“Rails West!”

Shared Reading
“Rails West!”
Key Idea The transcontinental railroad, begun in 1862 and completed in 1869, went from
Omaha, Nebraska, to Sacramento, California. Thousands of Chinese, German, Irish, and
Italian immigrants worked on the project. The railroad made settlers’ journey westward
vastly easier, but it infringed upon Native Americans’ land and way of life.
Learning Focus
Students will summarize the text, determine the main idea, and explain how the main idea is
supported by key details.
3 minutes
Previewing the Text
Today we’re going to read more about how settlers expanded into the American
West in the 1800s. Read the title. What can you guess from it about the subject
of the text?
7 minutes
Close Reading of the Text
Today we’re going to use the same strategy for understanding this text that we
used when I first read you “Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea.” Who’ll remind us what
our strategy was?
Often, the main idea of a whole text can be found at the beginning. Who would
like to share an idea on the first page that they think might be the main idea of
the whole text?
Can someone cite a detail from the text that supports the idea?
Let’s continue finding important ideas and supporting details as we move
forward in this text. Who can find another big idea in the text?
And who will support that idea with a detail you can find on this page?
Let’s read closely to examine some of the vocabulary in this text. Many words
in English have Latin roots. You’ll find one on page 20, so let’s look at that page
and locate the word territories. Using context clues, who can figure out what
territories are?
That’s correct. If you substitute the synonym lands for territories in the sentence
in the text, you’ll see it makes perfect sense. The Latin root in territories is terr.
Can anyone guess what it means?
Mondo Bookshop Grade 4 • Theme 9 1
That’s absolutely right. Another word with this root is terrain, which refers to the
condition of a piece of land, such as “hilly terrain” or “muddy terrain.” By the
way, does the word territories refer to one land, or more than one?
Yes, territories is plural. What would the singular form be?
Discussing the Text
10 minutes
As you discuss this text with your groups, continue to share ideas, such as by
asking and answering questions. When you state an idea, give your reasons
for stating it. If a classmate states an idea but doesn’t give reasons, try finding
reasons yourself and sharing them with your group. Who thinks they can briefly
summarize the whole text for us, including the main idea?
We just heard that the main idea of this text is that the Transcontinental Railroad
opened up the West to new settlers, but disturbed the Native American way of
life. Who can find details to support this claim?
The long word transcontinental is a key to this text. In this text, it refers to a
railroad. What was special about that railroad?
Based on that context, what does transcontinental mean?
Very close. Look at the base word of transcontinental. What is it?
So transcontinental would mean what? Who sees it?
Yes. The railroad in this text only went halfway across the continent, but later
it was connected with railroads in the east, so it went all the way across North
Remember that when you read an informative text, you’re basically reading
something that contains a lot of factual details, and these details usually add
up to one or more main ideas. So use today’s strategy whenever you read for
2 Westward Ho!
Shared Reading
“Rails West!”
RI.4.2, RI.4.6, RI.4.8
Students will compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic,
describing the differences in focus and the information provided, and explain how the author uses
reasons and evidence to support particular points. They continue to summarize the text, determine
the main idea, and explain how the main idea is supported by key details.
3 minutes
Today we’re going to reread the text “Rails West!” together. Who will remind us
what the text was mostly about?
Today we’ll focus on how the author uses reasons and evidence. We’ll also talk
about the differences between a firsthand and a secondhand account of a topic.
7 minutes
Let’s reread the first two pages together. Who sees an important idea there that
they didn’t notice the first time?
What details in the text help support your idea?
As I was reading about how immigrants from various countries worked on the
railroad line, I noticed that the Union Pacific workers, in the East, went much faster
than the Central Pacific workers, in the West. Who’ll tell us what the reason is?
This text about building the Transcontinental Railroad is a secondhand account.
The person who wrote it wasn’t there at the time. A firsthand account would
be written by someone who was there, such as a worker who kept a diary or a
journalist who wrote an article. How might a firsthand account of building the
railroad be different from this text?
10 minutes
As we discuss this text, let’s focus on ideas, the reasons for those ideas, and the
evidence or details that point to those ideas. Who’d like to give us an example
of finding an idea at the end of the text, with the author’s reasons and evidence?
Who can give us an example of how you used a strategy to help you understand
this text?