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The Making of a New Nation (1776-1800) Activities for High School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As an American history teacher, it is important for you to spend some time focusing on the making of the nation following the Revolution. This lesson offers activities that will support this aspect of your instruction.

Post-Revolutionary America

If you are a high school history teacher, you probably spend plenty of time focusing on America's colonial period and the American Revolution. However, you also know that the period following the Revolution forms a key time in American history. This is the time when the nation really built itself, and the events and decisions that happened between 1776-1800 really show many issues that continue to play a part in American politics and identity.

To help your students form a better understanding of this time period in American history, you may want to use some activities. The activities in this lesson will keep students engaged as they take on big questions and ideas from the nation-building period in this country's history.

Visual Activities

This section provides activities that will especially appeal to visual learners, those who work best with images and graphic organizers.

Graphic Timeline

There were many key events that occurred in the period from 1776-1800. For instance, students will learn about the Articles of Confederation, the peace treaty signed in Paris, and the Annapolis Convention. In small groups, ask students to create a timeline representing at least five different key events between 1776-1800 in American history. Then, ask them to supplement each event with an image or icon that they think illustrates something about the event they have chosen.

As an added dimension, for each of their timeline's events, ask students to think of or find a secondary event, cultural shift, or noteworthy point in history that came as a result of their timeline event. For instance, while the Annapolis Convention did little to settle the concerns regarding interstate trade, it led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the writing of the Constitution.

Finally, let students share their timelines and compare and contrast the events they came up with.

Illustrate Key Concepts

Part of building the nation following the Revolution had to do with coming up with key ideas and concepts that would guide American identity and sensibilities for decades to come. In partnerships or independently, ask students to zero in on one such concept. For instance, they might think about liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

Ask them to create a painting or illustration that interprets this concept from their own perspective as well as in alignment with what they know about the early period of American history.

Tactile Activities

Here, you will find some activities that let students use their hands and bodies as they come to a better understanding of this historical period.

Making Maps

The map of the United States changed significantly between 1776-1800. Let students work in small groups for this geographical activity.

Assign each group one 5-year time period ranging from 1776-1800. Ask them to build a model with clay to represent the map of America during the increment they are responsible for. Then, bring students together to put their maps in sequence and talk about what changed in the geography that constituted America during this time.

Native Americans

The relationship between white Americans and Native Americans also evolved as the nation developed during this time, and it is crucial for students to think critically about this aspect of the country's history.

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