Generously Sponsored By: Amtrak Illinois Department of Transportation

 

About This Lesson Plan

GRADE
4

DURATION
3

UNIT PLAN
American Journeys: Learn About Illinois

Perfect Postcards  NEW!

Amtrak train
Amtrak train

 

OBJECTIVE

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

MATERIALS

REPRODUCIBLES

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

DIRECTIONS
Background Discussion (15 minutes)

  1. Review the Illinois Classroom Map (PDF) with students. Locate and identify the adjacent states (Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky), important lakes (Lake Michigan, etc.) and rivers (Mississippi River, Ohio River, etc.), and geographical characteristics of Illinois (Great Lakes region, plains, forests, 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 Great Lakes.)

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

  4. Ask: If you lived in St. Louis, MO in 1810 (before the transcontinental railroad was built) and wanted to visit Chicago, IL, 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 (2-3 days research time)

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

  2. Allow students 2-3 days to gather research for their postcards. Students may begin by reading the following books or Web sites: 

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

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

Active Wrap-up

Organize a "Celebrate Illinois Day" for your students and their families. Invite friends and family to view the Illinois-themed posters and ask student volunteers to give short presentations explaining their work.

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