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Lesson 3: New Technology, New Ways to Travel


  • Students review the location of the Erie Canal and plot the courses of packet boats, steam boats and steam locomotives across New York State.
    Suggested Time Allowance: 3 class periods

Unifying Themes: (based on the National Council for the Social Studies)

  • Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures
  • Geography, Humans, and the Environment
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Creation, Expansion, and Interaction of Economic Systems
  • Science, Technology, and Innovation

New York State Social Studies Framework

  • Standard 1: History of the United States and New York State
  • Standard 3: Geography
  • Standard 4: Economics
  • Key Ideas and Conceptual Understandings
    • 4.6b In order to connect the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean, the Eric Canal was built. Existing towns expanded and new towns grew along the canal. New York became the busiest port in the country.
    • 4.5c New York supported the Union and played an important role in this war.
    • 4.6c Improved technology such as the steam engine and the telegraph made transportation and communication faster and easier. Later developments in transportation and communication technology had an impact on communities, the state, and the world.
  • Social Studies Practices:
    • Gathering, Using and Interpreting Evidence
      • Develop questions about New York State, its history, geography, economics, and government.
      • Recognize, use and analyze different forms of evidence used to make meaning social studies (including sources such as art and photographs, artifacts, oral histories, maps and graphs.)
      • Create an understanding of the past by using primary and secondary sources.
    • Geographic Reasoning
      • Use location terms and geographic representations (maps and models) to describe where places are in relation to each other, to describe connections among places, and to evaluate the benefits of particular places for purposeful activities.
      • Distinguish human activities and human-made features from “environments” (natural events or physical features—land, air, and water — that are not directly made by humans).
    • Economics and Economic Systems
      • Distinguish between the various types of resources (human capital, physical capital, and natural resources) required to produce goods and services.

Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy

  • RI.4.6: Compare a firsthand and a secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.
  • RI.4 .9: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
  • W.4.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to the task, purpose, and audience.

Unit Essential Question:

  • Can individuals make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers?
  • Who were the “winners” and who were the “losers” in the Industrial Revolution?

Resources/Materials for this lesson:


Day 1

1. Introduce the class to the essential question for the lesson and discuss the meaning of technology.

2. Review previous lesson on Erie Canal. Stress that the Erie Canal was a human-made feature. Ask, “What human-made features can the students name in their communities?” (bridges, dams, tunnels)

3. If available, read selected fourth grade texts about transporting goods overland in 1820 – 1835, and read Background Reading on 19th Century New York Railroads (included).

4. Brainstorm modes of transportation in the early 1800’s. Discuss how they were created.

5. Introduce the map of New York. Ask the students to develop questions about traveling throughout New York. List them on the whiteboard or poster and refer back to them during the lesson. Discuss the relative locations of cities and geographic features.

6. Read the Worksheet: "New Ways to Travel" (included) with the students. Ask, “What kinds of resources were required to create the new forms of transportation?” (human capital, physical capital, and natural resources)

7. Guide students to highlight information important to the task.

8. Students complete the tasks embedded in the worksheet.


  • Conduct a Socratic Seminar using the article “Touring on a Packet Boat” by Carol Sheriff, College of William and Mary.
  • Have the students blog from the point of view of a person traveling on the Erie Canal during the given time period.
  • Students create a presentation using information from two texts. Some possible tools to use: Educreations, PowerPoint, SlideRocket, etc.

Day 2
In order to implement this day’s lesson the teacher will need to contact the local historical society and ask them to prepare a packet of local historical materials for the class about transportation and communication. Ask for documents, pictures, newspaper clippings, etc.

1. Have students investigate packets of materials about the early means of transportation and communication used in their local community and to which communities they were linked, noting why they were linked to those communities. Discuss the differences between the primary and secondary sources the historical society provides.

2. Students will create a graphic organizer to compare the early means of transportation and communication in their community to that of the present. Below the graphic organizer they are to discuss the impact the changes have had on their communities, New York State and their connection to the world.


  • A correctly filled in map showing all locations.
  • Multiple Choice question on map comparison
  • Extra map for quiz / testing purposes
  • Exit ticket


  • technology
  • trade
  • transportation
  • locomotive

Revised September 27, 2016

Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum (Grade 4)
©Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Curriculum & Instructional Services, 2004.