The Virginia Dynasty (1801-1825) Activities for High School

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.

From 1801-1825, three presidents were consecutively elected from Virginia. Use these activities to help students understand the contributions of the Virginia Dynasty presidents and the events that occurred during their presidential terms.

Not Another Virginia President!

When students think of 'dynasties,' they probably think about China or ancient Egypt; however, the United States had its own dynasty of sorts following the founding of the United States. Four of the first five people to serve as President of the United States were from Virginia. The period known as the Virginia Dynasty, often refers to the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Let's look at some activities to help students understand the challenges these presidents faced and the contributions they made to the United States.

Presidential T-shirts

Engage students in a creative activity to design t-shirts reflecting important facts about the terms of each President of the United States during the Virginia Dynasty.


  • Pictures of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Access to print/online resources (optional)

Teacher Directions

  • Show the class pictures of the three presidents often referred to as the Virginia Dynasty.
  • Discuss/review important facts and events that occurred during each president's term, such as:
    • Jefferson: First Barbary War, Louisiana Purchase, Lewis/Clark Expedition
    • Madison: War of 1812, burning of the White House, Star Spangled Banner
    • Monroe: Monroe Doctrine, Rush Bagot Treaty, Missouri Compromise
  • Consider creating a timeline on the board to show the progression of events during the Virginia Dynasty. Another option could be to have groups of students use print/online resources to research the important events of one of the Virginia presidents and present their information to the class.
  • Divide the class into pairs, and provide each pair with chart paper and markers.
  • Have each pair design and draw a set of three t-shirts, one for each president in the Virginia Dynasty, that reflect the events of the president's term.
    • Encourage students to think about how they could use words and/or pictures to summarize each person's presidency.
    • For example, for Jefferson, students might make a shirt that says: 'I sent Lewis and Clark on an expedition, and all I got was this t-shirt.'

Discussion Questions

  • Which president of the Virginia Dynasty is your favorite? Why?
  • What important contributions did the presidents of the Virginia Dynasty make to the continued development of the United States?

Land for Settlement

Have students create advertisements to entice people to settle in the Louisiana Territory mapped by Lewis and Clark.


  • Map of the Louisiana Territory
  • Excerpts from the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • Paper
  • Markers/color pencils

Teacher Directions

  • Show students a map of the Louisiana Territory purchased by Thomas Jefferson.
  • Read various excerpts from the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that describe the land, terrain, and adventures of Lewis and Clark.
  • Divide the class into pairs, and provide each pair with paper and markers/colored pencils.
  • Each pair will create an advertisement to encourage people to settle in the Louisiana Territory. Students should include information from the Lewis and Clark journals to help convince settlers to move there.
  • When students are finished, have them share their advertisements with the class.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Thomas Jefferson decided to purchase the Louisiana Territory and send Lewis and Clark on an expedition to map it?
  • How would the United States be different without the Louisiana Territory?

War of 1812 in 18+12 Seconds

Students will summarize the War of 1812 in 18+12 (30) second skits.


  • Timeline of the War of 1812

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