Supplementary Resource Kit (SRK)
Name: Lana Andrews
School and Grade Level: Central Junior High School – 8th Grade English as a Second Language
Title of the Lesson: Transcontinental Railroad
Social Studies: GLE 4, B) The role of technology in our economy and how our economy has changed
from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy.
TESOL: GLE 1: Develop and apply skills and strategies to the reading process.
GLE 3: Develop and apply skills and strategies to comprehend, analyze, and evaluate nonfiction
(such as biographies, newspapers, etc.) from a variety of cultures and times.
This lesson is intended to help students gain a better understanding of how the Transcontinental
Railroad affected the westward movement through employment, communication, and led to a
multicultural population in the United States. Student activities for completion are:
1. Weblesson on Transcontinental Railroad: Introduction (video clip, maps)
2. Discovery Education Video segment (In Search of Gold; Immigrants Head West)
3. World Book Encyclopedia Online: Transcontinental Railroad Read Aloud Article
Outline of the Specific Historical Content Included in this Lesson:
I. The Journey West
1. Main mode of transportation was the wagon train but took a long time
a. took months to reach destination
b. crossing rivers and mountain passes was difficult
c. settling the west was very slow
II. Evolution of the Steam Engine
1. The first steam-powered locomotive was built in 1800’s
a. known as the “iron horse”
b. many types of locomotives were built so they could improve the speed
2. How a steam engine works (parts of a steam engine)
c. cylinder and piston
d. connecting rod
III. Building a Railroad
1. East, then West
b. choosing a route
c. laying the track
IV. People who built the railroad included
2. Native Americans
V. Passenger Trains
2. First – third class travel
VI. Railroad Employees
1. People were hired to run the railways
a. engineers, firemen, flagmen, brakemen, baggagemen, guards, station agent
VII. Railroad stations and towns
2. Improve trade
Primary Sources Used:
Steam engine whistle (audio)
Music for Photos Story (audio)
Life in the Old West “The Railroad” A Bobbie Kalman Book (Prints and Photographs)
Crabtree Publishing 1999
The Transcontinental Railroad photos from The Library of Congress
Photographs and maps from www.weblessons.com
This lesson is designed to work for English as a Second Language students as the reading material is on a
2nd/3rd grade reading level. All of the activities in this lesson use visuals (photographs, video, and
illustrations) in order for the Limited English Proficient students to comprehend the concept of the
Westward Movement and the Transcontinental Railroad. Students with little or no English proficiency
may be asked to use a translator in defining some of the vocabulary i.e.: parts of a steam engine
Photo Story: The Transcontinental Railroad
Weblessons: View photographs, video clips, and maps of railway routes in the American West
Discovery Education: streamline video
World Book Online: read aloud article
Specific Activities Used to Implement The Lesson:.
A Photostory of The Transcontinental Railroad will be viewed by students giving them a sample of
photographs of building the railways and passenger travels.
Students will read sections of “Life in the Old West: The Railroad” and have teacher led discussions on
the journey west and which transportation method they would choose (wagon train or railroad train).
Students will be shown the picture of a steam engine locomotive and learn the vocabulary for parts of a
steam engine. Students will use www.weblessons.com Transcontinental Railroad and view/read the
Introduction portion of Transcontinental Railroad for a short video clip, photographs, and maps of the
building of the railroad. Students will view a video clip from Discovery Education (streamline video) and
also read an article using World Book Online.
Students will be given a map of the United States to create their own route for the transcontinental
railroad then compare their route to the actual routes that were built.
1. What was the main source of transportation to the West before the railroad?
a. Wagon train b. steamboat
2. What was invented that would change travel in the United States forever?
a. Steam engine b. wagon train
3. When people move from one part of the country to another, what is it called?
a. emigrate b. transport
4. What city did the railroad begin?
a. St. Louis b. Chicago
5. What was the other name for the locomotive?
a. Iron horse b. engine
6. What are two parts of the steam engine?
a. Cylinder and piston b. ore and water
7. A firebox is
a. Fire is built for heat for the steam engine b. a place where the wheel hits the track
8. Transcontinental means
a. Across the country b. across the world
9. Baggagemen were
a. Men who took care of the bags or luggage b. took the tickets
10. Brakemen were
a. Men who drove the train b. men who turned the wheels to stop the train
11. The place where the railroad stopped to let out and take on more passengers is called
a. Station b. store
12. Native Americans
a. Worked on the railways b. did not work on the railways
13. The Transcontinental Railroad improved
a. Transportation c. wagon trains
14. Railroad travel was important in the development of the West. T or F
15. The steam engine locomotive was invented in the 1800’s T or F
16. Railroad towns called boomtowns began to grow. T or F
17. Settling the West did not improved trade. T or F
18. The railroad employed people from all over the world. T or F
19. The railways began building in the West. T or F
20. A first class ticket costs more money than a second class ticket. T or F
1.a 6.a 11.a 16.T
2.a 7.a 12.a 17.F
3. a 8.a 13.a 18.T
4.b 9.a 14.T 19.F
5.a 10.b 15.T 20.T
Kalman, Bobbie “Life in the Old West: The Railroad”. Crabtree Publishing, 1999.
www.Bmp3.com Free music downloads for Photostory
The ESL student was interested in where the people lived while working on the railroad. She was also
interested in the way people traveled on the passenger cars and especially, the dining car with its
luxurious tables with linens and dishes. The idea of many immigrants working on the railroad was
interesting to her since she didn’t realize that there were many people who came from all over the
world to help lay the tracks and be a part of this great advance in transportation.
What Worked Well With This Lesson:
What worked well with this lesson was using the children’s book, “Life in the Old West: The Railroad”
with its actual photographs of the development of the railway system and diagram of the steam engine
with the vocabulary highlighted. The sections of the book are easily followed and the book covers much
detail of the people involved in the building of the railroad along with the people working on the
railroad once completed. The Weblesson activity gave the students independent reading time where
they could go at their own pace and view actual maps of the routes. Also, all of the video illustrated
what an undertaking building the transcontinental railroad was and how it changed transportation as we
know it today.