• 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 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.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5
    Curriculum Unit

    What Happens in the White House? (3 Lessons)

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    Overview

    "At the White House, President Truman Announces Japan's Surrender." Abbie Rowe,  Washington, DC, August 14, 1945.

    "At the White House, President Truman Announces Japan's Surrender." Abbie Rowe, Washington, DC, August 14, 1945.

    Credit: Image courtesy of the National Archives.

    The “President's House,” built under George Washington's personal supervision, was the finest residence in the land and possibly the largest. In a nation of wooden houses, it was built of stone and ornamented with understated stone flourishes. It did not fit everyone's concept for the home of the leader of the young democracy. Abigail Adams found it cold; Thomas Jefferson thought it too big and impractical. He added gardens, a cooking stove, and storage.

    Whatever one's opinion of the original design, our nation is now inseparably associated with the White House. There, the essential business of the land is conducted every day. There, our history has been made and reflected.

    In this unit, students take a close look at the White House in recent times and throughout our history.

    Note: This lesson may be taught either as a stand-alone lesson or as a complement to the EDSITEment curriculum unit From the White House of Yesterday to the White House of Today.

    Guiding Questions

    • What functions does our presidential residence serve?
    • How has the White House been touched by the great events of our nation's history?

    Learning Objectives

    • List activities that take place at the White House.
    • Create a chronology of important events that have occurred at or directly affected the White House.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plans. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
    • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
    • Download and make one copy each of the archival images for the activities. Many images have been selected to facilitate flexibility. Use as many or as few as appropriate. Assign them to groups as best suits your class. Keep some aside, for example, for groups that finish more quickly, or use all of them to make groups as small as possible.
    • Prepare a place in the classroom for a History of the White House Timeline, on which you will post the images. You or your students with technical expertise may wish to create an html document with links to relevant images.
    • Extensive background information on every aspect of the White House is available from the White House Historical Association, a link from the EDSITEment resource Explore DC.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    3-5

    Subject Areas
    • Art and Culture > Medium > Architecture
    • History and Social Studies
    • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Art History
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. History
    Skills
    • Analysis
    • Cultural analysis
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Oral Communication
    • Oral presentation skills
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Summarizing
    • Synthesis
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5
    Curriculum Unit

    What's In A Name? (4 Lessons)

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    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
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Woodrow Wilson and Foreign Policy (4 Lessons)

    Created July 16, 2010

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    Overview

    Woodrow Wilson numbers among the most influential Presidents in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Elected in 1913 as a Progressive reformer, the former college professor and governor of New Jersey expected to devote his time and talents to fulfilling an ambitious domestic reform agenda. Foreign policy, Wilson assumed, would be a secondary concern. As he remarked, "[i]t would be the irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs."

    That irony was soon realized. In 1913, Wilson repudiated his predecessors' Dollar Diplomacy. (Dollar Diplomacy called for the U.S. government to promote stability, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean, in order to yield investment opportunities for American companies, with the hope that the development would also result in prosperity for the affected nations.) Certainly Wilson supported private American investment in Latin America and elsewhere, but the promotion of democracy was a higher priority. In 1914, disturbed by the violence of Mexico's revolution (and the arrest of U.S. sailors in Tampico), Wilson sent American troops across the border. The next year, he dispatched Marines to Haiti.

    The international event that most preoccupied the President was, of course, World War I, which broke out in Europe in August 1914. Wilson declared neutrality for the United States and urged Americans to remain impartial as well. Neutrality, however, quickly proved difficult. Just as American attempts to sell goods to France and Britain during the Napoleonic Wars had incurred the wrath of those battling Great Powers, so, too, did this wartime trade result in violations of U.S. neutrality. The British Navy seized goods bound for German ports; German submarine attacks on Allied ships resulted in American deaths. In April 1917, with German provocations growing worse, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on the Central Powers.

    Wilson's actions were not merely reactive, however—far from it. After taking office, Wilson quickly evolved an ambitious foreign policy. Although he drew upon several durable traditions in U.S. foreign relations, most notably an abiding faith in the superiority of democracy, Wilson's foreign policy was unique in its own right. Among other points, "Wilsonianism" advocated the spreading of democracy, the opening of global markets, the creation of an international organization dedicated to keeping peace, and an active global role for the United States. The dispatch of troops to Mexico and Haiti reflected these goals, but it was through entry into World War I that Wilsonianism reached its high point. "The world must be made safe for democracy," declared the President, and, once the war was won, he hoped to achieve this aim through a just and fair peace treaty and the formation of the League of Nations.

    In this curriculum unit, students will study the formation, application, and outcomes-successes and failures alike-of Wilson's foreign policy. Students will subsequently appreciate the profound legacy of Wilsonianism in U.S. foreign relations as they continue their study of modern U.S. history.

    Guiding Questions

    • What was Wilson's foreign policy, and how did it differ from previous American foreign policy?
    • How did the Wilson administration respond to revolution and civil unrest in Latin America?
    • After almost three years of neutrality, was the decision to intervene in World War I justified?
    • Were Wilson's Fourteen Points realized in the Versailles Treaty?

    Learning Objectives

    • Discuss how the academic career and Progressivism of Wilson shaped his ideas about foreign policy
    • Identify four major points of "Wilsonianism": spreading democracy, open markets, an international organization dedicated to keeping peace, and an active global role for the United States
    • Explain what was both traditional and new about Wilsonianism
    • Identify American economic and strategic interests in the Western Hemisphere
    • Explain how the U.S attempted to safeguard American economic interests and promote democratic reforms in Latin America during Wilson's presidency
    • Discuss how Wilson's actions reflected his foreign policy principles
    • Explain why many Latin Americans resented or resisted U.S. actions
    • Explain why the United States adopted a policy of neutrality after the outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914
    • Identify challenges to American neutrality
    • Explain why Wilson decided to request a declaration of war
    • Discuss the ways in which Wilson wanted to use victory in the war to fundamentally change international relations and to promote the spread of democracy
    • Discuss how the Fourteen Points, especially the League of Nations, demonstrated Wilsonian principles
    • Summarize the aims of the other Allied powers at the Paris Peace Conference
    • Identify which of the Fourteen Points became part of the Versailles Treaty

    Preparation Instructions

    First, review each lesson plan. Second, find and bookmark the recommended links and materials from each lesson's EDSITEment reviewed websites. Third, download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies, as needed, for student viewing. (As an alternative, excerpted versions of the documents are included on the Text Document.) Fourth, download the Text Document for this lesson, provided here as a PDF, which includes questions for students to answer. Finally, print and copy the handouts you will use in class.

    Analyzing primary sources

    To provide your students with the skills needed to examine primary sources, you may find it helpful to visit the Learning Page from the Library of Congress.

    In particular, students may find the Mindwalk activity useful in preparing to work with primary sources.

    At the National Archives website, the Digital Classroom provides worksheets to practice document analysis.

    The Lessons

    • Lesson 1: The Origins of "Wilsonianism"

      Created July 16, 2010
      Because of the First World War and its aftermath, Woodrow Wilson fashioned an  ambitious international agenda.

      The influence of President Woodrow Wilson on American foreign policy has been profound and lasting. Using a variety of primary sources, students analyze the origins of the ambitious foreign policy that came to be known as Wilsonianism and compare it with important alternative traditions in American foreign policy.

    • 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.

    • Lesson 3: Wilson and American Entry into World War I

      Created July 16, 2010
      Woodrow Wilson tried to keep America out of World War I

      In August 1914, President Woodrow Wilson asked Americans to remain impartial in thought and deed toward the war that had just broken out in Europe. For almost three years, the President presided over a difficult, deteriorating neutrality, until finally the provocations could no longer be ignored or negotiated. In this lesson, students analyze one of the most significant moments in twentieth century U.S. foreign relations: Wilson's decision to enter World War I in order to make the world "safe for democracy."

    • Lesson 4: Fighting for Peace: The Fate of Wilson's Fourteen Points

      Created July 17, 2010
      In the aftermath of the First World War, Woodrow Wilson tried to push a  comprehensive and enlightened peace plan.

      In January 1918, less than one year after the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson announced his Fourteen Points to try to ensure permanent peace and to make the world safe for democracy. Wilson's aims included freedom of the seas, free trade, and, most important, an international organization dedicated to collective security and the spreading of democracy. Through the use of primary source documents and maps, students examine Wilson's Fourteen Points, as well as his efforts to have them incorporated into the final peace treaties.

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Caribbean
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Writing skills
  • Couriers in the Inca Empire: Getting Your Message Across

    Inca Trail.

    Focusing on the means used by the Incas to send messages over long distances, this lesson plan illustrates one of the many creative ways throughout history that humans have devised to meet a universal need -- that of cross-country communication. The lesson introduces students to the Inca Empire, which extended from northern Ecuador to central Chile and from the Andes to the west coast of South America between 1200 and 1535 CE.

  • Aztecs Find a Home: The Eagle Has Landed

    Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec God of War.

    This lesson introduces students to the Aztec Empire and people and to the legend of their founding of Tenochtitlan, the city that later became the capital of Mexico.

  • Lesson 2. The Debate in the United States over the League of Nations: Disagreement Over the League

    Woodrow Wilson for League of Nations

    American foreign policy debate over U.S. entry into the League of Nations-collective security versus national sovereignty, idealism versus pragmatism, the responsibilities of powerful nations, the use of force to accomplish idealistic goals, the idea of America. Understanding the debate over the League and the consequences of its failure provides insight into international affairs in the years since Great War. In this lesson, students read the words and listen to the voices of some central participants in the debate over the League of Nations.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
    Curriculum Unit

    Life in the North and South 1847–1861: Before Brother Fought Brother (5 Lessons)

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    Overview

    More Americans lost their lives in the Civil War than in any other conflict. How did the United States arrive at a point at which the South seceded and some families were so fractured that brother fought brother?

    A complex series of events led to the Civil War. The lessons in this unit are designed to help students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South. Through the investigation of primary source documents —photographs, census information and other archival documents—students gain an appreciation of everyday life in the North and South, changes occurring in the lives of ordinary Americans, and some of the major social and economic issues of the years before the Civil War.

    Guiding Questions

    • What differences existed between ordinary Americans living in the North and those living in the South in the years before the Civil War?
    • What important issues are reflected in the differences between life in the North and the South?
    • What kinds of changes were taking place in the United States at the time?

    Learning Objectives

    • List three differences and three similarities between life in the North and the South in the years before the Civil War.
    • Discuss how these differences contributed to serious disagreements between the North and South.

    Preparation Instructions

    The Civil War erupted after a long history of compromises and sectional debates over representation, federalism, tariffs and territories. Though many of the political differences are beyond the scope of the intermediate curriculum, students can use their analysis of archival documents to begin to appreciate the differences between the North and South and the changes afoot in the United States that contributed to the developing conflict.

    Before you begin to teach this unit, review the suggested activities and familiarize yourself with the websites involved. Select, download and duplicate, as necessary, any documents you want the class to use.

    For the census activity in Lesson 3, either the teacher or students will need to keep a calculator at hand.

    You may wish to provide students with a copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet, available through the EDSITEment resource The Digital Classroom, to guide them as they review the documents in this unit.

    The purpose of this lesson is to prepare students with background information for understanding the causes of the Civil War. You can find information on the causes of the Civil War, accessible through a link from the EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    6-8

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    What Made George Washington a Good Military Leader? (4 Lessons)

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    Overview

    …tactics…is only a small part of generalship. For a general must also be capable of furnishing military equipment and providing supplies for the men; he must be resourceful, active, careful, hardy and quick-witted; he must be both gentle and brutal, at once straightforward and designing, capable of both caution and surprise, lavish and rapacious, generous and mean, skilful in defense and attack; and there are many other qualifications, some natural, some acquired, that are necessary to one who would succeed as a general.

    —Attributed to Socrates in The Memorabilia (3.1.5-3.1.6) by Xenophon on the EDSITEment resource The Perseus Digital Library

    I cannot insist too strongly how I was surprised by the American Army. It is truly incredible that troops almost naked, poorly paid, and composed of old men and children and Negroes should behave so well on the march and under fire. —Attributed to a French Officer in George Washington: Life Before the Presidency on the EDSITEment-reviewed website The American President

    George Washington's early military career (1754-1758)—during the Seven Years' War—was not uniformly successful. In his first battle, he and his men were ambushed and forced to surrender Fort Necessity on the Pennsylvania frontier. Washington's reputation for leadership and courage was based on his actions in another defeat at the hands of the French. In that battle, at Fort Duquesne (1755, often called the "Battle of the Wilderness" or "Braddock's Defeat"), Washington had two horses shot from under him and eventually had to assume command from the mortally wounded General Edward Braddock. Washington led the surviving British and Colonial soldiers on a successful retreat.

    Later (1775-1783), Washington would lead the Patriots to a surprising victory over Great Britain, "…the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the Western world. …Although he lost most of his battles with the British, year after year he held his ragtag, hungry army together"—from the EDSITEment resource The American President.

    What combination of experience, strategy, and personal characteristics enabled Washington to succeed as a military leader?

    In this unit, students will read the Continental Congress's resolutions granting powers to General Washington; analyze some of Washington's wartime orders, dispatches, and correspondence in terms of his mission and the characteristics of a good general; and study—with frequent reference to primary material—four battles. In the final lesson in the unit, students will take one last measure of Washington. They will examine his words in response to a proposal that he become the head of a military dictatorship and a movement among some disaffected soldiers to circumvent civilian authority.

    Guiding Questions

    • What qualities made George Washington an effective military leader? These qualities should be reflected in discussions of the following:
      • What was Washington's military background before the American Revolution?
      • What was Washington's approach to military discipline?
      • What was Washington's basic strategy for defeating the British?
      • What were some specific tactics Washington employed in battle?
      • How important was Washington's personal charisma to the success of the Patriots?
    • How were the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief affected by conditions during the Revolutionary War?
    • How did Washington's responses to these challenges demonstrate his ability to handle a wide range of problems? These conditions included:
      • The uneasy relationship between civil authorities and the military, including the inability of the military or the Continental Congress to compel individual states to assist the war effort.
      • The advantages of fighting on home soil.
      • The problem of keeping troops supplied.
      • The presence of many colonists loyal to the British crown.
      • The difficulty of defeating the powerful British.

    Learning Objectives

    • List qualities they believe made George Washington an effective military leader.
    • List some practical lessons Washington may have learned from his early military experiences.
    • Discuss some difficulties Washington faced as Commander-in-Chief.
    • Discuss how Washington responded to the difficulties he faced as the leader of the Continental Army.
    • Give examples of Washington's leadership during one or more Revolutionary War battles.
    • Summarize briefly the Newburgh Conspiracy.
    • Describe Washington's response to the Newburgh Conspiracy.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
    • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
    • For a general introduction to George Washington, the man, read The Surprising George Washington by Richard Norton Smith from Prologue Online Magazine, Spring 1994, Vol. 26, No. 1, available on the EDSITEment resource Digital Classroom. For a condensed but complete summary of the life and achievements of George Washington, read the complete entry for George Washington on the EDSITEment-reviewed website The American President.
    • For background on the nature of the Revolutionary War, read the essay The Wars of the American Revolution on Liberty! The American Revolution, a link from the EDSITEment resource American Memory. You may wish to have students read this essay as well, particularly if they have not had recent background on the Revolutionary War.
    • The qualities that make anyone an effective leader, military or otherwise, are difficult to pinpoint. Washington's many leadership successes commanding the Continental Army, heading the Constitutional Convention, and serving as President of the United States make him an obvious choice as a subject for analysis. But there is no comprehensive list of Washington's leadership qualities to use as a standard to evaluate student responses. The process of historical research is at the center of this unit. Students will benefit in other ways as well. In scrutinizing the challenges Washington faced, they will better understand the Revolutionary War, especially the problems faced by the Patriots.
    • In this unit, students read and analyze a variety of primary documents. The following materials from EDSITEment resources may be useful to teachers seeking advice on the use of primary documents:

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > Modern World
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Map Skills
    • Using primary sources