Social Studies
Material Type:
Lesson Plan, Primary Source, Reading
Middle School
  • Lesson Plan
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    Pony Express and Transportation Changing the West

    Pony Express and Transportation Changing the West


    Students will learn about transportation and technological changes made and how they impacted Utah in the 1800s. 


    This lesson will give students an understanding of transportation changing the West in the 1800s with a focus specifically on the Pony Express.

    • Time frame: 50 Mintues 
    • Format: face-to-face
    • Author" Stephanie Godfrey 


    Background for Teachers

    To have success in teaching this lesson, the instructor should have a basic understanding of the Pony Express, Telegraph, stage coaches, and Utah in the 1800s.  Communication was difficult for those living in Utah in the 1800s due to isolation.  New inventions such as the stagecoach, Pony Express, and telegraph made communication easier for those in the Utah. 

    The following resources can help you teach this topic,



    Student Knowledge


    In this section, you will include the learning intentions and success criteria for students based on student data. Learning intentions are essentially the objectives of the lesson -- statements of what students are expected to learn. Success criteria define how students will show that they have met the learning intentions. They tie closely to the assessment portion of your lesson and the rubric students will use to gauge their success. The following sections, sentence starters, and examples can help you compose your own learning intentions and success criteria:

    Learning Intentions:

    • Students will be able to understand how people living in Utah in the 1800s were isolated and needed better communication.  Inventions such as the stagecoaches, Pony Express, and the telegraph benifted Utah by allowing them better communication and advancements due to these inventions.  

    Success Criteria:

    • Students will use critical thinking after doing a powerpoint, class discussions, and primary source readings to understand how new inventions changed the communication in Utah. 


    Student Background and Learning Strategies

    Student Background Knowledge

    Prior to this lesson, students will need to have an understanding of early western life in Utah.  Students should also have a basic geographical understanding of the west and other settlments so they can understand the impact these technilogical changes had on Utah. 

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    To meet the needs of diverse learners, (English Language Learners, gifted, IEP) consider altering the length of the project.  For gifted students you could have them use Utah Online Library to find an additional source going over the technilogical changes. Consider making notes of discussions available to students on a needed basis also. 





    1. Tansportaion PowerPoint

    • Have students take out a plain piece of paper to take notes while going over the PowerPoint together as a class. *only do this if students aren’t paying attention and participating in discussion.
    • Provide students who need it with a copy of the PowerPoint and/or notes. 

    2. Pony Express Primary Source 

    • Pass out the primary source worksheets to everyone in the class.  
    • As a class read one section at a time discussing the sources, their meaning, and possible answers.  
    • Guide students who need a little extra help as you walk around the classroom and they fill in their papers. 

    3. Pony Express Advertisement

    • Pass out the guided worksheet and go over the directions together as a class.
    • Let students work together to make there advertisements. 
    • Pair and share when finished. 

    4. Activity to illustrate Pony Express- Only do if there is time.

    • Have the students create two messages for the teacher.  Have one student (the fastest) who needs to take the letter to one side of campus while the remainder of the students line themselves up 40-50 meters apart in a relay.  the one messenger and the first person in the relay start at the same time and we see how long it takes the relay to get the message to teacher compared to the relay.  This illustrates the pony express in an active, interesting lesson.
    • Or have the students write a note to their friend telling them how awesome they are and motive them to keep doing good.  Have them run it to their locker as fast as they can and put it in their friends locker.  They can relate this to the Pony Express and see if they could be as fast as them.


    While completing going over the PowerPoint and completing the primary source worksheet use questioning, obsertation, and discussion to assess students understanding and knowldge.  This will help you to know if you need to go over a specific part again or reteach.  

    As students leave the classroom have them complete a simple exit survey answering the following questions to assess understanding; 

    1. What forms of technology helped Utah grow and have better communication? 

    2. What impact did the Pony Express have on Utah?