Ch 1: First Contacts: AP US History Lesson Plans

About This Chapter

The First Contacts chapter of this course is designed to help you plan and teach about the early peoples of North America in your classroom. The video lessons, quizzes and transcripts can easily be adapted to provide your lesson plans with engaging and dynamic educational content. Make planning your course easier by using our syllabus as a guide.

Weekly Syllabus

Below is a sample breakdown of the First Contacts chapter into a 5-day school week. Based on the pace of your course, you may need to adapt the lesson plan to fit your needs.

DayTopicsKey Terms and Concepts Covered
MondayNative Americans: origins and civilizationRoots and characteristics of Native American culture and society
TuesdayMesoamerican civilizations Culture and society in present-day Central America and Mexico, the Olmecs and the explorations of Cortes
WednesdayIncan civilization Life in Pre-Columbian South America and the explorations of Pizzaro
ThursdayConsequences of European colonization Christopher Columbus, purpose of European exploration and Old World-New World relationships
FridayNew Spain and the Columbian exchangeTransfer of culture, crops, disease and other elements from the Old World to the New World; Spanish colonies and long-term consequences of intercontinental contact

7 Lessons in Chapter 1: First Contacts: AP US History Lesson Plans
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas

1. Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas

Because the first humans and civilizations got their start in Africa and the Middle East, historians and anthropologists have had to figure out how Native Americans got to the Americas. In this lesson we look at the three prevailing theories of the earliest migration to the New World.

Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes

2. Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes

This lesson focuses on the early cultures of Mesoamerica. The Olmec, Maya, and Aztecs developed great civilizations in Mesoamerica over millennia. Then, after all of this development and the building of a great empire, the Aztec were quickly defeated by Hernando Cortes.

The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America

3. The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America

The Incan Empire was an amazing empire of the early Americas. Their accomplishments rival those of many other great empires, but they were defeated by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in only a few years.

Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans

4. Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans

Watch this video for an overview of the cultural groups of Native Americans as they lived at the time of first contact with Europeans. Some of these groupings, like the tribes of the plains, changed so much due to the addition of European influences, such as horses, that there is only conjecture as to how exactly they lived before European contact.

Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans

5. Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans

The earliest explorers in the Western Hemisphere left a legacy that would shape the development of the Americas permanently. No matter what they came looking for, Europeans left behind death, horses, and metal.

New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies

6. New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies

Who are the most well-known explorers and conquistadors of the New World? In this lesson, we'll look at some of the most infamous explorers. We'll discover the difference between explorers and conquistadors, and then learn about the encomienda system.

The Columbian Exchange

7. The Columbian Exchange

The Columbian Exchange is a term used to denote the world-changing exchange of agricultural goods, slave labor, diseases, and ideas between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres that occurred after the year 1492 CE.

Chapter Practice Exam
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Practice Final Exam
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Other Chapters

Other chapters within the AP US History Syllabus Resource & Lesson Plans course

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