Lesson Plan

Traveling the National Road: Unit 3 Travelers and Transportation on the National Road

Painting of a stagecoach and a Conestoga wagon on a National Road bridge

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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.2, 3.RI.3, 3.RI.4, 3.RI.7, 3.W.1, 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: What kinds of vehicles were used on the National Road? What did Conestoga wagons and stagecoaches look like? What was it like to travel the National Road as you moved to a new home?


Student Objectives: After completing the lesson students will be able to:
• List three common methods of travel
• Describe how the Conestoga wagon and stagecoach operated
• Color the stagecoach and Conestoga wagon to look as they did during the National Road era
• List three travelers tools
• Describe a typical day for an emigrant
• List two hardships the emigrants encountered


Travelers and Transportation on the National Road is unit 3 of a complete teacher’s guide for 3rd grade students, entitled “Traveling the National Road.”

This unit covers travelers and transportation of the National Road, teaching the students about what types of transportation were common, what it was like to travel on the road and the typical experiences of emigrants moving on the road. It includes two pages of background information for the teacher and all the instructions for teaching the lesson. The student reading, entitled “Travelers and Transportation on the National Road,” introduces to students to the types of vehicles and what it was like to travel on the road. The first student activity “Stagecoach and Conestoga Wagon Coloring Sheet” has the students use written descriptions to then color their own stagecoach and Conestoga wagon. The second student activity “Traveler’s Tool” has the students read descriptions of tools and then use that information to write the correct label under illustrations of the items.   The second student reading “Emigrant’s Journal” is written as a child’s journal detailing their move to a new home.


  1. Read the teacher background information, essential question and the guiding questions.
  2. Make copies of the student readings and student activities for the class.


Download Unit 3 Travelers and Transportation on the National Road

Lesson Hook/Preview

The National Road would have looked much different than a busy road looks today. Stagecoaches and Conestoga wagons were the main vehicles and both were brightly colored. People also walked along the road. You would also see many emigrants used the National Road to move to new homes in Ohio and further west. Find out what it was like to travel on the National Road.


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


Conestoga wagon – large wagons pulled by six horses that moved goods
Wagoner – men who drove the Conestoga wagons
Stagecoach – vehicles used to transport people
Emigrants - people moving to a new home
Drovers - people who walked farm animals to market to sell them

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 and discuss the thought questions as a class. The teacher can also provide colored photographs of Conestoga wagons and stagecoaches as samples for the students.

Enrichment Activities

In the classroom mark off the dimensions of a Conestoga wagon at 42 inches wide and 17-19 feet long. Have the students discuss what goods might be transported in a wagon. Have the students write what they would bring in their wagon if they were using a Conestoga wagon to move west.

Have students keep a journal of their own travels and activities.

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 a CD.  

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