US History Lesson Plan with Activity Ideas

By Rebecca Ray

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US History Activities Lesson Plans

Student Activities for US History Include:

One of my favorite parts of History class in high school was when my teacher would do a ‘tidbit of the week’. Each week he would introduce one notable event from the unit we were covering, disguised as a trivia question. Perhaps it was about the completion of Mount Rushmore or “Hoovervilles” during the Great Depression. Whatever the notable event or information was, he made it intriguing with integration into the lesson. You also can bring history to life for your students with the use of storyboards that engage students in a creative and visual learning process. Check out these winning ways of teaching American History that will ignite the lesson in your classroom!

US History Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Bill of Rights - The First Ten Amendments

The most important document in U.S. history, besides the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, was the Bill of Rights. After its ratification in 1787, the Bill of Rights secured many of the rights still central to American democracy. For this activity, have students research and visually depict the amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.

In the six cell storyboard bellow, students were asked to depict the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights - The First Ten Amendments

1st Amendment This amendment guarantees United States citizens the freedom of speech, press, & religion.
2nd Amendment The right to bear arms means that citizens can own and carry weapons.
3rd Amendment The government cannot force citizens to quarter troops.
4th, 5th & 6th Amendments These amendments protect against unreasonable searches and seizures, secures the right to due process, and establishes rights of the accused at trial.
7 & 8th Amendments These outline rights in common law trials and the protect prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment.
9 & 10th Amendments Rights that are not listed in the Constitution are preserved here. This act limits the power of federal government by reserving to the states all powers that are not explicitly granted to the federal government by the Constitution.​

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The Formation of a Country: 13 Colonies Become States

Topics like the formation of the colonies and Manifest Destiny are exciting subjects in US history.

In the US history project example below, the student has created a storyboard that acts as a timeline for the first 13 colonies. As part of the assignment, students give details of how the states were formed. This idea could follow the students throughout the year; after each unit, students could create a new storyboard depicting the expansion by unit or decades.

How the 13 Colonies Became States

The First Continental Congress was established.

The First Continental Congress was created to set forth the views of the people, and protest against the conduct of the King and Parliament of England.

Congress became a governing body.

Once Congress was formed, they petitioned the King on behalf of the colonies. In reaction, the British sent orders prohibiting another meeting of Congress. They also sent additional soldiers to America. The result was a state of rebellion.

War was declared.

The rebellion started the War of Independence. In 1776, the colonies separated from England, forming the United States of American and its​ government.

The war was won, and the colonial government ended.

Eventually, the Continental Congress sought to unionize the states with the "Articles of Confederation". Approval of the ratification brought them together to form the United States of America.

Don't forget to check out our other US History Resources!

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Key Figures in History

Many people made notable contributions in establishing the United States and its government. Among these luminaries are the founding fathers. Remembering these men and their significant contributions is simple with a storyboard. Students can create and chart relevant information about any historical figures in a way that is fun and engaging.

Founding Fathers Example

George Washington The Constitutional Convention was initiated by the founding fathers. A principal person of influence was George Washington, not only did he start the discussion, but he also acted as the moderator.
James Madison
  • James Madison felt freedom of Religion was an extremely important issue in the founding of the United States.
  • Madison, did an extensive study of other world governments, he figured that America needed a strong federal government to help regulate the states. He also felt the government should be set up with checks and balances.
Benjamin Franklin
  • Benjamin Franklin's feeling was that public education was the most important. He said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."
  • Franklin also lobbied for the fundamental freedoms that are outlined in the Constitution. These include rights like freedom of speech.
Founding Fathers The founding fathers decided that the best way for all the needs to be met would be to compromise. Therefore, the first amendment gives the freedom of religion, speech, and press. While the other amendments address the needs of the people.
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Conflict: Tea Parties, Whiskey Rebellions, and the Alamo

In the early years, the growth of the United States was overshadowed by a number of battles and wars. Many of these were due to expansion, or because our nation felt the urge protect those who were in need of assistance. Whatever the cause, the effects of these conflicts undeniably shaped our nation.

When teaching a unit on a specific war or battle, have students storyboard its important information and implications, including the outcomes of the armistice, defeat, or victory. In the example storyboard below, students were asked to depict and explain the following questions in each corresponding cell.

Boston Tea Party Example

What was the conflict?

The Boston Tea Party was an act of rebellion against the British. The British government gave a British company the right to sell tea directly to the colonies, cutting out American merchants, who lost revenue.​

When and where was the conflict?

The conflict happened in Boston, Massachusetts, at Griffin's Wharf on December 16, 1773.

What were the primary causes of the conflict?

The primary cause was frustration over the new Tea Act, fueled by underlying distrust from the Boston Massacre, which occurred three years earlier.

Who was involved in the conflict?

Over 100 men dressed as Indians and stormed the pier in Boston. Some noteworthy names include: Paul Revere, Samuel Cooper, and George Hewes. ​

What was the conflict's immediate outcome?

The Boston Tea Party strained relationships between Britain and the colonies. The Coercive Acts (or Intolerable Acts) followed to punish the colony of Massachusetts, and within a year Americans formed the First Continental Congress. ​

What were the long-term outcomes?

The most notable long term outcome was the Revolutionary War.

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