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Our New Nation Lesson Plans for 8th Grade American History


I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

George Washington's Inauguration

George Washington's Inauguration

Need some help with your American History lessons? Take a peek at my lesson plans and ideas.

My first year teaching I was dying to see other teachers' plan books, but most of them were either blank or didn't seem suitable for our students ("high-risk" with poor reading skills). After teaching American history to 8th graders for a few years, I've developed this webpage in the hopes that it can help first year teachers get an idea of what to do, or help out some experienced teachers freshen up some lessons. Just to let you know, my "at-risk" students have the same passing rate on the history portion of the state standardized exam as the "advanced" students.

Below are my weekly lessons for weeks 18 - 19: Our New Nation. Please see my other lenses to see my complete lesson plan book. Please visit my Procedures and General Ideas for 8th Grade American History to see my classroom set up, procedures, grading, use of textbook, exam ideas, etc.

Photo Credit

Whiskey Rebellion

Whiskey Rebellion

Week 18: Day 1 (Day after Winter Break): George Washington

What happened during George Washington's presidency?

HISTORY QUESTION OF THE WEEK: How much did America pay for the Louisiana Purchase? (*You can have double the prize/extra credit if you can tell me how much they paid per square acre.) [Answer: The 1803 purchase from France of 828,000 square miles of land, stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, cost $15 million. This put the price of each acre of land at about 3 cents.]


This famous African-American accomplished amazing things by teaching himself math and science using textbooks from a Quaker mill owner. He was a brilliant astronomer, creating six almanacs. In 1791 Thomas Jefferson recommended this man for the job of planning the lay-out for Washington, D.C. Who was this man? [Answer: Benjamin Banneker]

Note: Unit IV: Our New Nation and Unit V: The American Industrial Revolution will be combined into one exam. The notebook will also not be graded until the end of Unit V.

Objective: What happened during George Washington's presidency?

1. Write about a time when you were expected to set an example for someone else. How did you feel? What did you do differently that you might not have done otherwise? (Teacher explanation: George Washington had to set an example for the country and for future Presidents.)

2. ***For "Celebration" time every single person says one thing they did during winter break and one thing they got.***

3. Milling to Music: Play music and have everyone walk around. Whenever the music stops, each student stands next to the person closest to him/her. I call out 1 of three questions repeatedly: "What did you do over the break?," "What was the best gift that you got?," "Who did you see that you normally don't get to see?" After a minute of chatting, I start the music again. They walk around again and stop to answer the question I call out when I stop the music again.

4. Make Unit IV: Our New Nation cover page

5. Powerpoint slide lecture & timeline. Have students create an illustrated time line of all the major events from 1789-1823. They draw a line down the middle of their page. Put the first event on the left side of the time line and the second event on the right side of the time line. Continue to switch back and forth. Whenever I say a year, they must put a dot on the line, write the year, and then what I said happened that year. (I repeat myself a few times to let them know they need to write something down.) Show powerpoint slides, ask students questions so they are looking at the pictures (What's happening in this slide? Who's the man on the horse? What is he doing? etc.), and then lecture with INTERESTING tidbits. In order to keep the lectures interesting, I did a lot of extra reading and added in extra facts and trivia. One of the best places I found was reading the "Points of Interest" at POTUS.com .

Tell the students exactly what to write down:

1789- Washington takes oath of office in New York City

1789- Start of French Revolution

1794- Washington sends troops to suppress Whiskey Rebellion in Western PA

(*If you would like to see the video clips and links to free worksheets I compiled on George Washington and his presidency, go to http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/president-george-washington .)

6. Read and discuss Washington's Farewell Address (p. 312)

7. WRAP-UP: Next to each of the events on the time line, sketch a drawing to help you remember that event.

Best Resources from Teaching About George Washington

My Favorite Resources for Lecture Information

Many students actually pay attention and remember what I say during my lectures because I include stories about the daily lives of the famous people of American History. Much of the material included in textbooks is less than exciting. Many of the stories I include come from books written for children such as these.

Louisiana Purchase (land that is colored white)

Louisiana Purchase (land that is colored white)

Week 18: Day 2: Adams through Louisiana Purchase

How did our country get so big?

Objective: How did our country get so big?

Homework: Get agenda signed

1. In 5+ sentences, write about a time you did something because you thought it was right but it made you unpopular with others OR write about a time you did something you thought was right to do but someone else thought was wrong to do.

2. Define: XYZ affair, alien & sedition acts, states' rights, Marbury v. Madison, Judicial review, and Louisiana Purchase from textbook

3. Give a brief "tour" of Washington, D. C. using p. 174 from Adventure Tales of America: An Illustrated History of the United States, 1492-1877 (Signal Media Corporation).

4. Continue Presidential Timeline powerpoint lecture. Questions can include: Who is this man? Does he look like he has many friends? What type of man is this? Why would a Chief Justice who served for 35 years be so important? Who is this man? How might he feel about "common"/regular/not rich people ruling? etc.

1796- Federalist John Adams became second President

1798- XYZ affair when France refused to cooperate with America

1798- John Adams stayed neutral in war between France and England

1798- Alien & Sedition Acts passed by Congress to stop assaults on Adams

1800- Republican Thomas Jefferson became 3rd President

1800- John Marshall appointed Supreme Court Justice

1803- Marbury v. Madison established judicial review allowing courts to decide what is Constitutional

1803- Thomas Jefferson supported the purchase of Louisiana from France for $15 million

(*If you would like to see the video clips and links to free worksheets I compiled on John Adams and his presidency, go to http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/president-john-adams. If you would like to see the video clips and links to free worksheets I compiled on Thomas Jefferson and his presidency, go to http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/president-thomas-jefferson.)

5. Louisiana Purchase worksheet (5-10 minutes)

6. Sketch a small drawing for each event you added to your Presidential time line

7. WRAP-UP: VOTE FOR THOMAS JEFFERSON! It's 1804 and time to vote for the President again. Create a campaign poster for Thomas Jefferson. Include a visual aide, catchy slogan, and 3+ reasons people should vote for him based on what he did during his previous term as President.

Use These for Teaching About the Louisiana Purchase

War of 1812

War of 1812

Week 19: Day 1: War of 1812

How did America get into a second war with England?

HISTORY QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What was the name of the poem that later became the "Star Spangled Banner"? [Answer: The poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 to commemorate the battle for Fort McHenry, Maryland, during the War of 1812, was called "Defense of Fort McHenry."]


What kind of rockets glared red in "The Star-Spangled Banner": Dynamite, Bouey rockets, or congreve rockets? [Answer: The rockets that the national anthem refers to were Congreve rockets, invented by Sir Thomas Congreve and used by the British in the War of 1812. The noisy, hissing missles, 42 inches long, were used throughout the British campaigns in Maryland in 1813-14. The rockets initially terrified the Americans but proved to be ineffective, killing only two men in combat and doing little property damage.]

Objective: How did America get into a second war with England?

1. You're the captain of an American ship, loaded with sailors and goods in the Atlantic Ocean. A British ship demands that you stop your ship so that they can search for dissenters from their navy. If you refuse their request, they will attach your ship by force. A) What are at least 2 ways you could response to this request? B) What will you do? C) Why?

2. Read pp. 337-345 and answer the following questions: a) Define "Embargo Act" and "Nonintercourse Act." B) What were the causes of the War of 1812? C) Who was Tecumseh? What did he want? Was he successful? Why? D) Who were the War Hawks? What did they want? Did they get what they wanted? E) How did the War of 1812 end? (Play Overture of 1812 as they read and answer questions.)

3. Continue President timeline powerpoint lecture. Verbal questions can include: What's happening in this cartoon? What does the turtle represent? Who is this man? What type of President do you think he'd make? What is happening in this slide? Where are the bombs coming from? etc.)

1807- Jefferson passed Embargo Act stopping all trades with other countries

1808- Republican James Madison became 4th President

1809- Madison passed Non-Intercourse Act allowing trade with all countries except France and England

1811 - Harrison defeated Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Americans realized Indians had been using British weapons.

1812 - Madison declared war on England . Lasts 3 years & ends in 1815.

1814 - England bombed Fort McHenry and Francis Scott Key wrote "Star Spangled Banner"

1815 - War ended. No one won. England and US signed Treaty of Ghent.

(*If you would like to see the video clips and links to free worksheets I compiled on James Madison and his presidency, go to http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/president-james-madison.)

4. Show and discuss p. 243 from This is America's Story (Wilder, Ludlum, Brown) on the War of 1812.

5. WRAP-UP: 3 VIEWS OF THE WAR OF 1812: Draw the faces of a War Hawk, President Adams, and a Native American. Next to each face, include a thought bubble for each person explaining if they wanted to go to war with England and why or why not.

Fun Resources of Presidential Tidbits

Andrew Jackson's first inauguration

Andrew Jackson's first inauguration

Week 19: Day 2: Monroe - Jackson

Why did we stay out of other countries' business until recently, and why do Presidents now try to appear like "normal" people?

Objective: Why did we stay out of other countries' business until recently, and why do Presidents now try to appear like "normal" people?

Homework: Get agenda signed

1. A) If you lost something really valuable, what would you do? B) In 3+ sentences, describe a time when this happened to you or to someone you knew.

2. Presidential timeline powerpoint lecture:

1816 - Republican James Madison because 5th president

1819 - America gained Florida from Spain because of Andrew Jackson

3. Read pp. 335-356 & discuss Florida

4. Presidential timeline powerpoint lecture:

1823- Monroe delivered Monroe Doctrine warning other countries to stay out of America and America will stay out of Europe

1824 - John Quincy Adams became 6th president

1828 - Democrat Andrew Jackson became 7th President

5. Show and discuss p. 248 from This is America's Story (Wilder, Ludlum, Brown) on the Monroe Doctrine.

6. Compare President Washington and President Jackson by comparings powerpoint slides. (Questions came from History Alive!)

a. Look at a painting of Washington & his cabinet and describe them in 5 words.

b. Look at a painting of people in the 1830's. Use 5 words to describe them. How do they differ from the people in the previous picture?

c. Look at a painting of Washington's inauguration. Describe the people who are there. Based on what they look like, what conclusions can you draw about the government during this time?

d. Look at the scene outside the White House after Jackson's inauguration. Describe the people. How is this different from what you saw at Washington's inauguration? List 3 conclusions you can draw about the government during the Jackson era.

e. Listen to "The President's March." How does the song make you feel? Describe the song in 3 words. What does the song tell you about our first President?

f. Listen to "Huzza! for General Jackson." (Click here for the lyrics.) How does the song make you feel? Describe the song in 3 words. What does the song tell you about President Jackson?

g. Based on what you have seen and heard, use 3 words or ideas to describe how did the role of President changed from the time of Washington to the time of Jackson.

(*If you would like to see the video clips and links to free worksheets I compiled on James Monroe and his presidency, go to http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/president-james-monroe. If you would like to see the video clips and links to free worksheets I compiled on Andrew Jackson and his presidency, go to http://iijuan12.hubpages.com/hub/president-andrew-jackson.)

7. T- Chart Federalist Era vs. Jacksonian Era: Under Federalist Era write, "President came from Virginia or Massachusetts, Suffrage (people who can vote) = male, white, Christian property-owners, formal/aristocratic." Under Jacksonian Era write, "President came from out West, Suffrage = all white males, normal/noisy/informal." * To help students remember "suffrage," I tell them about an episode I saw on "The Man Show" when they set up a booth at the beach in California and had people sign a petition to end women's suffrage. They got thousands of signatures. It took a few hours before a woman walked up and was struck with disbelief when she saw what they were doing. She started yelling to all the people around that they were trying to end women's ability to vote. Wouldn't it have been scary had they not been doing this as a joke?

8. WRAP-UP: Next to each of the events on the time line, sketch a drawing to help you remember that event.

Fun Resources of Presidential Tidbits and Trivia

End Women's Suffrage

This isn't the episode I saw on "The Man Show," but it's the same idea.

Previous Unit: Week 17: American Literature

Next Unit: Weeks 20-22: Industrial Revolution

Weeks 1-2: First Week of School & Geography Lesson Plans for 8th Grade American History

Weeks 3-8: Thirteen Colonies Lesson Plans

Weeks 8-13: American Revolution Lesson Plans

Weeks 13-16: Constitution Lesson Plans

Week 17: American Literature Lesson Plans

Weeks 18-19: Our New Nation Lesson Plans (this set of lessons)

Weeks 20-22: Industrial Revolution Lesson Plans

Weeks 23-26: Westward Expansion & Roads to Freedom Lesson Plans

Weeks 26-30: Civil War Lesson Plans

Standardized Test Cram Sheet

Leave Me a Note - I love getting feeback from you!

Shannon (author) from Florida on August 10, 2017:

Wow, the school system obviously has lots of confidence in your teaching abilities! I think the easiest way to print off the lessons would be to copy & paste them into a Word Document. If you want to limit the pages, you could first paste them into your notepad. I hope you have a wonderful year!

Joy porter on August 06, 2017:

A friend shared your website with me and I am eternally grateful. I am very close to retirement and have been given 8th grade Social Studies to teach this year. History is not my strong suit-I teach economics and civics to high school students!

Is there an easy way to print off the lesson plans?

Thank you so much for sharing not only lesson plans but the thinking behind them and the resources you used.

Joy, from Michigan

Shannon (author) from Florida on January 24, 2013:

@anonymous: Thank you! Unfortunately, I do not have the powerpoints anymore.

anonymous on January 24, 2013:

There have been so many great ideas that I have used from your website? Do you have any of the powerpoints that you used? I am especially in the one you mentioned where you compared Washington and Jackson. I would love to see all the visuals you used for that. Thanks for sharing!

Shannon (author) from Florida on November 21, 2012:

@anonymous: Great! Thank you for visiting!

anonymous on November 21, 2012:

Thank you, I'm a first year teacher and this has been super helpful!

Shannon (author) from Florida on October 27, 2012:

@anonymous: I'm sorry but I don't have links to the worksheets. Some of the worksheets were simply ones that went along with the textbooks we had. They came as part of the teacher edition set.

anonymous on October 27, 2012:

Do you have a link to the worksheets you used?. I am a first year teacher in a school just like yours.

Shannon (author) from Florida on March 27, 2012:

@anonymous: I'm so sorry but I don't have them anymore.

anonymous on March 27, 2012:

Would love to see your powerpoints.

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