Spanish-American War Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

This lesson plan will give you the tools to make sure that your students remember the salient points of the Spanish-American War without having to resort to using Yellow Journalism.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson your students will be able to do the following:

  • Identify the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War.
  • Explain how media, especially yellow journalism, can manipulate events to their desired outcome


30-40 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Terms

By the end of this lesson, students should be comfortable with the following terms:

  • Imperialism
  • Yellow Journalist
  • Jingo
  • Rough Riders
  • Buffalo Soldiers


Play the video The Spanish-American War: Causes, Goals, & Results, pausing for discussion of the following questions. During the video, encourage students to be on the lookout for the aforementioned key terms, taking notes on them as appropriate.

  • 4:00 - Do you think that had Spain acquiesced to American demands that the American public would have accepted a settlement without war and without new territories? Why or why not? What role did yellow journalism have in swaying public opinion?
  • 5:34 - Why do you think that Cuba's proximity to the United States made it so easy for the United States to win this war?


  • Break your class into 4 groups and have them practice being either objective or yellow journalists!
  • Assign each group a perspective of either being objective or being a yellow journalist.
  • The four groups will be as follows:
  • Yellow Journalists covering bombing of the USS Maine
  • Objective journalists covering bombing of the USS Maine
  • Objective journalists covering the atrocities committed towards Cubans by the Spanish
  • Yellow Journalists covering the atrocities committed towards Cubans by the Spanish
  • Give the groups 15 minutes to work out their newspaper stories, then ask each group to present. Afterwards, discuss what separated the styles of yellow journalism and objective journalism.


  • Ask students to compare the pro-war sentiment held before the Spanish-American War to that held before the Mexican War. Also, compare the new conquered territories. What was the United States gaining from each?
  • Discuss the Spanish-American War in terms of the Monroe Doctrine. Was it really that legal?
  • Find translations of the short stories from the Generation of '98, the Spanish writers who felt that their empire and world-standing taken away from them. How does this compare to the American narrative?
  • Have students compare the territories of the United States in 1897 to those in 1899 by using maps. What changed? Where does the United States now have more territory? Consider making copies of blank world maps and having students make new maps of the U.S. and its territories.

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