the answers.  The students will match the facts to the correct answers.
Bulletin board caption for student work .. The Best in the West
Another mini unit, Cowpokes, can be found in the Kindergarten Mailbox, Apr/May 1993.
A mini Southwest unit is in the Apr/May 1998 Primary Mailbox
Make branded cowhides from large brown paper bags.  Tear off the edges and have students crumple them up.  Smooth out the paper and brand them with the sponge "branding iron" described earlier.
Use horseshoes magnets in your Discovery or Exploration Center
Get a cowboy hat and a deck of playing cards.  Have the students sit at a prescribed distance and try to toss the cards into the hat.  Add the numbers up on the cards that do go into the hat for the student's score OR count the number of cards that actually went into the hat for their score.
All Day I Ride on the Prairie
(tune: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)

All day I ride on the prairie.
All night I sleep on the ground.
Oh, I am a roaming cowboy,
Who travels around and around.

Move on, move on, move on,
Little doggies, move on, move on.
Move on, move on, move on, 
Little doggies move on.

Make a cowboy by using a 7" paper plate for the face.  Top with a cut out cowboy hat and a triangle at the neck for a bandana.
Student Name Plates:  Print each student's name in large letters on cardstock, posterboard, or something similar that's stiff.  Have the students trace their names with glue and place twine over the glue to form their name.  Let dry.  You can also enclose their names by making a circle around their names with the twine to give it the "lassoed" look.
Decorate stars covered with aluminum foil and hang from the ceiling.  Have the students bring in their sleeping bags and sleep “under the stars”.
Cut out cowboy hats and decorate the hat bands in matching pairs.  Laminate.  The students will match the hats according to their hat bands.  You can also use these to play Concentration or Memory.
Cut out horses from construction paper, minus the legs.  Have the students paint two spring-type wooden clothespins to match their horse.  The clothespins become the legs for the horse.
Bluebonnet Art:  Pop popcorn and shake in a bag with blue powdered tempra paint.  Glue the “bluebonnets” onto light blue construction paper and add the stems and leaves with a marker or crayon. Add white popcorn to the top of the flower.
Cactus Art:  Cut cactus out of green construction paper.  Glue uncooked broken spaghetti on to it for the spines.  Add pink tissue paper flowers by twisting small pieces of tissue paper on to the unsharpened end of a pencil and dipping in glue.
Make spurs by cutting a piece of gray construction paper vertically into one inch wide strips.  Fit around the student’s ankle and staple.  Staple a star at the point where the strip is stapled together. (The star should be sticking out, not flat.)
Make chaps out of brown bulletin board paper.  For a pattern, you can have a child lie flat on the paper and trace around his legs and add about an inch to the sides.  Add a strip of paper from both sides at the waist and staple in the back.  Do the same around the leg, about the knee.  Add yarn fringe down the sides or have the students fringe the sides with their scissors.
Rhonda wrote this song for her Pre-K Class's Graduation and posted it on the 'net.  She said the parents loved it!

Happy Trails Graduation Song

Happy Trails to you
It's the end of our school year
Happy Trails to you
Now Summertime is here

Next year we'll be in Kindergarten
But pre-k is where we left our heart in

Happy Trails to you 
Time to say "So long!"

For Kindergarten you could change the middle part to:

We've had a great time in Kindergarten
And you know it's where we'll leave our heart in


We've had a great time in Kindergarten
And first grade is what we'll be a startin' 

~by Rhonda

Cowboy Girl and Boy:  I found a pattern somewhere for the cowboy clothes.  Then we just added the face and hair.  I had the aide trace the patterns off onto wallpaper samples, then the kids cut them out.  Then I modeled how to put them together and put the model on the board for them to use as a guide.  Then they were to put their own boys and girls together.  It was very interesting to see how undeveloped some of the students' visual perception was.  Some of them had the skirts/pants, right up underneath the face, etc.



Cowboy Art shared by Joan: My favorite cowboy art I think I got off of Kinder Korner at one point.  You give the kids a cut out of a hat and cutout of a pair of boots.  They glue the hat at the top of an 18x 24 inch paper and the boots at the bottom and then draw the person to fill in between.  They are a hoot!



Why Cowboys Sleep With Their Boots On ~ Laurie Larrazo Knowlton
Matthew the Cowboy ~ Ruth Hooker
How I Spent My Summer Vacation ~ Mark Teague
12 Days in Texas ~ Donna D. Conner
The Quilt Story ~ Tomy Johnston & Tomie dePaula
The Cowboy and the Black-eyed Pea ~ Tony Johnston (spinoff of The Princess and the Pea)
Armadillo Rodeo ~ Jan Brett
Cactus Hotel ~ Brenda Guiberson
What Do Cowboys Do ~ Carla Greene
Yippee Yay ~  Gail Gibbons
Do Cowboys Ride Bikes? ~ Kathy Tucker
Gold Fever ~ Verla Kay
Just Like My Dad ~ Tricia Gardella
Cowboy Dreams ~ Dayal Kaur Khalsa
Whitefish Bill Rides Again ~ Arthur Yorinks
Rosie and the Rustlers ~ Roy Gerard
Bubba the Cowboy Prince ~ Helen Ketteman (spinoff of Cinderella)
Sing Sophie! ~ Dayle Ann Dodds
The Grumpy Bunny Goes West ~ Justine Korman
Cowboy Bunnies ~ Christine Loomis
Cowboys ~ Glen Rounds
Little Red Cowboy Hat ~ Susan Lowell
The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit ~ Susan Lowell
The Bootmaker and the Elves ~ Susan Lowell
The Three Little Javelinas ~ Susan Lowell
Little Red Cowboy Hat  ~ Susan Lowell  (spinoff of Little Red Riding Hood)
White Dynamite and Curly Kid  ~  Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
Why Cowboys Need a Brand ~  Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton
There Was an Old Texan Who Swallowed a Fly
The Zebra-Riding Cowboy ~ Angela Shelf Medearis
Pecos Bill ~ Steven Kellog
Pecos Bill ~ Brian Gleason
Someday Rider ~ Ann Herbert Scott
Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport ~ Marjorie Weinmen Sharmat
Cowboy Small ~ Lois Lenski
Websites to Visit:

Rootin' Tootin' Cowboy emergent reader


Cowboy printables - 2nd gr


Cowboy vocabulary cards - 2nd gr


Cowboy stationary


Cowboys Word List


Janet's Let's Rodeo! page


Cowboy and Western Themed Bulletin Boards

Wild, Wild West




Armadillo Rodeo


History of the Cowboy

Texas Parks & Wildlife Coloring Book

American Cowboys


The American West: Cowboys


The American West: Cowboys Test

Classroom Ideas ~ Cowboy Dreams

Cowboy Cooking - Western Wagon Wheels

K-Crew's Texas Unit


Horse Coloring Pages


Wild West Activities


Preschool Education Theme Topics - Western


Rodeo and Western




Western and Rodeo Theme








last updated 4.4.10


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