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Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

PDF Version With Materials

Grade Level: 5

Character Education Focus: Self-Discipline


After reading the selection "Black Cowboy, Wild Horses," students will identify characteristics of self-discipline shown by the story's main character Bob Lemmons. Then students will identify some of their own traits of self-discipline and reflect upon areas to improve and make a commitment to act. They will brainstorm ways to become more disciplined, and share their ideas with the class.

(45-60 minutes)

Materials Needed

  1. Lester, J. (2003). Black cowboy, wild horses. Kwan, M. (2003), In J. Cooper & J. Pikulski, Houghton Mifflin reading: A Legacy of Literacy Grade 5 (pp. 523-541).Boston , MS : Houghton Mifflin. 
  2. Chart paper  
  3. Markers
  4. Writing journals (optional)


Academic Character Education Objectives

Students will:

  1. Discuss ways the main character shows self-discipline and how that is important to the story.
  2. Use a T-chart to organize their responses regarding how they already are self-disciplined and in what areas of their lives they would like to become more self-disciplined.
  3. Brainstorm strategies for becoming more self-disciplined and share them aloud in a group discussion.

California English-Language Arts Standards Addressed


2.0 Reading Comprehension

  • 2.3  Discern main ideas and concepts presented in texts, identifying and assessing evidence that supports those ideas.

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis

  • 3.3  Contrast the actions, motives (e.g., loyalty, selfishness, conscientiousness), and appearances of characters in a work of fiction and discuss the importance of the contrasts to the plot or theme.

Listening and Speaking

1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies

  • 1.5 Clarify and support spoken ideas with evidence and examples.

Reprinted, by permission, California Department of Education

Lesson Procedures

    1. The teacher explains the purpose of the lesson, which is to read and study the story “Black Cowboy, Wild Horses”and identify the main character’s qualities of self-discipline as well as their own traits of self-discipline. Self-discipline is making responsible choices in what I say and do to reach my personal goals. Provide an example from the story of how the main character demonstrates self-discipline.Respect for self:  Being good to myself and not putting myself down, taking care of myself.

    2. The teacher reads the story aloud or students may read the story out loud or silently.

    3. Ask students to identify Bob Lemmons’ personal goals and how he used self- discipline to achieve those goals. The teacher uses the T-chart and models note-taking.

    Bob's Goals
    How Self-disciplined Actions Helped Bob Reach His Goals

    4. Students take notes while re-reading the story and continue to complete the T-chart with their notes.

    5. With the class, the teacher reviews each of Bob's goals and the self-disciplined actions that help him to achieve his goals. Students can complete any missing notes.

    6. After restating the definition of self-discipline, ask students to think about their own goals and how they practice being self-disciplined. Using the organizer below, have students identify one realistic, short-term personal goal and write it on their own chart. Ask students to think about how they can become more self-disciplined in order to reach this goal. Ask students for an example and model how to complete the chart.

    My Goal is: _____________________________________________________

    How I Show Self-Discipline
    Where I Would Like to Become More Self-Disciplined
    Ways to Practice Self-Discipline

    7. Remind students of the importance of self-discipline to obtaining goals and provide an example.  Ask to work with a partner and brainstorm ways that they can show and practice more self- students disciplined behaviors to reach their goals. Students record ideas on their charts. 

    8. Share their ideas within small groups or with the whole class.

    9. Students make a commitment to reach one goal within 7-10 days.

    10. After 7-10 days students respond in their journals writing about the challenges and successes they experienced as they worked toward their personal goals.

Academic – Character Education Assessment

Informally assess the students’ responses in class discussion, noting students’ ability to summarize significant events from the story, demonstrate an understanding of Bob Lemmons’ self-discipline, and use specific examples from the story to support their ideas during class discussions.

Additionally, teachers can assess the students’ ability to identify a realistic goal, analyze and reflect upon their own behavior, and generate reasonable ideas that will help them address their perceived deficiencies.  

Reflective Journaling Prompts

  • If you were in Bob’s shoes, what are some things that you would have done differently?
  • What are some things you would have kept the same?
  • Write about your efforts to work on achieving your personal goal. What are your successes? What are your challenges? What are your next steps?
  • Students record in their journals for two weeks ways they were self-disciplined at school and how it felt to make the choices they did.

Extensions and Variations

To go deeper into literary comprehension and analysis, here are some additional questions:

  • What was Bob Lemmons’ ultimate goal in the selection?
  • Why was it important to maintain his self-discipline?
  • If Bob made other choices with his actions, how do you think his goals would have turned out?
  • How do choices change the outcome of an event?
  • How can making choices to be more self-disciplined affect those outcomes?

Research the historical connections between horses and humans to identify how self-discipline has affected this relationship.

Bill Picket, one of the most famous black cowboys, was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma in 1971. Students can read about Bill and compare his life to Bob Lemmons. For more information on Bill Picket go to:

Teacher Notes or References

Additional information about Bob Lemmons, called “the most original mustanger,” can be found in the Handbook of Texas Online at

Based on a lesson by Jenny Watson

Edited by Mary Wilson

© 2005 Orange County Department of Education