Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Closing the Frontier: Railroads in Canada and the United States

Railroad development was similar and different in Canada and the United States. Reasons for traversing the vast unsettled frontier in both countries were influenced by a combination of political and economic goals, yet the consequences of the developments became highly social by nature.   

GOAL: Discuss the causes and effects of industrial growth and economic modernization in the United States and Canada, including railroad construction.

The End in Mind

What better way to start a unit than to look at the part of the exam that relates to unit. We looked at four years of IB diploma history exams. It sounds like a lot, but it's only two questions each exam. After reviewing a handful of the questions,

I showed the students that the questions are often based on the same themes and content, which is how we came up with the prompt we used for the inquiry activity.

Inquiry Activity

After reviewing the past IB paper 3 exam questions related to industry and railroad, I wrote a question that might be asked on the exam. 

Students broke into groups to write three questions each, which were then placed into the basket. The purpose of this is anonymity, so no names were exchanged.  

Then, each group organized the questions and chose three to submit (as a group) via Google Forms.


The responses were read and discussed. The students did such a great job writing these questions. Most of the main ideas of the two readings they were about to study were related to the questions. We pointed out the analysis versus evidence elements of their questions, and I shared brief descriptions to get them ready to look for the meaningful chunks in their guided reading. 


Students read a short piece on Canada's railroad development and one on the United States. Since they had access to the question responses via link on Google Classroom, I encouraged my students to review them as needed while they made notes about the main ideas of each reading. 


A short quiz with Plickers was all they needed to make sure they were focusing on the right stuff. The score from these five questions was formative, so it did not factor into a summary grade for report cards. Students are encouraged to make notes about the areas they missed so they can reflect on why they missed the question and ask for help as needed.

Additional assessments might include writing a thesis statement response to the original question / prompt, followed by an outline of the evidence and analysis used to support the argument. 

What's Next?

The next lesson will look at three entrepreneurs: Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie. This lesson will inherently include reflection and connection with industry and railroads, as well as monopoly issues and expanding markets.

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