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Mexican-American War Activities

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

If your class is learning about the Antebellum era, then studying the Mexican-American War is important. Use these multi-sensory activities to help students learn about the Mexican-American War and its historical significance.

Fighting Over the Border

Just like siblings fighting over space in a shared room, the United States and Mexico have a history of disagreement over the land surrounding the borders of both countries. During the Mexican-American War, the United States sought to annex western lands, including Texas, while Mexico opposed this action. When students learn about the war, they can understand the historical implications of the western expansion of the United States. Additionally, they can analyze the events of the war from different cultural perspectives. Let's look as some activities to help students understand the Mexican-American War.

War Debate

Encourage your students to practice their speaking skills as they engage in a debate about whether the United States should go to war with Mexico.

Materials

  • Map of the United States before Mexican-American War
  • Index cards
  • Pencils

Teacher Directions

  1. Show the class a map of the United States before the Mexican-American War and discuss the problems between America and Mexico regarding western lands, including Texas, prior to the war.
  2. Discuss how various groups of people felt about engaging in war, including the perspectives of Mexican citizens, Native Americans, the Whig Party, Democrats, etc. Additionally, discuss the viewpoints of famous Americans, such as Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Henry David Thoreau.
  3. Help students understand the roles manifest destiny and slavery played in the war.
  4. Provide each student with an index card and pencil.
  5. Assign each student a group to represent, such as the Native Americans, Democrats, etc.
  6. Students will jot down notes on the index card to help them develop an oral argument supporting or opposing the war based on the historical opinions of the group they are representing.
  7. Have students supporting the war line up on one side of the room, with students opposing the war lining up on the other side of the room.
  8. Students from each side will take turns presenting their arguments for supporting or opposing the war based on the group of people they are representing.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think there were so many viewpoints on the war?
  • Would you personally have supported the Mexican-American War? Why or why not?

Penny Press Newspaper Article

Have students create a newspaper article about an important event during the Mexican-American War.

Materials

  • Copies of penny press articles about the Mexican-American War (ex. Walt Whitman's articles in The Brooklyn Eagle)
  • Access to online/print resources about the Mexican-American War
  • Newspaper article template

Teacher Directions

  1. Tell the class that the Mexican-American War was the first war to be covered by journalists as on-the-scene reporters. Discuss how the penny press and the telegraph allowed for widespread coverage of the war. Examine several examples of newspaper articles written about the war.
  2. Divide the class into pairs.
  3. Have each pair use online/print resources to research an important battle or event of the war, such as the Bear Flag Revolt or the Battle for Mexico City.
  4. Provide the pairs with a newspaper article template. Depending on your resources, this could be a paper template that students could handwrite or a digital template students can fill in on the computer.
  5. Encourage students to write the newspaper article as if they were an on-the-scene reporter relaying information back to Americans far away from the action. Additionally, encourage the students to look up paintings/pictures of the war to include with their articles.
  6. When students are finished, have them share their articles with the class.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do think Americans were interested in reading newspaper articles about the Mexican-American War?
  • How does the news coverage of the Mexican-American War compare to today's coverage of military actions and wars?

Artifact Museum

Engage students in an art project to create museum artifacts for important people involved in the Mexican-American War.

Materials

  • Pictures of important people of the Mexican-American War
  • Access to online/print resources
  • Various art supplies (clay, poster board, paint, paintbrushes, markers, construction paper, shoe boxes, cloth, etc.)

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