Closer Readings Commentary

Advanced Placement U.S. History Lessons

1779 Battle
Photo caption

B.F. Leizalt. "Combat memorable entre le Pearson et Paul Jones. Augsburg: 1779 1780." Engraving after a painting by Richard Paton. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (54)

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EDSITEment brings online humanities resources directly to the classroom through exemplary lesson plans and student activities. EDSITEment develops AP level lessons based on primary source documents that cover the most frequently taught topics and themes in American history. Many of these lessons were developed by teachers and scholars associated with the City University of New York and Ashland University. These online lessons include:

Transatlantic Encounters and Colonial Beginnings

  • Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution
    Magna Carta served to lay the foundation for the evolution of parliamentary government and subsequent declarations of rights in Great Britain and the United States. In attempting to establish checks on the king's powers, this document asserted the right of "due process" of law.
  • Images of the New World
    How did the English picture the native peoples of America during the early phases of colonization of North America? This lesson plan enables students to interact with written and visual accounts of this critical formative period at the end of the 16th century, when the English view of the New World was being formulated, with consequences that we are still seeing today.
  • Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción and the Spanish Mission in the New World
    In this Picturing America lesson, students explore the historical origins and organization of Spanish missions in the New World and discover the varied purposes these communities of faith served. Focusing on the daily life of Mission Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, the lesson asks students to relate the people of this community and their daily activities to the art and architecture of the mission.

Colonial North America

  • Colonizing the Bay
    This lesson focuses on John Winthrop’s historic "Model of Christian Charity" sermon which is often referred to by its "City on a Hill" metaphor. Through a close reading of this admittedly difficult text, students will learn how it illuminates the beliefs, goals, and programs of the Puritans. The sermon sought to inspire and to motivate the Puritans by pointing out the distance they had to travel between an ideal community and their real-world situation.
  • Mapping Colonial New England: Looking at the Landscape of New England
    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 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
    By juxtaposing the different promotional tracts of William Penn and David Pastorius, students understand the ethnic diversity of Pennsylvania along with the "pull” factors of migration in the 17th century English colonies.
  • Understanding the Salem Witch Trials
    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 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.

 

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American Revolutionary Era

 

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The Early Republic

 

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The Transformation of Politics in Antebellum America

 

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The Transformation of the Economy and Society in Antebellum America

 

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The Crisis of the Union

 

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The Civil War

 

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Reconstruction

 

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Industrial America in the Late Nineteenth Century

 

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The Emergence of America as a World Power

 

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The New Era: 1920s

 

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FDR, The Great Depression, and the New Deal

 

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The Second World War

 

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The Cold War

  • The Origins of the Cold War, 1945–1949
    Since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Soviet leaders had been claiming that communism and capitalism could never peacefully coexist. Agreements regarding the postwar world were reached at Yalta and Potsdam, but the Soviets wasted no time in violating them. Harry Truman believed that the proper means of responding to an international bully was a credible threat of force.
  • Witch Hunt or Red Menace? Anticommunism in Postwar America, 1945–1954
    Americans emerged from World War II as the only major combatant to avoid having its homeland ravaged by war, the U.S. economy was clearly the strongest in the world, and, of course, the United States was the only country in the world to possess that awesome new weapon, the atomic bomb. However, over the next five years relations between the United States and the Soviet Union went from alliance to Cold War.
  • Dramatizing History in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
    By closely reading historical documents and attempting to interpret them, students consider how Arthur Miller interpreted the facts of the Salem witch trials and how he successfully dramatized them in his play, The Crucible. As they explore historical materials, such as the biographies of key players (the accused and the accusers) and transcripts of the Salem Witch trials themselves, students will be guided by aesthetic and dramatic concerns: In what ways do historical events lend themselves (or not) to dramatization? What makes a particular dramatization of history effective and memorable?
  • "Police Action”: The Korean War, 1950–1953
    In 1950, North Korean forces, armed mainly with Soviet weapons, invaded South Korea in an effort to reunite the peninsula under communist rule. This lesson will introduce students to the conflict by having them read the most important administration documents related to it.
  • "The Missiles of October”: The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
    Most historians agree that the world has never come closer to nuclear war than it did during a thirteen-day period in October 1962, after the revelation that the Soviet Union had stationed several medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. This lesson examines how this crisis developed, how the Kennedy administration chose to respond, and how the situation was ultimately resolved.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and Escalation of the Vietnam War
    In August 1964, a small military engagement off the coast of North Vietnam helped escalate the involvement of the United States in Vietnam; the Vietnam War would become the longest military engagement in American history.
  • Building Suburbia: Highways and Housing in Postwar America
    The postwar United States experienced a dramatic economic boom—and a dramatic reorientation of American ideals of the home.

 

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The Turbulent 1960s

 

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The United States in the Post-Cold War World

 

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