• 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.

  • Mapping Colonial New England: Looking at the Landscape of New England

    A Dutch Map of the English colonies in North America around 1685 with an inset  view of New Amsterdam.

    The lesson focuses on two 17th-century maps of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to trace how the Puritans took possession of the region, built towns, and established families on the land. Students will learn how these New England settlers interacted with the Native Americans, and how to gain information about those relationships from primary sources such as maps.

  • 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.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
    Curriculum Unit

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

    Tools

    Share

    The Unit

    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 > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
    • 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 > Themes > Economic Transformation
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • 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)

    Tools

    Share

    The Unit

    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
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Religion in 18th Century America (3 Lessons)

    Tools

    Share

    The Unit

    Overview

    The traditional religions of Great Britain's North American colonies—Puritanism in New England and Anglicanism farther south—had difficulty maintaining their holds over the growing population. The main reason for this was that the frontier kept pushing further west, and the building of churches almost never kept up with this westward movement. This did not, however, result in a wholesale decline in religiosity among Americans. In fact, the most significant religious development of 18th century America took place along the frontier, in the form of the Great Awakening (often called the "First Great Awakening" to distinguish it from a similar movement that occurred in the first half of the 19th century).

    The First Great Awakening was largely the work of itinerant preachers such as John Wesley and George Whitefield, who addressed huge audiences both in the major cities and in remote frontier villages. In contrast to the older faiths, these preachers preached a doctrine that deemphasized traditional church structure, ceremony, and even clergy. Relying heavily on emotional appeals, which remain a feature of modern-day "tent revivals," they stressed the importance of a personal relationship with God and of the responsibility to God that came along with it. This movement, thanks in particular to its ministry to those on the frontier, fundamentally changed the religious landscape of English America. Membership in the older, established sects such as Puritan Congregationalism and Anglicanism fell into decline, while the newer evangelical sects—Presbyterians in the North, Baptists and Methodists further south—surged in size and influence. By the time of the American Revolution a majority—perhaps as many as 80 percent of the population—identified with the new faiths.

    The movement also had a powerful political dimension, particularly in the southern colonies. The Anglican faith had long nurtured the old ties between the colonies and the Mother Country. Baptists and Methodists, however, felt no such connection. Moreover, as the new sects emphasized personal belief and action over traditional church structures, they were less willing than their older counterparts to accept America's continued submission to Great Britain. As a result, scriptural defenses of the cause of independence could be heard coming from growing numbers of preachers throughout the colonies.

    Of course, the new movement did not carry all before it. Traditional Anglicanism still remained powerful, particularly in the coastal cities of the southern colonies, and it was mainly from this sect that the Loyalist cause during the Revolution drew its strength. In addition, the First Great Awakening had little impact on sects such as the Quakers, who, as pacifists, refused to participate in the Revolution at all. Moreover, it should be noted that not all of the revolutionaries were driven by religious motives; such prominent patriots as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, for example, were deeply skeptical of all organized religion (although they certainly used scripture-based arguments), and had little but disdain for the emotional fervor of the evangelicals. Nevertheless the First Great Awakening had a dramatic effect on early America, not only altering its religious makeup, but helping to pave the way for the nation's independence.

    This curriculum unit will, through the use of primary documents, introduce students to the First Great Awakening, as well as to the ways in which religious-based arguments were used both in support of and against the American Revolution.

    Guiding Questions

    • What was the First Great Awakening and how did it affect religious belief in Colonial America?
    • How did religion affect arguments justifying American independence?
    • How did the leaders of the American Revolution employ religion to support the war effort?
    • How did different religions react to Revolution?

    Learning Objectives

    • Identify when and where the First Great Awakening took place
    • Explain the characteristics of religious belief associated with the First Great Awakening
    • Identify and discuss the ideas of Jonathan Edwards, one of the leading preachers associated with the First Great Awakening
    • Discuss how colonial Americans perceived the First Great Awakening and how it affected the lives of both colonial Americans and Native Americans
    • Analyze Jonathan Mayhew's "A Discourse concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers" and discuss how this sermon served to support the revolution
    • Explain how Thomas Paine's Common Sense argues that the Bible does not support monarchy
    • Identify the references to a higher power in the Declaration of Independence and discuss why they might have been included
    • Discuss and analyze how the leaders of the American Revolution employed religion in the war effort
    • Explain the particular problem the Revolutionary War posed for Anglican clergy.
    • Discuss how Anglican "loyalists" reacted to the Revolutionary War
    • Discuss and debate how General George Washington dealt with Quaker pacifism during the Revolutionary War.

    Preparation Instructions

    Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites used in this lesson. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable PDF.

    Download the Text Document for this lesson, available here as a PDF. This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in all three activities, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.

    Analyzing primary sources:

    If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
    • 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 > People > Native American
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Religion
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Essay writing
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Internet skills
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Online research
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Woodrow Wilson and Foreign Policy (4 Lessons)

    Created July 16, 2010

    Tools

    Share

    The Unit

    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