Transcontinental Railroad: The Challenge of Bridging a Continent


By
Jennifer
Marty


Table of Contents:
Overview
Understandings & Objectives
    • 
Contents
    • Project Introduction
    • Research the Transcontinental Railroad
    • Write Theodore Judah's Biography
    • Railroad Math
    • Graphing Railroad Riders
    • Write a Letter As a Chinese Laborer
    • The Lasting Effect of the Railroad!
Topic:
Transcontinental Railroad
Themes:
California History
Chinese laborers
Industrial Revolution
Sierra Nevada
The West
Theodore Judah
Focus Content Area:
History/Social Science

Secondary Content Area:
Mathematics
Grade Level:
4


Overview:

What key elements affected the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad?

Summary


This site incorporates essential topics relating to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. It examines the people involved with the planning and construction of the railroad that connected the western states with the East.  Students will take away a better understanding of the need for such a means of transportation at that time in California history. Students will also explore the hardships of crossing the Sierra Nevadas and Great Basin by rail. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, these challenges  seemed possible to overcome in a time of rapidly expanding technology.


Rationale

To focus on a significant time in California history that demonstrated the impact of the Industrial Revolution in the West, ultimately leading to the prominence of California during the post-Mexican era.  To examine Theodore Judahís legacy on modern-day Californiaís status in the world. To revisit the contributions of the Chinese laborers during the railís construction.



Understandings & Objectives:



Core Understandings

Learning Objectives

Time Requirements

          6 hours 30 minutes over 5 days



California Content Standards
Mathematics
Grade Four
Number Sense
MA.4.3.0 Students solve problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers and understand the relationships among the operations:
MA.4.3.3. Solve problems involving multiplication of multidigit numbers by two-digit numbers.
MA.4.3.4. Solve problems involving division of multidigit numbers by one-digit numbers.
Statistics, Data Analysis, and Probability
MA.4.1.0 Students organize, represent, and interpret numerical and categorical data and clearly communicate their findings:
MA.4.1.2. Identify the mode(s) for sets of categorical data and the mode(s), median, and any apparent outliers for numerical data sets.
Mathematical Reasoning
MA.4.2.0 Students use strategies, skills, and concepts in finding solutions:
MA.4.2.3. Use a variety of methods, such as words, numbers, symbols, charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, and models, to explain mathematical reasoning.
MA.4.2.4. Express the solution clearly and logically by using the appropriate mathematical notation and terms and clear language; support solutions with evidence in both verbal and symbolic work.
History and Social Science
Grade Four California: A Changing State
HSS.4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.
HSS.4.4.1. Understand the story and lasting influence of the Pony Express, Overland Mail Service, Western Union, and the building of the transcontinental railroad, including the contributions of Chinese workers to its construction.
HSS.4.4.3. Discuss immigration and migration to California between 1850 and 1900, including the diverse composition of those who came; the countries of origin and their relative locations; and conflicts and accords among the diverse groups (e.g., the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act).

Contents:

Project Introduction

Instruction Time: 20 minutes on Day 1


We will begin the lesson by having a class discussion on what students know about the Transcontinental Railroad. The teacher will list any prior knowledge on a piece of butcher paper.

Then, with a basic introduction to the Transcontinental Railroad, students will be introduced to the key elements that affected its construction.


Transcontinental Railroad Powerpoint Presentation





Research the Transcontinental Railroad

Instructional Time: 45 minutes on Day 1


Students will research the Transcontinental Railroad using a web resource list called The Force Behind the Transcontinental Railroad. These sites have been selected for being content-rich and kid-friendly. The students will be able to choose Worksheet #1 or Worksheet #2 to guide their note-taking. Through their research, they will become acquainted with all of the major topics that will be explored during the unit: the history, the geography, and the people who contributed to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

  


California Content Standards
History and Social Science
Grade Four California: A Changing State
HSS.4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.
HSS.4.4.1. Understand the story and lasting influence of the Pony Express, Overland Mail Service, Western Union, and the building of the transcontinental railroad, including the contributions of Chinese workers to its construction.


Write Theodore Judah's Biography

Instructional Time: Three Lessons, 45 minutes each


Lesson One: Day Two
Students will break into groups to discuss the importance of Theodore Judah.  After brainstorming for 15 minutes, the groups will present their ideas and the teacher will write them on the board.  The class will then discuss their ideas on the importance of Theodore Judah (30 minutes).

Lesson Two: Day Three
After discussing the influence that Theodore Judah had on the planning for the Transcontinental Railroad, students will write a first draft of his biography. 
Topics include:

Students must address the key issue of Theodore Judahís place in California History: Why was he important?  If he didnít plan for the railroad, would the railroad have ever come to California?  Is he responsible for shaping California into what we know it as today?  Students will be assessed on the following topics addressed in this grading Rubric.

Lesson 3: Day Four
Students will peer edit their biographies in small groups.  They then will make appropriate corrections and move on to the final draft.


California Content Standards
History and Social Science
Grade Four California: A Changing State
HSS.4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.
HSS.4.4.1. Understand the story and lasting influence of the Pony Express, Overland Mail Service, Western Union, and the building of the transcontinental railroad, including the contributions of Chinese workers to its construction.


Railroad Math

Instructional Time: 45 minutes on Day 2

Each student will receive a worksheet with one math word problem that would have been something the railroad builders faced. Topics will include money spent, number of workers, hours of labor, and distance of railroad track. The students will attempt to solve the problem on their own, using what they know about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They will include the following:

-An equation that represents the math that the problem requires

-At least 3 sentences explaining why they used that equation

-A solution to the problem

-A picture or diagram that shows their reasoning

During the last 15 minutes, students will form groups with other students who had the same word problem (3-4 students per group). Each student will present his or her solution to the group for feedback. After every student has presented, the students may make additions to their worksheets before turning them in for evaluation.

To see a sample, please view the Railroad Math worksheet.


Checking for Understanding

Observation, a Railroad Math Rubric



California Content Standards
Mathematics
Grade Four
Number Sense
MA.4.3.0 Students solve problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers and understand the relationships among the operations:
MA.4.3.3. Solve problems involving multiplication of multidigit numbers by two-digit numbers.
MA.4.3.4. Solve problems involving division of multidigit numbers by one-digit numbers.
Mathematical Reasoning
MA.4.2.0 Students use strategies, skills, and concepts in finding solutions:
MA.4.2.4. Express the solution clearly and logically by using the appropriate mathematical notation and terms and clear language; support solutions with evidence in both verbal and symbolic work.


Graphing Railroad Riders

Instructional Time: 45 minutes on Day 3, 30 minutes on Day 4

Students will be placed in groups of 4, and will receive a set of data showing the number of people who rode the Transcontinental Railroad to California in its first year of service. The riders will be identified by their home state. Each group will then be asked to create a graph showing its data, and recording the median, mode, and any outliers.


On the second day, groups will make a presentation to the "U.S. government" to show their results. Based on its graph, each group must decide which states need to have a larger advertising campaign to encourage their citizens to ride the train.

To see a sample, please view the Graphing Railroad Riders assignment.


Checking for Understanding

Observation, Student Work, Presentation




California Content Standards
Mathematics
Grade Four
Statistics, Data Analysis, and Probability
MA.4.1.0 Students organize, represent, and interpret numerical and categorical data and clearly communicate their findings:
MA.4.1.2. Identify the mode(s) for sets of categorical data and the mode(s), median, and any apparent outliers for numerical data sets.
Mathematical Reasoning
MA.4.2.0 Students use strategies, skills, and concepts in finding solutions:
MA.4.2.3. Use a variety of methods, such as words, numbers, symbols, charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, and models, to explain mathematical reasoning.


Write a Letter As a Chinese Laborer

Instructional Time: 1 Hour on Day 4


After watching a video that documents the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, students will have watched the experience of the Chinese laborers.  They will now have an opportunity for a response to the video in which they write a letter, as a Chinese laborer, to their family back in China.

Topics include:

Students will be able to reflect on what they saw in the video.  Each student will share their ideas in a Quaker Reading to follow their completion of the letter.


California Content Standards
History and Social Science
Grade Four California: A Changing State
HSS.4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.
HSS.4.4.1. Understand the story and lasting influence of the Pony Express, Overland Mail Service, Western Union, and the building of the transcontinental railroad, including the contributions of Chinese workers to its construction.
HSS.4.4.3. Discuss immigration and migration to California between 1850 and 1900, including the diverse composition of those who came; the countries of origin and their relative locations; and conflicts and accords among the diverse groups (e.g., the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act).
HSS.4.4.4. Describe rapid American immigration, internal migration, settlement, and the growth of towns and cities (e.g., Los Angeles).


The Lasting Effect of the Railroad!

Instructional Time: 20 minutes on Day 5


On the last day, students may share their letters to the class if they would like. Then, the class will refer back to the prior knowledge chart they made on the first day. They will make a list of all the new knowledge they gained during the unit.