America's Foundation Thematic PBL Unit Print & Digital

Grade Levels
8th - 11th, Homeschool
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • Zip
  • Google Apps™
117 PDF pages + 57 Google Slides + 48 PPT Slides
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The Teacher-Author indicated this resource includes assets from Google Workspace (e.g. docs, slides, etc.).

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Lay a strong foundation for your modern U.S. History course with an examination of the FORE American values (Freedom, Opportunity, Representation, and Equality) established by Founding Fathers as well as activists throughout the 1800s in this unit that asks, "Who founded America's values?"

Review the first half of American history with this high-level thematic approach before diving into more modern history. This is perfect for most high school US History courses.

This unit covers

  • Founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble
  • The abolition movement, including the words of Frederick Douglass
  • The women's rights movement, including the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Indian removal and reservation policies, including words of the Cherokee
  • The labor union movement, including the words of Mary Elizabeth Lease

This unit builds foundational skills like

  • Analyzing written and visual primary sources
  • Evaluating the uses of ethos, logos, and pathos to effectively persuade
  • Constructing source-based analytical sentences
  • Writing a supported argumentative essay

This unit comes in two versions: paper PDF and digital for Google Slides.

Check out the Preview for a detailed look at this compelling unit or download the FREE Unit Overview. And try out this FREE Art Analysis Lesson to get a taste of the activities included.


Greatness is knowing a goal needs a detailed action plan to be successful.

The small collection of white, upper-class men who make up the “Founding Fathers” seem to get all the glory of founding this exceptional nation. While their work is worthy of considerable recognition, is it at the expense of every brown, female, poor, and otherwise disenfranchised Americans? Instead, how much credit should those men and women who fought to turn those lofty goals of democracy into reality get?

Take your students on a quest through our foundational first century (Independence through the late 1800s) exploring various spotlights on visionaries and activists while asking students to decide how should credit be given and shared.

Leave the boring chronological textbook behind and head straight to the compelling sources that make this question central to our pride and identity as Americans.

Also, empower your students to develop their value-based GREAT Goal and Action Plan Project using the lessons learned from Founding Fathers who struggled to live out their vision and the exemplar models of persuasive appeals by activists who fought for these goals to become reality.

This unit can be done well in 5-6 weeks.

Included in this complete unit:


  • Teacher Unit Overview with general notes, links, standards, and a pacing guide
  • Daily Lesson Plans with step-by-step details, planning, and lesson takeaway notes
  • Detailed Answer Keys for each activity
  • PPT Slides of images and student directions (can be easily converted to Google Slides)
  • Student Unit Review and Skills handouts with self-checking questions and "I Can..." statements
  • Student Unit Notes sheet for building deep and nuanced mastery of concepts over the course of the unit using powerful graphic organizers
  • Student Skill Handouts that include Analyzing Historical Sources, Analyzing Image Sources, Using Persuasive Appeals, Deciding a Precise Position, Creating a Thesis Statement, and Including Evidence

Student Activities

  • President Obama's Remarks at Selma hook students in with this powerful speech about who and what has made America
  • FORE American Values collaboratively brainstorm what these values mean and how they exist in today's America
  • The Visionaries analyze the words and values of the Declaration of Independence, Preamble to the Constitution, and an Anti-Federalist
  • The Freedom Fighters analyze the words and persuasion of Fredrick Douglass and other Black Americans
  • The Opportunity Fighters analyze the words and persuasion of Terence V. Powderly and other labor activists
  • The Representation Fighters analyze the words and persuasion of Chief Joseph and other Native Americans
  • The Equality Fighters analyze words and persuasion of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women activists

2 Summative Assessments

  • End-if-Unit Essay support your students with detailed instructions, outline template, sentence stems, step-by-step PPT slides, and rubrics, that encapsulates their complete understanding by answering the not-so-simple question, “Who founded America's values?”

  • GREAT Goal & Action Plan Project after brainstorming one's values, students carefully develop a goal and action plan for the year, using the art of persuasion to motivate themselves to accomplish it


Note to Homeschoolers

Though the included teacher lesson plans are written to fully support a traditional classroom teacher, this unit is also a great fit for your teenage homeschooler:

  • the inquiry, thematic structure of this unit is driven more by critical thinking, reading, and writing skills and a central high-interest question than any one set of state-specific, grade-specific content standards
  • a wide age and ability range can easily access the rich variety of sources utilized in this unit, making it perfect for a multi-grade group
  • your student’s voice is central to each activity, through talking out their learning, maximizing the one-on-one
  • activities can be completed independently and aren’t solely reliant on group or whole-class work
  • all utilized sources are included; nothing needs to be purchased to supplement
  • this unit is independent of a textbook, though one could be used for greater background knowledge
  • any activity can easily be left out to customize for your student’s skill level or personal interest


Want more U.S. History PBL Units?

Six Degrees of Separation: kick off a study of our country’s geographic features with a “Flat Stanley” style project

1900s American Immigration: explore the American story of diversity and hard work through the words and statistics of immigrants, Ellis Island to Angel Island, to create and preserve an oral history of their own

1900s Protest Movements: be inspired by Silent Sentinels to Alcatraz Occupiers to develop one’s own statement of protest or support

1900s American Heroes: explore what it means to be a hero from Madam CJ Walker to John Glenn in order to nominate one’s own hero for recognition

What to go entirely PBL?

U.S. History PBL Course Mega Bundle: get all posted PBL resources in one download and save big!

This listing is for one license for regular, non-commercial classroom use by a single teacher only. In upholding copyright law, PDF resources are uneditable and resources made for Google Classroom have some editing abilities. By purchasing a license to this resource, you have access to all future updates at no cost, available under “My Purchases". Multiple and transferable licenses are available for purchase. To request a complete terms of use prior to purchase or if you have any questions about this resource, please leave a question below under Product Q&A.

Total Pages
117 PDF pages + 57 Google Slides + 48 PPT Slides
Answer Key
Included with rubric
Teaching Duration
1 month
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


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