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Classroom Activities 1 2 3 4 5 6

Activity 1


  • Students will select information appropriate to the purpose of their investigation and relate ideas from one text to another. Teacher reads aloud Jennifer B. Gillis's Lives and Times: Robert Fulton (Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2000).
  • Students will complete a K-W-L chart regarding the importance of Robert Fulton and his steamboat, the Clermont, to the Hudson River.
  • Teacher facilitates students' completion of the “L” column of the K-W-L chart.

Instructional Materials

  • Book: Lives and Times: Robert Fulton
  • “Robert Fulton and the Clermont” K-W-L chart

Robert Fulton and the Clermont

KWL Activity

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Activity 2

Interpreting Documents and Analyzing Illustrations

• Students will gather and organize information about the important accomplishments of individuals and groups, including Native American Indians, living in their neighborhoods.
• Teacher will share with the class “The Invention of the Steamboat” below.

lesson 2
– What role did Robert R. Livingston play in the development of Fulton's steamboat?

• Teacher helps students analyze and discuss the illustration below.

Robert Fulton's “Clermont” on the Hudson, 1813. Courtesy of the I. N. Phelps Stokes Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

– Why did the Clermont use both steam and a sail?

Instructional Materials
  • Early New York PBS article
  • Illustration: Robert Fulton's “Clermont” on the Hudson

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Activity 3

Observing Technological Advances

• Students will explain their reflections about the meanings, purposes, and sources of works of art, and they will describe their responses to the works and the reasons for those responses.

The entire class will be engaged in this activity. Students will compare and contrast two paintings of a similar region on the Hudson River to determine changes in technology from 1635 to 1879. The paintings are the work of Len F. Tantillo, a maritime artist who creates research-based works of art. Since these paintings have been created in recent years but depict long-ago scenes, students should recognize that they are interpretations-not exact documentations-of the two time periods seen. It might be important to help students “think” like a historian by teaching them strategies to consider the source, time frame, and possible purposes of a historical document such as art.

Instructional Materials
  • Access to computer(s)
  • Two Len Tantillo paintings: Fort Orange, 1635 and Union Depot, 1879
  • Venn diagram displayed on chart paper
  • Student notebook

• Students will analyze Len Tantillo's Fort Orange, 1635 and write down their observations in their notebook.

• Next, students will analyze Len Tantillo's Union Depot, 1879 and write down observations in their notebooks.

• Students will share their observations with the teacher and complete a Venn diagram on chart paper.

venn diagram

• Upon completion of the Venn diagram, the teacher will facilitate a brainstorming discussion of technological advances achieved from 1635 to 1879 as observed in both prints. Next, the teacher should list these advances on chart paper and display the chart paper analysis for the duration of the unit.

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Activity 4

Writing a Feature News Article for the American Citizen

Students will read each of the primary documents. Students will then analyze the documents and use the information gained to write a news article related to Fulton's first steamboat trip on the Hudson River.

Instructional Materials
  • Primary documents, including Fulton's account of the Clermont's first trip from New York City to Albany and the eyewitness account of a passenger
  • “The 5 Ws” graphic organizer
  • The American Citizen

About the American Citizen

David Denniston established the American Citizen and General Advertiser on March 10, 1800, in New York City. The name was shortened for the September 30, 1802 issue to the American Citizen. The newspaper remained in print until November 19, 1810; it was succeeded by the New York Morning Post.

New York, August 20



   I arrived this afternoon at 4 o'clock, in the steam boat, from Albany. As the success of my experiment gives me great hope that each such boats may be rendered of much importance to my country, to prevent erroneous opinions, and to give some satisfaction to the fiends of useful improvements, you will have the goodness to publish the following statement of facts:

   I left New York on Monday at 1 o'clock, and arrived at Clermont, the seat of Chancellor Livingston, at 1 o'clock on Tuesday, time 24 hours, distance 110 miles; on Wednesday I departed from the Chancellor's at 9 in the morning, and arrived at Albany at 5 in the afternoon, distance; 40 miles, time 8 hours; the sum of this is 150 miles in 32 hours, equal near 5 miles an hour.

   On Thursday, at 9 o'clock in the morning, I left Albany, and arrived at the Chancellor's at 6 in the evening; I started from thence at 7, and arrived at New -York on Friday at 4 in the afternoon; time 30 hours, space run through 150 miles, equal 5 miles an hour. Throughout the whole way my going and returning the wind was ahead; no advantage could be drawn from my sails-the whole has, therefore, been performed by the power of the steam engine.

Letter to the Editor of The American Citizen

Courtesy of New York State Library

Primary Source Readings
Fulton's Account of the Clermont's first trip from New York City to Albany

Observations of a passenger

A visiting Frenchman by the name of Michaux was one of only two new passengers who mustered the courage to book passage on the return trip to New York City. Fear that the boiler would explode scared off any other would-be voyagers. Michaux described his journey in a letter to a friend:

“The vessel was lying alongside the wharf: a placard announced its return to New York for the next day but one, the 20th of August, and that it would take passengers at the same price as the sailing vessels - three dollars.

So great was the fear of the explosion of the boiler that no one, except my companion and myself, dared to take passage in it for New York. We quitted Albany on the 20th of August in the presence of a great number of spectators. Chancellor Livingston, whom we supposed to be one of the promoters of this new way of navigating rivers, was the only stranger with us: he quitted the boat in the afternoon to go to his country residence which was upon the left bank of the river. From every point on the river whence the boat, announced by the smoke of its chimney, could be seen, we saw the inhabitants collect; they waved their handkerchiefs and hurrahed for Fulton, whose passage they had probably noticed as he ascended the river.”


  • Students complete a graphic organizer to answer “the 5 Ws”: who, what, when, where, why/how.
  • Students use the completed graphic organizer to write a news story related to the maiden voyage of Fulton's steamboat.
  • Students share the completed news article with the class.
the 5 Ws

news article activity

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Activity 5

Measuring Distance Using Scale

• Students will justify their answers and solution processes.

This activity is conducted by the whole class, with students working in a cooperative learning group setting. Two to four students will work together in each group.

• The teacher introduces the concept of map scale by using different-sized Hershey bars as visual aids

• Each cooperative learning group receives a map to measure the distance from Lake Tear of the Clouds to New York City.

• Students place string or yarn on top of the river's course.

• Using the map's scale, students determine the length of the river between ports, and then the total length. Then they record these measurements on the chart.

Instructional Materials
  • Map of New York State
  • Rulers
  • String/yarn
  • Chart: “The Clermont's Ports Along the Hudson River”
  • Regular/mini Hershey bars
For example:

If the length of one hersheyscandy bar is _____ inches, and we want to draw a map where 1 inch = _____ miles, then how long will the line be from Lake Tear in the Clouds to New York City? Use the candy bar to draw the accurate distance to scale.

ports along hudson

Calculating Distance Over Time

• Students will construct tables, charts, and graphs to display and analyze real-world data.

This activity is conducted by the whole class, with students working in cooperative learning groups. Two to four students will work together in each group

• Teacher reviews the formula of distance divided by rate equals time.

• Using the data from the completed chart, “The Clermont's Ports Along the Hudson River,” students use calculators to compute the time traveled between ports along the Hudson River. Then they record this data on “The Clermont's Distance Over Time” chart

Instructional Materials
  • Completed chart: “The Clermont's Ports Along the Hudson River”
  • Chart: “The Clermont's Distance Over Time”
  • Calculator

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Activity 6

Creating a Broadside

• Students will experiment and create art works in a variety of mediums (drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, video, and computer graphics), based on a range of individual and collective experiences.

This activity will be completed by students working independently.

• Discuss with the class what a broadside is and how businesses use broadsides to advertise their goods and services.

• Have students analyze the sample of a broadside. Students should consider:

  • Is all of the text the same size?
  • Is all of the text bold?
  • Is all of the text in the same font?
  • Is the text spaced out or close together?
  • Why does the broadside include a picture?

Instructional Materials
  • “Robert Fulton and the Clermont” K-W-L chart
  • Venn diagram
  • Analysis of technological advances on chart paper
  • “The 5 Ws” graphic organizer / news article
  • “The Clermont's Ports Along the Hudson” chart
  • “Steamboat Fares” chart
  • Access to computer and art materials


Courtesy of Albany Institute of History & Art

• Have students design a broadside/brochure to promote steamboat travel in the early 1800s. Student-created broadsides might include:

  • Name of business and/or boat
  • Address
  • Schedule of departing and arriving
  • Prices
  • Pictures
  • Hours of operation
  • Payment (barter?)
  • Slogan
  • Discounts for bulk purchases
  • Competition - Why is your business better?

Instructional Materials
  • “Robert Fulton and the Clermont” K-W-L chart
  • Venn diagram
  • Analysis of technological advances on chart paper
  • “The 5 Ws” Graphic Organizer / News Article
  • “The Clermont's Ports Along the Hudson” chart
  • “The Clermont's Distance Over Time” chart
  • “Steamboat Fares” chart
  • Sample broadside
  • Access to computer and art materials

steamboat fares


Broadside Activity
Culminating Read-Aloud

• Students will support inferences about information and ideas with reference to text features such as vocabulary and organizational patterns.

Teacher reads aloud to students and discusses Hudson: The Story of a River (see Suggested Resources and Materials for citation). As a final activity, have students complete the attached word search.

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