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History-MA in American History and Government (MAHG): Lesson Plans

This guide is intended to support students in the MAHG program.

Lesson Plans-General History

  • California -History/Social Science Schools of California Online Resources for Education, History/Social Science (SCORE H/SS) evaluates, aligns, and annotates quality resources from the World Wide Web to the California History-Social Science Content Standards and curriculum.
  • Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization supporting the study & love of American history through a wide range of programs and resources for students, teachers, scholars, and history enthusiasts throughout the nation. Includes modules, podcastes, primary doc links, and exhibitions.
  • The Library of Congress offers classroom materials and professional development to help teachers effectively use primary sources from the Library's vast digital collections in their teaching.
  • Check out the mapping tools. This beta site is just the first phase of a next-generation website with a wide range of free educational resources that bring geography, science, and social studies to life for educators, learners, and their families.
  • Browse lesson plans by subject area or search by grade levels and keywords. Smithsonian lesson plans emphasize inquiry-based learning using primary sources and museum collections. Each plan is print-friendly and provides you with all the materials you need—photographs, reproductions, handouts, activities, suggested strategies, standards information, and additional online resources.
  • This website reflects the work of several groups of teachers who conducted research at the Smithsonian and other national historical organizations. For this reason, some of the primary sources included in Smithsonian Source are not from the Smithsonian collections. Teachers also chose the historical topics on the site, and these categories reflect their curricula rather than the terminology or organizational methods of the Smithsonian Institution
  • U.S. Constitution Teaching and Learning Resources More than 1,500 federally supported teaching and learning resources are included from dozens of federal agencies.



Lesson Plans--General History

Multidisciplinary lesson plan sites

Lesson Plans-Early America

Lesson Plans--Early America

  • American Heritage Chocolate
    To trace the history of cocoa and chocolate is to embark on a journey, a wonderful excursion through time and space. Few foods have such a rich social and economic history, one that extends from ancient times to modern manufacturing techniques. Cacao trees that produced the beans – ultimately made into chocolate – first grew in tropical regions of the Americas, originating among the Amerindian cultures of Central and South America.
  • Pounds, Pence & Pistareens: The Coins and Currency of Colonial America
    "Pounds, Pence & Pistareens: The Coins and Currency of Colonial America" examines the diverse types of money jingling in the pockets and purses of our colonial ancestors. Interactive on-line exhibit.
  • Smithsonian Source: Colonial America
    This section is intended to supplement the curricula, textbooks, and materials you currently use for lessons on the colonial period. The lesson plans and DBQs are organized by grade level. The DBQ primary sources can stand alone in DBQ exercises. Images of the primary sources are independent of any extensive explanatory information.
  • Smithsonian Source: Native American History
    This section is intended to supplement the curricula, textbooks, and materials you currently use for lessons on Native history. The lesson plans and DBQs are organized by grade level. The DBQ primary sources can stand alone in DBQ exercises. Images of the primary sources are independent of any extensive explanatory information, so that the images can be used as handouts.
  • The Somerset Case - A Primary Source Activity
    James Somerset ran away from his master, a Virginia businessman named Charles Steuart, while they were in England on business. Less than two months later, Somerset was captured, locked in shackles, and placed on a ship bound for Jamaica where he was to be sold. While he was free, Somerset made contact with British abolitionists. In this lesson, students learn about the legal relationship between Great Britain and her colonies by examining a legal dispute over the institution of slavery.

Lesson Plans-Western Expansion


  • Anti-railroad Propaganda Poster -- The Growth of Regionalism, 1800 - 1860
    Did you ever wonder why people from Chicago call carbonated water "pop" while New Yorkers call it "soda"? Or why Southerners tease Northerners for talking too fast, driving too fast, and even eating too fast? Well, the United States has always had regional differences. Today, the regions may be difficult to draw a line around, but from 1800 to 1860, those lines clearly existed.
  • Colonial Williamsburg: Westward Expansion
    Gaining territory for the United States was only one issue. There were also issues related to topography, natural history, and economics. Economic concerns included how to best utilize the vast new western lands and associated resources for agriculture, mining, trade, transportation (potential river routes to the Pacific Ocean, including the elusive and non-existent "Northwest Passage"), building a transcontinental railroad, and establishing settlements.
  • Exploring the West
    A project of the Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West at Stanford University, Exploring the West is a high-school curriculum committed to expanding and enriching students’ perceptions of the West. This site contains over 100 worksheets and dozens of lesson plans that present the West as a contemporary, diverse, transnational, and dynamic region.
  • Maps of Indian Territory, the Dawes Act, and Will Rogers' Enrollment Case File
    Federal Indian policy during the period from 1870 to 1900 marked a departure from earlier policies that were dominated by removal, treaties, reservations, and even war. The new policy focused specifically on breaking up reservations by granting land allotments to individual Native Americans.
  • Rivers, Edens, Empires: Lewis and Clark and the Revealing of America
    On April 7, 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left Fort Mandan for points west, beginning the process of "filling in the canvas" of America. This exhibition features the Library's rich collections of exploration material documenting the quest to connect the East and the West by means of a waterway passage.
  • The Homestead Act of 1862

Lesson Plans--Civil War & Reconstruction

  • Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads
    Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads is an educational game based on the traveling exhibition Lincoln: The Constitution & the Civil War, which debuted at the National Constitution Center in June 2005. The online game is intended for advanced middle- and high-school students. It invites them to learn about Lincoln’s leadership by exploring the political choices he made.
  • Band Music from the Civil War
    Band Music from the Civil War Era makes available examples of a brilliant style of brass band music that flourished in the 1850s in the United States and remained popular through the nineteenth century. Bands of this kind served in the armies of both the North and the South during the Civil War.
  • BioClassroom: Abraham Lincoln
    This biography traces Lincoln's life from the rustic childhood that shaped him through his tragic assassination. Throughout this documentary, historians offer insights into Lincoln's personality, his decision-making style, and the combination of factors that led him to become one of the most significant leaders in American history. This program examines Lincoln's writings, his complex family life, and the evolution of his career.
  • BioClassroom: Frederick Douglass
    While viewing the documentary, examine the ways in which Douglass accomplished his marvelous and inspirational ascent despite such great odds. How did Douglass eventually become a leading spokesperson for the full rights and equality of all Americans? What risks did he take, knowing quite well that his hard-earned freedom - and his life - could end immediately if he were caught?
  • Causing the Civil War
    For years, textbook authors have contended that economic difference between North and South was the primary cause of the Civil War. The northern economy relied on manufacturing and the agricultural southern economy depended on the production of cotton. The desire of southerners for unpaid workers to pick the valuable cotton strengthened their need for slavery. The industrial revolution in the North did not require slave labor and so people there opposed it. The clash brought on the war.
  • Children’s Voices from the Civil War
    Textbooks, which feature the passive voice and condensed versions of momentous events, rarely capture the passion and drama of the past. By supplementing the textbook with documents that show how real-life children experienced historical events, the teacher can engage students' interests and can also offer multiple perspectives on historical events.
  • Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
  • Crisis at Fort Sumter
    This site provides documents, essays, and questions about the events leading up to the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in 1861 and places the events within a broader context of secession and southern independence.
  • Crisis of the Union
    This archive contains material related to "the causes, conduct, and consequences of the U.S. Civil War." The collection contains more than 220 books, broadsides, cartoons, pamphlets, and other printed material from 1830 to 1880. The entire archive can be browsed by author, date of publication, title, or subject.
  • Freedmen and Southern Society Project
    This site provides 44 primary documents relating to the emancipation of African American slaves between 1861 and 1865. It includes a letter by General William T. Sherman explaining why he refused to return fugitive slaves to their owners; an 1864 letter from Annie Davis, a Maryland slave, to President Abraham Lincoln asking him to clarify her legal status; a description by a Union general of a bloody battle at Milliken's Bend, LA and much more.
  • James Buchanan and the Dred Scott Decision
    This month’s Presidents and the Constitution focuses on James Buchanan and his response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford. Buchanan’s fondest hope was to put to rest the building controversies regarding the spread of slavery. As President, he made it plain that he—and all citizens—should defer to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
  • John Brown and the Underground Railroad
    This lesson asks students to analyze John Brown's attitudes and actions against slavery and the differences between his views and those of other people who were active in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement. Students will write journal entries pretending they are Underground Railroad conductors who have adopted John Brown's values and tactics.
  • Lest We Never Forget: Triumph over Slavery
  • Letters, Telegrams, and Photographs Illustrating Factors that Affected the Civil War
  • Did the agitation and activities of the abolitionists advance or defeat their objective? The “essential question” posed as the aim of this lesson presents students with an open-ended, thought-provoking historical issue for their analysis and assessment.
  • Spoils of War: Civil War Quilt
    This tale of family, geography, and war tells the amazing story of a South Carolina quilt and the surprising paths history can take.
  • The Civil War as Photographed by Mathew Brady
    The sociology of the American Civil War can be viewed through a medium that was coming of age in the middle of the 19th century: photography. The National Archives and Records Administration makes available on-line over 6,000 digitized images from the Civil War.
  • The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture
    This well-designed, comprehensive website explores Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin as an American cultural phenomenon. "Pre-Texts, 1830–1852" provides dozens of texts, songs, and images from the various genres Stowe drew upon, including Christian texts, sentimental culture, anti-slavery texts, and minstrel shows. The section on the novel includes Stowe's preface, multiple versions of the text, playable songs from the novel, and Stowe's defense against criticism.
  • Women and the Civil War
    Using the classroom as an historical laboratory, students can use primary and secondary sources to research the history of women in the nineteenth century. The students will be engaged in the craft of historical interpretation; they will be identify the assumptions about women before the Civil War and then be able to discover the effects of the war on the history of women in the last of the century.