Lesson Plan

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

Illustration of a stagecoach being pulled by four galloping horses
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
3.RI.1, 3.RI.3, 3.RI.7, 3.W.1, 3.W.1.b, 3.W.2
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. 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.

Essential Question

Was the National Road important to the development of the United States?

Guiding Questions: Why are roads important?  Where was the National Road located?


Student objectives: After completing the lesson students will be able to:
• Name one reason the National Road was important to the people of the United States
• Identify the course of the National Road
• Identify the biggest barrier to transportation before the National Road
• Identify settled and unsettled part of the United States on a map
• List one National Road site/structure still standing


Overview of the National Road is Unit 1 of a complete teacher’s guided, geared for 3rd grade students, entitled “Traveling the National Road.”

This unit gives an overview of the National Road, teaching the students where it was located and its importance to transportation and commerce. It includes two pages of background information for the teacher and all the instructions for teaching the lesson. The student reading, entitled “The National Road,” introduces the students to the road and its importance. The first student activity “Map of the National Road” has the students identify the road on a map and identify settled verses unsettled sections of the country. The second student activity “The National Road in Pennsylvania” has the students look at the section of the National Road in Pennsylvania and locate historic site that are still standing.


  1. Read the teacher background information, essential question and the guiding questions.

  2. Make copies of the student reading and student activities for the class


Download Unit 1 Overview of the National Road

Lesson Hook/Preview

What would your life be like without roads? When the United States was young it needed a road across the Appalachian Mountains in order to expand.  The United States government decided to build it, and it was called the National Road. 


  1. Introduce the essential and guiding questions.

  2. Read the lesson hook.

  3. Have the students complete the reading and activity sheets.

  4. Discuss with the students.


Appalachian Mountains - a mountain range in eastern United States
National Road - the first road built and paid for by the United States government

Assessment Materials

Answers to the questions are included in the downloaded lesson plan.

Supports for Struggling Learners

The teacher can read the materials to the students. The students can work as a group on the activities.  

Enrichment Activities

Have the students study Zane's trace, Old Natchez trace, the Wilderness Road and other historic roads to see how they compared to the National Road. 

Additional Resources

Students can take a virtual field trip watch the 25-minute Virtual Field Trip: The Mount Washington Tavern.

Related Lessons or Education Materials

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.

Check out the links to the other lesson plans:

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: Artifact Activities

Other resource include:

Appendix with timeline, vocabulary and bibliography
Poster of the National Road
Poster of the Toll Rates Along the National Road
Introduction to the teacher guide and table of contents

Contact Information

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Last updated: June 10, 2022