Lesson Plan

Traveling the National Road: Unit 2 Construction of the National Road

Illustration of men building the National Road

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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.4, 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. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience.

Essential Question

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

Guiding Questions: How was the National Road built? What were some of the tools they used? What were some of the difficulties they faced?


Student Objectives: After completing the lesson students will be able to:
• Describe the steps used to build the National Road
• Describe the type of workers that built the National Road
• List three National Road building tools
• List two jobs workers who built the National Road completed


Construction of the National Road is unit 2 of a complete teacher’s guide for 3rd grade students, entitled “Traveling the National Road.”

This unit covers the construction of the National Road, teaching the students about construction methods and the workers who built the road. It includes two pages of background information for the teacher and all the instructions for teaching the lesson. The student reading, entitled “Building the National Road,” introduces to students to how the road was built. The first student activity “Road Building Tools” has the students identify how tools would be used to build the road. The second student activity “Workers Building the National Road” has the students look at an illustration of the road building and identify the types of work depicted.


  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 2 Construction of the National Road

Lesson Hook/Preview

The National Road was built without the assistance of machines. This required people and animals to do the work. Also, it was very difficult to build the road in the mountains. For these two reasons, many workers were needed to construct the road.


  1. Introduce the essential and guiding questions.
  2. Read the lesson hook to the class.
  3. Have the students complete the reading and activity sheets.
  4. Discuss with the students.


Measuring ring – a metal ring to measure the size of rocks by seeing if they could pass through the ring

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 make measuring rings out of paper plates or plastic lids to create a 7-inch opening for the 7-inch ring and a 3-inch opening for the 3-inch ring. Measure different items you find in the classroom.

Have the students use a dishpan or other shallow dish to build the road. Have at least two size layers to the road. The students could use course and finer gravel, or other materials.

Additional Resources

Teachers can get the teacher's guide free of charge as a CD. Additionally, posters and a book are also available.  Please go to the Receiving National Road Curriculum Materials page for information.  

Students can take a virtual field trip by 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


Please go to the Receiving National Road Curriculum Materials page for information on receiving the teacher's guide on CD.  

Contact Information

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Last updated: September 17, 2020