The American West

As you know, the emphasis of this topic changes in September 2016 to include more on the pre-1840 period, the Civil War and period of Reconstruction. Probably one of the most innovative features of this section on teaching American West history is the use of US sources and teaching materials. Close co-operation with academic institutions in the USA has enabled unfamiliar sources to be used in imaginative ways. You will find lessons using de Bono’s Thinking Hats on the coming of the railroad, detailed analysis of one painting on manifest destiny and a kinaesthetic approach to Moving West – all with planning and the resources you need.

Outstanding Lessons

SMART TASK: Why were mining towns such lawless places?

This is a very straightforward, yet highly effective task which asks students to distinguish between the generic and the specific, to speculate about possible reasons from clues, to think creatively about historical myths and just as importantly to know how to get full marks on...
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Was the life of a cowboy really so adventurous?

This lesson draws heavily on the ideas of Sarah Herrity, Advanced Skills Teacher, Wyvern Technology College, near Winchester. It moves students from their own initial perceptions of cowboys, through to the harsh realities of life. After an initial card sorting activity, students have to consider...
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Who went west and why?

This lesson worked really well with lower attaining Y10 students who had already studied the Plains Indians and the contact between the early mountain men at the trading posts. This was their first lesson on movement West. They had never used artefacts before in their GCSE...
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Teaching American West at Key Stage 4

Schools have been teaching the American West as part of the SHP course for over 30 years. I introduced it myself in the first department I led. There have been so many examination questions set on this module and so many good textbooks now available...
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Mountain Men – Myth and Reality SMART TASK KS4

Having looked at the role of Indian trappers who had been supplying skins to British, French and Spanish traders on the Missouri river for decades, students now turn their attention to the Mountain Men. What were they really like? The lesson starts with a funny story...
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Manifest destiny: beat the textbook/expert caption

Students find this a fun lesson in which they not only consolidate their knowledge of the people who crossed the Plains but also present their understanding of the order in which they came, by custom animating annotations on a PowerPoint slide. To fully appreciate the...
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How can we explain the rise and boom in the cattle industry?

This enquiry starts with students posing 7 expert historical questions, stimulated by a graph.  They then set about investigating their questions using a set of written clues supported by a PowerPoint presentation.  Not only do students pose their own questions about the start of the...
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