Lesson Plan

Blackstone Canal History: Informational Text Skill Development

Blackstone Canal

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6.RI.1, 6.RI.2, 6.RI.5, 7.RI.1, 7.RI.2, 8.RI.1, 8.RI.2
State Standards:
Massachusetts Social Studies Standards USII.2 Explain the important consequences of the Industrial Revolution.
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


How can close reading of an informational text help me explore and understand the history of the Blackstone Canal?


The Blackstone Canal, a 45 mile waterway linking Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island, was a powerful catalyst for economic change and growth, stimulating the "transportation revolution" which was at the center of Worcester's transformation from a landlocked agrarian outpost to a center of commercial activity. The arrival of the Blackstone Canal began a tradition of innovation and enterprise that continues to characterize Worcester industry.

This close reading lesson both gives students strategies to tackle informational texts, as well as understanding of the Blackstone Canal's history. While this activity can be used with middle-school students, the same activity can be done with high school students as well at a quicker pace and without the vocabulary assistance. 


*Determine whether you will let students choose their partners and groups for the second, third, and fourth readings of the informational text or you would like to chose the groups. Note: If it is a class with many different skill levels, teacher-selected groups may be beneficial. 

*Make one copy per students of the informational text titled "Worcester's Population, Economics, and Transportation Age" and the close reading activity questions. 

*Make copies of the vocabulary terms and definitions. You can copy one per student if you think all students will need that support or less if students have more background knowledge. 


This is the informational text for the close reading.

Download Reading: Worcester's Population, Economics, and Transportation Age

Use these questions to guide a close reading activity with secondary students. This is a student worksheet.

Download Close Reading Activity: Blackstone Canal

Provide to students who need support during the close reading of the text.

Download Blackstone Canal: Important Vocabulary and Definitions

Lesson Hook/Preview

1. Ask students how many times they read a chapter in a textbook if they are assigned that chapter for homework. (Most will say once or twice if there are questions.) 

2. Ask students to list what they need to be doing while they read a text. You may need to help students brainstorm this list as a group. Possible answers include: understand vocabulary, understand the big idea of the text, possibly answer questions, identify important information, and look at images or graphs. 

3. Ask the students to look at the list of tasks or skills that must be used when reading an informational text. Then ask them if they can do all of those actions in one reading. Explain to students that today they will be reading the text four times but with different goals each time. 


1. Hand out to students the informational text titled "Worcester's Population, Economics, and Informational Age". Then, hand out the close reading activity to the students. 

2. Follow the directions provided in the reading activity. Keep in mind that the first reading should be silent and independent. The second and third reading should be done with partners. The fourth reading can be done with partners or as a group of four. The goal of this close reading activity is to clarify understand of the Blackstone Canal, as well as practice informational text reading strategies. 

3. After concluding close reading of the text, ask students to suggest a better title for the text that captures the reader's attention and summarizes the argument of the text. 

4. Ask students to reflect on close reading. How was it different reading the text four times? What would they have missed if they only read the text once? 


See provided vocabulary terms and definitions under materials. 

Assessment Materials

Close Reading Skills Assessment

Provide students with a different and new informational text. Ask students to create an activity for close reading that text, similar to the Close Reading Activity provided to them on the Blackstone Canal. Ask students to complete the activity they created. 

Supports for Struggling Learners

*Hetereogenous pairs for the second, third, and fourth reading. 

*Highlighted or annotated copy of the reading

*Only ask students to close read one page of the informational text. Different groups/pairs can tackle different pages. 

*Instead of asking students to generate questions in the third reading, provide the questions and ask students to answer instead. 

Enrichment Activities

*Ask students to find primary sources, charts, and displays that could supplement the informational text. 

*Ask students to trade the questions from the third reading and try to answer each others. 

*Ask students to create a cover page for the informational text that reflects its arugment or purpose. 

Additional Resources

For more information about Blackstone Canal…

Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-central/blackstone-river-and-canal-heritage-state-park.html

Worcester Historical Museum: http://www.worcesterhistory.org/bcinfo/bcinfo-home.html

The Canal District of Worcester: http://www.thecanaldistrict.com/history.html

To find primary sources for enrichment…

Library of Congress: www.loc.gov

National Archives: www.nara.gov

Related Lessons or Education Materials

*Historical Math and the Blackstone Canal 

*Time Traveling through Worcester: Map Exploration of the Blackstone Canal 

*Reasons for the Blackstone Canal 

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Last updated: July 24, 2015