Transcontinental Railroad: The Challenge of Bridging a Continent
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:

  • Description of daily life
  • What the work was like (easy or hard)
  • Type of work they were doing
  • Amount of money they were making
  • Food that they were eating
  • Clothes they were wearing
  • Places that they were working
  • Materials used to complete work
  • Daily temperature (hot or cold)
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.

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).