Jackson and the West

What do you do once you've proven you can hang with the big boys? Expand your territory of course! Starting with the Jackson presidency this unit looks at the rapid growth of the United States as it pushed west from the 1820s to 1850s.

Essential Question: How and why did the west become such a focal point for the United States in the first half of the 19th century?

Lecture Notes

Time for Super Smash Pres! Fun with two of the most exciting elections in US History.

A president who fights everyone and everything belligerently? Surely that could never happen (again) right?

Americans were drawn West from the beginning. We'll follow the trails blazed by the mountain men first to Utah.

And then to Texas and California. Two huge states then and hugely important now.

War with these two young, huge nations was almost inevitable. Let's see how it happened.


1. HA: Bias and Jackson - How does bias affect our view of historical figures? Students read one of two write-ups on Jackson and determine how loaded language within it colors their views.

2. Jackson's Life in Pictures - [Student Worksheet] An introduction to the life of Jackson using six images that span his life. Students will differentiate between facts and assumptions drawn from evidence and conclude what historians might think about Jackson's life based solely on these six images.

3. Jackson Stations - 6 stations with an in-depth look at multiple primary sources regarding Jackson's presidency. Includes stations on the spoils system, nullification, the tariff of abominations, Indian removal and the war against the National Bank. Many include small act-it-out simulations to help students grasp the concepts.

4. Jackson Good vs. Evil Documents - a series of 10 documents that I got from somewhere else (sorry, I don't remember!) that students analyze, categorize and rank in terms of persuasiveness. This will serve as part of the pre-writing for the final Jackson essay.

5. Jackson Vs. - a series of events from Jackson's life that students classify as good or evil by creating a T-chart. More preparation for the final essay.

6. Jackson Argumentative Essay - Does Jackson deserve to be on (or removed from!) the $20 bill?

7. Trail of Tears Simulation - Students read some surprising perspectives on the Indian Removal Act while being shuffled around the school against their will to simulate the disruption of losing your "home." Adapted from a lesson from the Stanford History Education Group. (Lesson Plan)

8. HA: Tall Tales - Read two accounts of the life of Davy Crockett to see how tall tales altered the histories of some true American figures.

9. HA: The Alamo - Analyze a call to defend the Alamo and decide if you would have stayed to defend it or ran away.

10. Legit or Legend: Davy Crockett - Students compare historical sources to determine if the popular culture representations of Davy Crockett's death at the Alamo are historical or legendary. Works great with the last 5 minutes of 1960's The Alamo starring John Wayne as an introduction.

11. Western Dossiers - Students analyze information about 6 later Western figures to determine who was a lawman and who was a law-breaker.

12. Western Expansion DBQ - Analyze four documents to determine whether or not expanding west was the right decision for the United States.

13. Culture Shock: The West - Take a day to experience a little bit of life in the west by analyzing a painting, checking out prices in a mining town and maybe even doing a bit of square dancing.