US History Activity Ideas

By Rebecca Ray

One of my favorite parts of History class in high school was when my teacher would do a ‘tid bit 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 through 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 to ignite a lesson in your classroom.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!
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    Activities for US History

    Ratification

    The most important documents in U.S. history are perhaps the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Ratified in 1787, it led to the independence of the U.S. from Great Britain and established the rules and laws that still govern the U.S. today. For this activity have students research and visually depict the doctrine.



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


    • 1st Amendment: This act gives United States citizens freedom of speech, press, & religion.

    • 2nd Amendment: The Right to bear arms, means that citizens have to own and carry weapons.

    • 3rd Amendment: The Government can not force the quartering of troops on citizens.

    • 4, 5 & 6th Amendments state that no person shall undergo unreasonable searches and seizures. It also secures the right to due process of the law; and rights of the 'accused.' ​

    • 7 & 8th Amendments: This act outlines common law rights and the protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

    • 9 & 10th Amendments: Rights that are not listed in the Constitution are defended. This act limits the power of federal government by reserving for 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!

    Teaching about topics like the formation of the colonies and Manifest Destiny are exciting subjects in US history.

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

    How the 13 Colonies Became States:

    • The First Continental Congress is established.
    • Congress became a governing body.
    • War was declared.
    • The War was won and the colonial government ended.

    Key Figures in History!

    Many people have made notable contributions in establishing the United States and its government. Among the more luminary are the founding fathers; remembering these men and their significant contributions can be made simple with the use a character map. Students can create and chart relevant historical information about any historical figures in a way that is fun and engaging.


    Example: Founding Fathers


    • 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 felt that the freedom of Religion was the most important issue for the founding of the United States.
    • Benjamin Franklin's feeling was that public education was the most important. He said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."
    • 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.
    • Franklin also lobbied for the fundamental freedoms of man that are outlined in the Consitution. These include the inalienable rights like freedom of speech. ​
    • 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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    Tea parties, whiskey rebellions, and the Alamo.

    In the early years, the growth of the United States was overshadowed by many 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.

    A great activity to do with students when teaching a unit on a specific war or battle is to have students storyboard its important information and implications. Options include detailing the outcome of the armistice, defeat, or victory. In the six-cell example storyboard below students were asked to depict and explain the following items in each corresponding cell:


    Example: Questions


    1. What was the conflict?
    2. When and where was the conflict?
    3. What were the primary causes of the conflict?
    4. Who was involved in the conflict?
    5. What was the conflicts immediate outcome?
    6. What were the long-term outcomes?
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