US History Lesson Plan with Activity Ideas

By Rebecca Ray

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This Teacher Guide Includes:

    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 to ignite a lesson in your classroom.

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


    The most important document in U.S. history, besides the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, was the Bill of Rights. Ratified in 1787, it 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.

    • 1st Amendment: This guarantees United States citizens 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.

    • 4, 5 & 6th Amendments protect against unreasonable searches and seizures, secures the right to due process, and establishes rights of the accused at trial. ​

    • 7 & 8th Amendments: This act outlines rights in common law trials and the protects 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!

    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 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 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 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.

    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 freedom of Religion was an extremely important issue in 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 that are outlined in the Constitution. These include 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 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 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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