Spanish-American War


The Spanish-American War lesson plan explores the events and reasoning that led to the Spanish-American War, the main events and people of the war, and the results and impact of the war across the world.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to assign a country (Spain, Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, or Cuba) to each student to research and present to the class.

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What our Spanish-American War lesson plan includes

Lesson Objective and Overview: Spanish-American War explores the events and reasoning that led to the Spanish-American War, the main events and people of the war, and the results and impact of the war across the world. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify the reasons for the Spanish-American War, the main events and people of the war, and the results and impact of the war. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. 

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One optional addition to this lesson is to assign a country (Spain, Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, or Cuba) to each student to research and present to the class. You can also have your students draw detailed maps of their assigned country, identifying the capital and other large cities on the map. Finally, you can assign the homework assignment as in-class work instead.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War lesson plan includes two content pages. The Spanish-American War, fought between Spain and America from April 25, 1898 to August 12, 1898, lasted just three and a half months. These countries fought this war mostly over Cuba’s independence. At this time, Cuba was one of Spain’s colonies, as were the Philippines. Cuban revolutionaries had been fighting for their independence for years. Lots of Americans favored Cuba’s independence. They wanted the U.S. to help the Cuban revolutionaries.

President William McKinley sent a battleship, the Maine, to protect the American citizens and the interests of the U.S. However, the ship sank in an explosion in the Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898. Many Americans suspected Spain’s involvement in the explosion and pressured McKinley to declare war against Spain. This was the beginning of the Spanish-American War on April 25, 1898.

The U.S. attacked Spanish battleships in the Philippines to try to stop them from traveling to Cuba. The Battle of Manilla took place on May 1st. The U.S. Navy beat the Spanish Navy easily and took control of the Philippines.

Rough Riders

During this war, a new type of volunteer soldier began: the Rough Riders. They were ranchers, cowboys, and outdoorsmen led by future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. They traveled on foot because they could not bring their horses to Cuba.

The U.S. fought the Spanish in the Battle of San Juan Hill. During this battle, a small Spanish force stopped the U.S. from advancing. They killed many U.S. troops. The U.S. gained back the advantage, however, when the Rough Riders appeared.

The final battle of this war was the Battle of Santiago. It took place in the city of Santiago, where U.S. soldiers took over the city and the U.S. Navy destroyed Spanish ships. The Spanish troops surrendered on July 17th.

The fighting stopped about a month later, on August 12th. Both sides signed a formal peace treaty, the Treaty of Paris, on December 19, 1898. This treaty gave Cuba its independence. Spain also gave up its control of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the U.S. for $20 million.

Today, few historians believe that the Spanish caused the sinking of the battleship Maine. At that time, some U.S. newspapers reported incorrect facts to the citizens of the U.S., who then pressured the U.S. to go to war with Spain. We now call this kind of reporting, when facts are incomplete or changed, “Yellow Journalism”.

The Spanish-American War lasted only a few months but had a big impact on the United States, Cuba, Guam, the Philippine Islands, and Spain.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Cuba: Former colony of Spain
  • The Maine: The battleship sent by President McKinley; exploded in 1898
  • Rough Riders: Volunteer soldiers during the Spanish-American War
  • Theodore Roosevelt: Leader of the Rough Riders; future President
  • Battle of San Juan Hill: A battle in Cuba
  • Battle of Santiago: The final battle of the war
  • The Treaty of Paris: Treaty that ended the war; gave Cuba its independence
  • Yellow Journalism:


The Spanish-American War lesson plan includes two worksheets: an activity worksheet and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


The activity worksheet asks students to find, shade, and label Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands on the maps printed on the worksheet. They will also label the bodies of water and continents on each map.

Students can also work in pairs to complete the activity.


For the homework assignment, students will answer 17 questions about the lesson material.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies

State Educational Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.10

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Spanish American War

I liked it because it explained things using kid-friendly language and gave more of an overview than too many details for fifth grade.

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Spanish American War

I haven't used it yet. But I reviewed it and it looks very good.

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Spanish-American War

This was a great resource


5th Grade Spanish American War Lesson Plan - Just What I Needed!

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