Transportation in America

A reading comprehension lesson on how the United States transitioned from transporting people and goods by water to transportation on land. Includes printable teaching lesson worksheet.



• Students will be able to describe the transition from transportation via canals to transportation via railroads.

• Students will be able to describe the development of the first transcontinental railroad.

• Students will be able to describe how canal boats and steam engines were powered and controlled.

• Students will be able to describe why and when trucks and passenger cars replaced railroads as the major form of transportation in the United States.


Suggested Grades:

4th Grade - 5th Grade - 6th Grade

Lesson Procedure:

Print the reading comprehension passage and questions (see below).

Students should read the passage silently, then answer the questions. Teachers may also use the text as part of a classroom lesson plan.


Lesson Excerpt:

After the Erie Canal was completed in New York, many factories and mills were built along its route. Small towns became cities and business boomed. By 1840, many other states had built canals as well and there were 3,000 miles of canals in the United States. Boats were pulled along canals by a team of mules that walked along the shore. Two people, one in the boat and one on shore with the mules, traveled with each cargo boat.

It seemed as though canals would soon link the entire country. But that idea became history when railroads began to get people's attention. Trains were faster than canal boats, and they could travel in freezing weather when canals were frozen over. By 1860, railroads connected cities and towns throughout the eastern part of the United States. A train that traveled the same route as the Erie Canal was carrying more grain than canal boats by 1870, and soon canals were no longer used.



Lesson Printables:

Print this printable worksheet for this lesson:

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