• Lesson 4: Non-British Surnames

    Last names as we know them now

    Modern American society is known for its ethnic diversity, and this, of course, is reflected in a wide variety of surnames. In this activity, students will learn about the origins and meanings of surnames commonly used in the United States that derive from non-British cultures.

  • Lesson 2: The Debate in Congress on the Sedition Act

    James Madison.

    What provisions in the U.S. Constitution are relevant to the debate over the Sedition Act? For this lesson, students will read brief excerpts from actual debates in the House of Representatives as the legislators attempted to work with the version of the bill "Punishment of Crime" (later known as the Sedition Act) already passed by the Senate.

  • Lesson 2: "To Elect Good Men": Woodrow Wilson and Latin America

    Created July 16, 2010
    Woodrow Wilson changed the course and tone of U.S. policy towards Latin  America.

    President Woodrow Wilson and his first Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, rejected the Dollar Diplomacy that had guided U.S. relations with Latin America during the administration of William Taft. Wilson resolved that the United States would only recognize Latin American governments founded upon law and order, "not upon arbitrary or irregular force. In this lesson, students analyze Wilson's attempts to carry out this "missionary diplomacy" in Haiti and Mexico as well as the responses of selected Haitians and Mexicans.

  • William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom

    William Penn, Founder of the English colony of Pennsylvania

    By juxtaposing the different promotional tracts of William Penn and David Pastorius, students will understand the ethnic diversity of Pennsylvania along with the “pull” factors of migration in the 17th century English colonies.

  • Understanding the Salem Witch Trials

    "Witchcraft Victims on the Way to the Gallows,"by F.C. Yoyan, appeared in  the Boston Herald, May 14, 1930.

    In 1691, a group of girls from Salem, Massachusetts accused an Indian slave named Tituba of witchcraft, igniting a hunt for witches that left 19 men and women hanged, one man pressed to death, and over 150 more people in prison awaiting a trial. In this lesson, students will explore the characteristics of the Puritan community in Salem, learn about the Salem Witchcraft Trials, and try to understand how and why this event occurred.

  • Lesson 3: Religion and the Fight for American Independence

    Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington

    Using primary documents, this lesson explores how religion aided and hindered the American war effort; specifically, it explores how Anglican loyalists and Quaker pacifists responded to the outbreak of hostilities and how the American revolutionaries enlisted religion in support of the fight for independence.

  • Lesson 2: The War in the South, 1778–1781

    The battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, 1781.

    The failure to restore royal authority in the northern colonies, along with the signing of an alliance between the American rebels and the French monarchy, led the British to try an entirely new strategy in the southern colonies. This lesson will examine military operations during the second, or southern, phase of the American Revolution.

  • Lesson 1: The War in the North, 1775–1778

    George Washington in the uniform of the Continental Army, by Rembrandt  Peale.

    Lacking any organized army before 1775 (aside from local colonial militias), the Continental Congress had to assemble a more or less improvised fighting force that would be expected to take on the army of the world's largest empire. This lesson will trace events in the North from 1775 to 1778. By looking at documents of the time, and using an interactive map, students will see how an army was created and understand the challenges that Washington and his men faced during this critical early stage of the war.

  • Mexican Culture and History through Its National Holidays

    A celebration of the Day of the Dead in Guanajuato, Mexico.

    In this lesson students will study four popular Mexican holidays and examine images to see how these particular celebrations represent Mexico's colorful history.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5
    Curriculum Unit

    What's In A Name? (4 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    MacDonald. Carpenter. Underwood. Green. These are typical American names that reflect a family's British origins—but they tell us little about the people who currently bear them. How times have changed! In the Middle Ages, a person's second name served a useful function. In some cases, it revealed where he lived; in others, it told who his father was, what he did for a living, or even what he looked like.

    In this unit, students will learn about the origins of four major types of British surnames. They will consult lists to discover the meanings of specific names and later demonstrate their knowledge of surnames through various group activities. They will then compare the origins of British to certain types of non-British surnames. In a final activity, the students will research the origins and meanings of their own family names.

    Guiding Questions

    • What are the origins of British surnames?
    • What did these names once tell about the people who bore them?
    • What similarities exist between British and non-British surnames?
    • How can we find the origins of our own surnames?

    Learning Objectives

    • Explain how and why surnames came to be
    • Describe four types of British surnames and give examples of each
    • Compare the derivations of British and certain non-British surnames
    • Tell the origin and meaning of their own surnames

    Preparation Instructions

    Become familiar with the materials used in the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark websites you plan to use. Download and duplicate charts used in the activities. Secure several copies of a local phonebook for the Assessment exercise in Lesson 3.

    You can find additional background information about surnames at the following sites:

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    3-5

    Subject Areas
    • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Anthropology
    • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Medieval World (500 CE-1500 CE)
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Middle East
    • History and Social Studies > Place > Asia
    Skills
    • Critical thinking
    • Cultural analysis
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Interpretation
    • Logical reasoning
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions