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Here students debate “Was Westward Expansion beneficial?” after studying the effects of Manifest Destiny on the growth of the United States and the decline of Native Americans living in the Great Plai


Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Westward Expansion – How the West was Won
By – Rodolfo Ramirez
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Grade Level – 9-12

Concept / Topic To Teach:

  • The topic:
      The 19th century expansion of the United States
  • The concept:
    • Forming a quick chronology of continental expansion
    • Creating a geographical mental image of U.S. land acquisitions and resource distribution (i.e. gold, cattle, mineral resources, etc.)
    • Creating and understanding of the social impact of Manifest Destiny

8th Grade Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Standards:

  1. History. The student understands traditional historical points of reference in U.S. history through 1877. The student is expected to:
        (A) identify the major eras in U.S. history through 1877 and describe their defining characteristics;

        (B) apply absolute and relative chronology through the sequencing of significant individuals, events, and time periods; and

      (C) explain the significance of the following dates: 1607, 1776, 1787, 1803, and 1861-1865.
  1. History. The student understands westward expansion and its effects on the political, economic, and social development of the nation. The student is expected to:
        (B) explain the political, economic, and social roots of Manifest Destiny;

        (C) analyze the relationship between the concept of Manifest Destiny and the westward growth of the nation;

        (D) explain the major issues and events of the Mexican War and their impact on the United States; and

      (E) identify areas that were acquired to form the United States.
  1. Geography. The student understands the location and characteristics of places and regions of the United States, past and present. The student is expected to:
      (A) locate places and regions of importance in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries;
  1. Economics. The student understands why various sections of the United States developed different patterns of economic activity. The student is expected to:
      (A) identify economic differences among different regions of the United States;

General Goal(s):

  1. The student will be engaged in visual and auditory vocabulary and chronology enrichment through the video/rap story.
  2. The student will understand and be able to explain economic reasons for U.S. Westward Expansion.
  3. The student will understand and be able to explain how people traveled during the 19th Century.
  4. The student will be able to synthesize ideas presented and explain the effect of Westward Expansion, Manifest Destiny, on the Native American populations of the Great Plains.
  5. The student will understand and be able to explain the important role of Thomas Jefferson in Westward Expansion.
  6. The student will be excited to further explore the subject matter and come to conclusions about the effects of Westward Expansion on the overall growth of the United States.

Specific Objectives:

  1. (Teacher) Enrich student vocabulary.
  2. (Teacher) Provide visual points of reference for students.
  3. (Student) Students will create a geographical frame of reference for the Western United States.
  4. (Student) Students will remember individuals and events.
  5. (Student) Student will make connections and generalizations about the effects of Westward Expansion and decide if it was beneficial or not based on its effects on both whites coming from the East and Native Americans living in the West. They will be able to argue their position.

Required Materials:


    1. In-class journals:
      1. Brainstorm
      2. Answer warm-up question
      3. Write vocabulary before end of period
    2. White butcher paper/posterboards
      1. Write argument to share in class discussion following the video/PhotoStory
    3. Markers
      1. Write argument on paper/posterboard
    4. Post-it Notes
      1. Students will use them to brainstorm


    1. EIKI/Projector, speakers, and computer
    2. PhotoStory – Westward Expansion

Anticipatory Set (Lead-In):

      Warm-up question:

What is Manifest Destiny? Is it good or bad?

      This review from 8th Grade History should be answered in the students’ in-class journal as soon as they walk into the classroom.

Step-By-Step Procedures:

  1. Students – Complete warm up question in their journals.
  2. Teacher – Introduce objectives for the day and go through the agenda.
  3. Teacher – Begin with the final main idea from the last class.
  4. Teacher – Address warm-up question for the day.
  5. Students – Raise hand to share in class.
  6. Teacher – Have 2-3 students share depending on time. This should not exceed 3-5 minutes.
  7. Teacher – Present PhotoStory/video/rap about Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion.
  8. Teacher – After the video, take 3-5 minutes for reactions.
  9. Teacher – Further elaborate on video. Main Ideas concerning Westward Expansion.
  10. Teacher – Split the class up into groups of 3-4.
  11. Teacher – Allow students to choose what role they will play, one to write, one to present, one to answer questions, one to ask questions. (In groups of 3 asking questions and answering questions will be done by the same person)
  12. Teacher – Have students get materials from designated areas: pre-cut butcher paper or poster, 6-8 post-it notes, markers.
  13. Teacher – Pose the big question to the students:

    Was Westward Expansion beneficial? Consider these two sides: whites coming from the East and Native Americans living in the Great Plains. Choose one side, it was beneficial or it was not beneficial. Be prepared to defend your argument.

  14. Teacher – (Actively monitor the progress of each group)
    1. Designate brainstorming time where students will write ideas on their post-its.
    2. Designate time for writing final ideas on poster/paper.
    3. Designate time for preparing to speak.
  15. Teacher – moderate class discussion allowing each group to stand and present, and allow for each group to ask questions.
  16. Teacher – Have students post their papers/posters on side walls of classroom as they present. Designate one wall “Beneficial” and one wall “Not Beneficial”.
  17. Teacher – Take two posters, one for “Yes” and one for “No” and post them on the front wall of the classroom. As a whole class review points brought up during the discussion and write the best points under each category. Fill in any missed points.
  18. Teacher – Conclude discussion. Have students copy down the two columns in their journals as notes.
  19. Teacher – Provide definitions for important vocabulary as a short, tone-down assignment at the end of class.

Plan For Independent Practice:

  • Next day, students will complete an activity utilizing the vocabulary and arguments from the previous day – matching and categorizing.
  • A crossword puzzle can also be given as homework with clues taken from the video and discussion.

Closure (Reflect Anticipatory Set): Write a letter as either a Native American from the Great Plains or as a miner/rancher dealing with Westward Expansion.

    You are writing to “Whoever may find this.” Explain in your letter the problems you are dealing with and what life has been like since expansion into the West began. Use the space provided.

Assessment Based On Objectives:

  • Westward Expansion Quiz – Multiple Choice, True and False, Fill-in-the-Blank, and Short Response Essay dealing with the effects of Manifest Destiny.

Adaptations (For Students With Learning Disabilities):

  • Shortened assessment, peer study, group work (if student does not appreciate public speaking, designate as reporter)
  • Assigned seating to make sure they can see the video/PhotoStory
  • Provide copy of chart created with argument points. (Modifications only for students who need it)

Extensions (For Gifted Students):

  • Opportunity to create a PhotoStory of their own dealing with a particular person or event in this period.
    • Poetry/rap creation of events or person’s bio of this period.
    • Offer opportunity to present in class if desired.
    • All to be showcased in class.
  • Assignment offered to whole class for those who wish to do it.

Possible Connections To Other Subjects:

    English for ESL students: vocabulary enrichment through images

E-Mail Rodolfo Ramirez !

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