At a Glance

Erie Canal
Focus on historical thinking, Further resources for teaching this content, Inclusion of multiple perspectives, Opportunity to analyze causation, Useful for differentiating instruction, Useful for English language learners
1 day
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Lesson Format


Building the Erie Canal

How would the Erie Canal have changed your life and the lives of those around you? Politics, trade, and the land itself were all affected.


This lesson from Teachers’ Domain examines how the construction of the Erie Canal affected the geographic, economic, and political landscape of the United States. In exploring these issues, students are presented with four computer-based activities.

The first two activities—viewing documentary video clips—are engaging, brief, and informative. These clips could be projected to the whole class if a teacher does not have access to multiple computers.

The third—an interactive graphic organizer—allows students to categorize different consequences of the construction of the Erie Canal in terms of geographic, political, and economic effects. The interactive graphic organizer allows students to draw connections between consequences in different categories and explain how they are interconnected in a pop-up comment box. After they are done, students can print out the graphic organizer.

The final activity in the lesson, which requires students to read and write, can be done either on a computer or not. It asks students to synthesize information from the video clip and a background reading (available in two different reading levels), and students can choose from three different writing assignments.


While this lesson was designed to be delivered to students via a computer, many of the activities could be adapted for a class with one or no computers.

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Field Criteria Comments
Historical Content Is historically accurate?

Featured video contains interviews with reputable scholars.

Includes historical background?

Historical background provided in videos and handouts.

Requires students to read and write?

Students take notes throughout the assignment and write a short essay evaluating the major changes resulting from the construction of the Erie Canal.

Analytic Thinking Requires students to analyze or construct interpretations using evidence?

Using evidence from the documentary video and a background reading, students assess and examine the economic, political, and geographic effects of the Erie Canal on the nation.

Requires close reading and attention to source information?


Scaffolding Is appropriate for stated audience?

Two versions of background handout are included for different grade levels.

Includes materials and strategies for scaffolding and supporting student thinking?

A graphic organizer helps students organize their ideas and draw connections between the various effects resulting from the Erie Canal’s construction.

Lesson Structure Includes assessment criteria and strategies that focus on historical understanding?

Students can write an essay on the canal’s effects on America or New York State. Students can write a journal from the perspective of someone who experienced the effects of the Erie Canal five years after its construction.

Defines clear learning goals and progresses logically?

Requires access to multiple computers, but can be adapted for classroom use in which only one computer and a projector are needed to stream the video.

Includes clear directions and is realistic in normal classroom settings?