Last year, I took a risk and put together an engaging and knowledge-building unit that I wanted to accomplish two things: solidify my students’ familiarity with their informational text standards and give them valuable information about how America got moving. The result was nothing short of amazing. If you’re looking for a creative and engaging way to plan an informational text review, look no further than this Lincoln Highway project!
Let me take you on a journey from the Lincoln Highway to the Ford Model T and show you how you can use this unit to teach or review various informational text standards. By the end of the unit, your students will be reading informational text with confidence and will have a newfound respect for the early American transportation system!
Pre-Reading: Using the “3-2-1 Bridge” Strategy
I like to launch this informational text review with a “3-2-1” pre-reading activity. If you’ve never used it before, it’s a great thinking strategy that you use at the beginning of a unit as well as the end. It helps students activate their background knowledge on the topic and allows you to see what they know about the early American transportation system. Second, by circling back to their “3-2-1” at the end of the unit, students have the opportunity to reflect on their new learning and “bridge” the gap. Here’s how it works:
3: Students list three words that come to mind when they think about the early American transportation system.
2: Students generate two questions about the early American transportation system.
1: Students write one metaphor or simile about the early American automobiles.
Have them store their responses in a safe place until the end of the unit. As a final activity, have them complete the same 3-2-1 with one added question:
“How did your thinking change or shift from your first response to your last?”
This pre-reading activity is a great way to get your students thinking about the informational text they are about to read!
Point of Interest #1: The Lincoln Highway
The Lincoln Highway was one of the first transcontinental highways in the United States and played a vital role in the country’s development. Today, the highway is a historic landmark, providing insights into the history of transportation in America. Using the first nonfiction passage, students learn about how roads early roads were made and how the idea of the Lincoln Highway was born.
After reading the article and answering a set of informational standards-based questions, you can have them watch the “100 Years on the Lincoln Highway” documentary. This is an excellent opportunity for students to compare and contrast what they learned from the text with what they learned from the documentary.
Point of Interest #2: The Birth & Rise of the Automobile
After learning about the Lincoln Highway, have students read about the birth and rise of the automobile. They will enjoy learning about how the first engines and vehicles came to be and how ideas rapidly spread and evolved from one inventor to the next. They will be amazed at how rapidly the automobile evolved and how it came to dominate the transportation landscape!
Point of Interest #3: Americans On the Move
Once students learn about the Lincoln Highway and the rise of the automobile, they can examine how the combination of the two changed America. Towns and cities along the Lincoln Highway exploded as people started taking cross-country road trips. However, early roads could be dangerous due to a lack of signage and poor conditions. Despite these challenges, early road-trippers enjoyed the newfound sense of adventure and freedom that came with exploring the country by car.
Your students will love reading about tin-can tourists, what it was like to take an early cross-country road trip, and how the rise of the automobile changed America.
Point of Interest #4: Henry Ford and the Model T
No Early American Transportation unit would be complete without the mention of Henry Ford and the Model T. Henry Ford was one of America’s most important and influential businessmen. Born into a farming family in 1863, Ford showed an early interest in machines and engineering. After working as an engineer for a number of years, he founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903. The company’s first car, the Model T, revolutionized automobile manufacturing. The Model T became immensely popular thanks to Ford’s innovative assembly line production method, selling millions of units over the next two decades.
Today, the Model T is considered one of the most important cars in history, and your students will love reading about the American icon!
Informational Text Standards-Aligned Question Sets
Remember how I said my goal with this informational text review was to solidify students’ familiarity with the standards? I built standards-aligned question sets for each set of broad standards (key ideas & details, craft & structure, integration of knowledge & ideas) so students could get additional practice on the standard set they most needed.
This made it easy to target or differentiate instruction and allowed all students to practice close reading skills with informational text.
After students learn about early American transportation, they can plan their own cross-country road trips! This culminating project helps students connect what they learned about the first cross-country road trips on the Lincoln Highway with what road trips are like today. Students will choose their destination, determine their points of interest, plan a schedule and a budget, choose their playlists, and more! It’s a great way for students to apply their knowledge in a real-world context, be creative, and have fun!
If you are looking for a fun way to conduct your informational text review, I think your students will love this unit. Use it:
- as you teach your nonfiction text minilessons,
- in the weeks leading up to a break such as Christmas or Spring Break,
- before a high-stakes assessment,
- in a remedial or intervention course as additional practice.
The early American transportation system is a fascinating topic that will engage so many of your students! Using these content-rich informational texts can help your students refine the critical skills required to comprehend nonfiction texts. In addition, your students will learn a wealth of information about the early American transportation system!
Give it a try in your classroom, and let me know how it goes.