Subject: Social Studies

Lesson Length: 45 - 50 mins

Topic: Transcontinental Railroad

Grade Level: 5

Standards / Framework:


Brief Description: Students will understand the impact the transcontinental railroad had on the economy, environment, and culture of the United States.

Know Before You Start: Students should have knowledge about what led to the building of the railroad. 


  • Read and discuss the sample comic.

    • Why was the railroad important?

    • How did it improve lives?

    • How did it affect the lives of Native Americans who lived along the railroad’s route?

  • Show students two images: a picture of a big city and a picture of a farming town. Discuss technology in the two cities and why they might be different.

    • How would this impact the farming town?

    • What would happen if there was a subway that connected the farming town and big city? For example, restaurants might be built at stops on the subway line.

    • Would there be any negative effects?


  • Introduce the following vocabulary:
    • immigrant
    • culture
    • geography
    • economy
  • Display a map of the Continental Railroad and the cities along the route. 

  • Have students select a city along the transcontinental railroad at the time when it was being built. Students will then research what this city was like before the railroad was built, and after, e.g., population, industry, growth, etc.

  • Using the sample comic as a guide, students will create a three-panel comic showing what the city was like before and after the railroad was built. 

  • Students should demonstrate knowledge of how the railroad impacted their selected city either geographically, culturally, or economically. They may also include the railroad’s impact on Native Americans living in the region.


  • Students will present their comics to the class.
  • Students can do this through a gallery walk, creating a class website that tours through the cities in order, and/or screen record and narrate over their comic.


  • Allow students to use the speech-to-text feature.
  • Allow students to use the voiceover feature to read their comics aloud.
  • Use Think-Pair-Share strategy during whole group discussion.

  • Allow students to work in pairs or groups as needed.


Suggested Story Starters: