Generously Sponsored By: Amtrak

 

About This Lesson Plan

GRADE
4

DURATION
40

UNIT PLAN
American Journeys: California

Perfect Postcards  NEW!

An Amtrak train speeds along.
An Amtrak train speeds along.

 

OBJECTIVE

  • Students will use map skills to identify major California geographical features and landmarks
  • Students will use research skills and pre-writing tools to write expressive letters about travel by train and landmarks

MATERIALS

REPRODUCIBLES

  1. Perfect Postcards  NEW!
  2. California Classroom Map  NEW!

DIRECTIONS
Background Discussion (15 minutes)

  1. Review the California Classroom Map (PDF) with students. Locate and identify the adjacent states and nation (Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Mexico), ocean (Pacific Ocean), and geographical characteristics of California (desert, Redwood forest, Sierra Nevada mountains, etc.).

  2. Discuss the difference between landmarks and geographical features (geographical features are parts of the natural landscape of the Earth, landmarks are points of interest such as cities and historic sites.) Ask: Can a geographical feature be a landmark? (Yes, for example, the Redwood Forest.)

  3. Use a map to find and discuss interesting landmarks or tourist attractions in California. Encourage students to share any personal travel experiences.

  4. Ask: If you lived in San Francisco in 1810 (before the transcontinental railroad was built) and wanted to visit San Diego, how might you get there? (Horseback or wagon) How do you think that trains changed people's travel habits? (It became easier to explore new places in safety and comfort.)

Writing Action (20 minutes)

  1. Distribute Perfect Postcards (PDF) Student Reproducible, the California Classroom Map (PDF) Reproducible, and four blank index cards to each student. Read the introduction and directions aloud.

  2. Give students time to conduct research and create their postcards. The following Web sites feature information about many California landmarks that you and your students may use for reference:

  3. Instruct students to create colorful posters featuring their postcards, train schedules, and California classroom map to bring their journeys to life.

Active Wrap-up (10 minutes)

Review the posters as a class. Point out unusual observations and discuss how particular, active and descriptive word choices enhance specific postcards.

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