Lesson Plan

Traveling the National Road - Unit 1: Overview of the National Road

Illustration of a stagecoach being pulled by four galloping horses.
Library of Congress LC-USZC4-3266

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Grade Level:
Second Grade-Fourth Grade
Commerce and Industry, Economics, Geography, Transportation, Westward Expansion
45 – 90 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
National Standards for History: K-4 Standard 2, 5, 8. Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: II, III, VII. Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.1, 3.5, 3.7


In “Traveling the National Road (Overview of the National Road)” students will learn the importance of roads to the growth of the early United States.  The teacher background information provides a two page overview of National Road and its importance.

The “Traveling the National Road” teacher’s guide is broken into ten units and is targeted for 3rd grade students.  Each unit can be completed independently.  This is unit 1 and contains teacher background, a student reading and two activities.


Guiding Question: Why are roads important? How did the National Road help the United States? Where was the National Road located?


Critical Content: The importance of roads to transportation and commerce. The location of the National Road and its importance in the young United States


Student objectives: Students will…

·        Identify the course of the National Road

·        Explain the biggest barrier to transportation before the National Road

·        Identify settled and unsettled part of the map

·        List one National Road site still standing


The "Traveling the National Road" teacher's guide is broken into ten units and is targeted for 3rd grade students. Each unit can be completed independently. Units 1 - 6 each have teacher background, a student reading and two student activities. Unit 7 has fourteen biography cards of people associated with the National Road along with two student activities. Unit 8 has fourteen occupation cards of jobs that were associated with the National Road along with three student activities. Unit 9 discusses seven historic sites in Pennsylvania associated with the National Road. Unit 10 has other activities and an appendix. Additionally there are two posters: one is a map of the National Road and the other is a list of the historic tolls.


Check out the other units:


Unit 1: Overview of the National Road

Unit 2: Construction of the National Road

Unit 3: Travelers and Transportation on the National Road

Unit 4: Accommodation on the National Road

Unit 5: Workers Along the National Road

Unit 6: Decline and Rebirth of the National Road

Unit 7: Biography Cards

Unit 8: Occupation Cards

Unit 9: Historic Site Cards

Unit 10: Other Activities and Appendix 


The Teacher's Guide is also available free on a CD or as a printed version in a three ring binder. Please email us if you would like to receive the Teacher's Guide in one of these formats.


Unit 1: Overview of the National Road. This unit is a 26 page long pdf covering the introductory history of the National Road. It also contains the overall introduction and table of contents for the entire teacher's guide.


1.    Download the pdf of the lesson plan

2.    Read the two student activities

3.    Make copies of the biography cards for the students

4.    Teach and discuss with the students

Park Connections

This lesson relates to the Mount Washington Tavern located in the main unit of Fort Necessity National Battlefield. The tavern was a 1830s stagecoach stop along the National Road and is now a furnished museum. It tells the story of travelers, transportation and accommodations along the road. This lesson will help students prepare for the "Travelers and Workers Along the National Road" field trip.

Additional Resources

Map of the National Road

Toll Rates

National Road Timeline


National Road, Stagecoach, Conestoga wagon