To use primary source accounts to study notable events in the history of the western United States.
1 and 1/2 class periods
This lesson includes five primary source reading selections that provide students with a first-hand look at some of the people and events that shaped the history of the western United States. The readings are condensed versions of longer primary source accounts written by persons who took part in the events being described.
Go over the directions for the activity with the class. Ask for volunteers to read aloud the paragraphs of the first primary source account. At the end of each reading selection, class members will answer the true/false questions.
The reading selections are entitled:
Alexander Ross describes the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest.
William G. Johnston accompanies the first wagon train into California.
Virginia Reed Murphy recalls the terrible experiences of the Donner Party, a group of 87 settlers who became trapped by snows in the Sierras on their way to California.
Walter Colton tells how the people of Monterey, California, reacted to the news of the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill.
Mark Twain describes the Pony Express in Roughing It.
Have the students continue individually with primary source readings 2-5.
To conclude the lesson, students will complete a writing assignment of at least 125 words where they pretend to be living in the far west of the United States during the mid-1800s. For example, they might pretend to be a Pony Express rider and would then use facts mentioned in Reading #5 to help write their story. Other examples of who students can pretend to be are provided the directions for the story, and each one has something to do with one of the previously provided primary source readings.
Easy-to-follow Teachers Instructions and answer key included.
See also, AMERICAN/U.S. HISTORY CURRICULUM LESSONS 61-75 of 150
LESSON 61: The Monroe Doctrine
LESSON 62: Elections of 1824 and 1828
LESSON 63: Match Game: Andrew Jackson
LESSON 64: Reform Movements
LESSON 65: Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, and Polk
LESSON 66: President Study Guide
LESSON 67: Routes to the West
LESSON 68: The Oregon Country
LESSON 69: The Lone Star Republic
LESSON 70: The Mexican War
LESSON 71: The Gold Rush Game
LESSON 72: Reading: The Far West
LESSON 73: Jeopardy: Territorial Expansion
LESSON 74: Note Cards: The Nation Grows Stronger
LESSON 75: Independent Study Guide (USA Growth 1783-1860)