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A geological and agricultural survey...

[Detail] A geological and agricultural survey...

Lesson Procedure

Before reading Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal, students should have studied the following background material:

  • geographic features of New York State;
  • DeWitt Clinton's dream of a canal;
  • building the Erie Canal; and
  • economic and social impact of the canal on New York and on the nation.

Pre-Reading Mind Travel

Students study primary source materials to increase their understanding of the time period, the 1840s, in which the story takes place.

  1. Divide students into small groups.
  2. Give each group a packet of primary source materials (Part One and Part Two) or direct them to the online galleries.
  3. Students analyze the photographs, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  4. As a class, students discuss what they learned from their sources about life in the 1800s.
  5. Supplement the primary source materials with information that may not have been readily evident in the sources provided.

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Lessons

Study primary sources from the 1840s to gain an understanding of the time period.

Chapter I: Planning

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter I of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. Provide students with a map of New York. Have students trace the route and modes of transportation taken by Marco and Forester from New York City to Schenectady.
  3. Design symbols to represent the different types of transportation.
  4. Show students Primary Source Materials for Boats and Primary Source Materials for Aqueducts.
  5. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. What are the two modes of acquiring knowledge that Forester talks about with Marco? Include an example of each.
  2. Make a sketch showing one thing that Forester explained to Marco about the canal. Write a caption for your sketch.
  3. Explain the difference between a packet boat and a line boat.
  4. Why did Forester and Marco decide to take the train from Albany to Schenectady but then travel on the canal?

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Chapter II: The Packet

  1. The focus for this chapter is the concept of a "maxim." Teachers are advised not to introduce the concept of the word "maxim" before reading Chapter II in class. The examples used in the text will provide the opening needed for a great classroom discussion!
  2. Read aloud in class Chapter II of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  3. After classroom discussion based on the examples in the chapter, students study and discuss the Primary Source Materials for Maxims. Analyze primary sources as time allows, recording observations and thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Primary Sources to focus the student analysis, and select additional questions to focus and prompt a whole class discussion of their analysis.
  4. Students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. What is a "maxim?"
  2. Explain the meaning of the maxim: "what is worth doing at all, is worth doing well."
  3. Write a maxim of your own.

Chapter III: Getting on Board

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter III of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. In reading and discussing this chapter, students focus on the setting and life of the city of Schenectady.
  3. After classroom discussion, students complete the following assignment in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  • Sketch a scene in Schenectady. Include a caption.

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Chapter IV: Night

  1. This chapter focuses on descriptive writing. Before reading Chapter IV, prepare students to listen for sights, sounds, smells, and feelings experienced on a packet boat at night. Direct students to record the sensory images found in the chapter.
  2. Read aloud in class Chapter IV of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  3. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. Write a description about what it was like to spend the night on a packet boat.
  2. Create a picture with words that makes the reader feel as if he or she were on the packet boat.

Chapter V: Canajoharie

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter V of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. In this chapter, Marco has the opportunity to learn how a lock works on the canal. Have students research how locks work to gain a better understanding of this mechanism.
  3. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. Write a sequence of events explaining how a lock works.
  2. Line boats usually carried goods on the canal. Why did some people travel on line boats instead of packet boats?
  3. What is the purpose of feeders?

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Chapter VI: Honesty

Chapter VI focuses on "moral character." Forester teaches Marco about deception and concealment using examples that students can understand. The chapter gives a deeper look at the concept of "character," and how someone can "lose his character" through his or her actions.

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter VI of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. The class discusses the concept and examples of "moral character" found in this chapter.
  3. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. What is the difference between deception and concealment? Use examples from the text in your explanation.
  2. What does it mean when a person loses his character? How can this happen?

Chapter VII: The Pass of the Mohawk

  1. Before reading the chapter, share maps and photographs showing the transportation corridor through the Mohawk Valley with the students. Analyze maps and photographs as time allows, recording observations and thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Maps or from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus the student analysis, and select additional questions to focus and prompt a whole class discussion of their analysis.
  2. This is an opportune time to reinforce earlier discussions about the geography of New York and its impact on transportation.
  3. Have students examine sketches, drawings, and pictures of early locomotives, cars, inclines, etc., in order to visualize train transportation during the middle 1800s.
  4. Read aloud in class Chapter VII of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  5. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. Why does the person who guides the locomotive receive more pay than the fare collector?
  2. Why did Forester say that Marco should not be in charge of guiding a locomotive? Use details from the story to support your statement.
  3. Make a sketch of the Pass of the Mohawk which shows the Erie Canal, the Mohawk River, the turnpike, and the railroad all coming together.

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Chapter VIII: Perplexity

In this challenging chapter, Forester is "perplexed" about the flow of the water in the aqueduct. The chapter also contains accounts of feeder canals and the old locks in Little Falls.

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter VIII of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. Have the class examine engravings and photos of the Little Falls aqueduct and maps of Little Falls during this time period. Analyze the engravings and photographs as time allows, recording observations and thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus the student analysis, and select additional questions to focus and prompt a whole class discussion of their analysis.
  3. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. Describe two things that Marco found especially interesting in Little Falls.
  2. What is "perplexity"?
  3. Why was Forester perplexed?

Chapter IX: A Project

Teachers may choose to focus on one or more of a variety of subjects from Chapter IX. The journal response questions for this chapter suggest some possibilities.

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter IX of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. Write a paragraph demonstrating how Forester compares a regular canal to a short canal, which must circumvent falls and rapids (comparison writing).
  2. Write a paragraph giving Forester's explanation of the differences between the Niagara River and other rivers (geography).
  3. Marco hopes to build his own canal when he returns to Vermont. What has he learned that should enable him to do this? How will he do it? Do you think that he will succeed? Why? (transfer of learning).
  4. Marco wonders how a canal can be built without a great deal of confusion. Discuss the formation and workings of a company that builds canals (economics).

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Chapter X: The Steersman

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter X of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. Marco meets several people in this chapter who behave or say things that perplex him. Center classroom discussion on aspects of human nature, behavior, and the impressions that we make on others.
  3. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. What did Marco learn about the German woman even though he could not understand what she said?
  2. If you worked on a line boat on the Erie Canal, what job would you want (driver, captain, steersman, cook, or bowsman)? Why?
  3. Why do you think that the old man called Marco "Bob?"

Chapter XI: The Ride

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter XI of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. Lead discussion around the fact that Marco expects to be punished for a mistake that he makes. Forester knows that Marco will learn more from the mistake itself than from any punishment.
  3. After classroom discussion, students answer the following question in their journals.

Response Journal Question

  1. Why didn't Forester reproach Marco for his foolishness concerning the horse?

Chapter XII: The Outlet

  1. Read aloud in class Chapter XII of Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal.
  2. Marco and Forester arrive in Troy where there is a connection between the canal and the river. Students find that the ending isn't what they expected!
  3. After classroom discussion, students answer the following questions in their journals.

Response Journal Questions

  1. How did you feel about the way the book ended?
  2. If you had written the final chapter, what would have happened and why?

Extension

After reading the book, students apply their knowledge of the Erie Canal and primary sources to create a Primary Source Alphabet Book about the canal.

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