Lesson Plan

A Journey on the C&O Canal: grades 3, 4, 5

An historic black and white image from the canal boat looking at the towpath and the mules.
See the canal from Michael O'Leary's perspective in this classroom lesson.
CHOH collection

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fifth Grade
Subject:
Commerce and Industry, Economics, Engineering, Family Life, History, Language Arts, Literature, Reading, Regional Studies, Science and Technology, Social Studies, Transportation
Duration:
60
Group Size:
Up to 36
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
Common Core English Language Arts, Reading Literature and Informational Texts
RL.3.1, RL.3.3, RL.3.4, RI.3.7
RL.4.1, RL.4.3, RL.4.4, RI.4.7
RL.5.1, RL.5.4, RL.5.6, RI.5.7

Overview

Use this lesson as a stand-alone or as a pre-activity to a canal visit. This lesson addresses a host of indictors and objectives in both reading and social studies. Students will learn why the C&O Canal is an amazing accomplishment in Maryland’s history, understand more about the genre of historical fiction, and describe what a typical nine-year old canal boy and family were like in the late 1800’s.

Objective(s)

Students will read and discuss A Journey on the C&O Canal in order to:

1) Learn why the C&O Canal is an amazing accomplishment in Maryland's history;

2) Learn why the C&O Canal is especially important to Washington County, Maryland; 

3) Understand more about the genre of historical fiction and how it can teach us real information with characters who didn't actually live but could have; and

4) Describe what a typical nine-year old canal boy and family were like in the late 1800's.



Background

The lesson materials include a printable lesson plan, Power Point presentation and notes for the teacher, journal experts with a map for the students, and a vocabulary list. The lesson was designed for Washington County, Maryland, students who visit the Williamsport Visitor Center at the Cushwa Basin; but it is applicable for other locations along the canal as well. It is suited for students in third, fourth, or fifth grades. 

You might begin by discussing your upcoming field trip or show a photo from the power point or other resource.

Ask: How would you like to live on a boat and travel up and down a canal for 8 months every year? Give some talking time and time to share. Explain that many families who lived and worked on the C&O Canal did just that.



Materials

The lesson materials include a printable lesson plan, Power Point presentation and notes for the teacher, journal experts with a map for the students, and a vocabulary list. The lesson was designed for Washington County, Maryland, students who visit the Williamsport Visitor Center at the Cushwa Basin, but it is applicable for other locations along the canal as well. It is suited for students in third, fourth, or fifth grades. 

You might begin by discussing your upcoming field trip or show a photo from the power point or other resource.

Ask: How would you like to live on a boat and travel up and down a canal for 8 months every year? Give some talking time and time to share. Explain that many families who lived and worked on the C&O Canal did just that. 



Procedure

1) Begin with the power point to build students' background information (Note talking points and additional background information on the notes below each slide.)

2) Give one copy of the journal, A Journey on the C&O Canal, and a map to each student. Ask them to write the location names on the map as they read the journal. You may wish to copy the vocabulary words on the back of the map. Cue students to other pieces of historical fiction they have read. Make sure they understand key elements of this genre, and have opportunities to self-select other pieces of historical fiction.

3) The readability of the journal is early Grade 5; consider how you will support readers who are not able to read the text independently (shared reading, partner reading).

4) Process through the text, sharing background information and allowing students to process information and make personal connections along the way.

5) Review the key points of the stated objectives with questions such as, "Why is the C&O Canal an amazing accomplishment?" and "What have we learned about Michael that makes him a typical 9 year old boy?"

Assessment

When the journal has been completed, you may wish to have students respond in writing to any of the questions, or additional questions that you develop. Make other materials and websites available for students to continue to learn more about the C&O Canal.



Park Connections

This lesson introduces students to the things they will see when they visit the canal—the towpath, lockhouses and locks, and aqueducts. It also describes the Paw Paw Tunnel. It helps students understand the daily life of families on board canal boats, including caring for the mules.



Vocabulary

Aqueduct, canal, cargo, canal lock, lock house, lock keeper, towline, towpath