Westward Movement


In this lesson, students will learn about many of the events that impacted the Westward Movement. They will learn about the Lewis and Clark expedition and about the Northwest Territory. They will discover facts about the Wild West and the outlaws Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok. Apart from significant historical figures, they’ll also learn about the Gold Rush in California.

Students will have many opportunities to be creative during this lesson. Through the activity, they’ll get to draw maps the states and territories from different periods. The activity requires memory work as they try to locate the right states. And at the end, students will write a story as if part of the Westward Movement themselves!

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What the Westward Movement lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: This lesson introduces the Westward Movement and its impact on the United States. It dives into several key events leading to expansion. It also explains why people wanted to expand in the first place. Students will learn which states became a part of America during this time. They will understand how this movement displaced Native Americans. While this lesson is brief, there are supplemental lessons that expound on the topic.

Students will learn about the Wild West in this lesson as well. They will discuss Daniel Boone, the California Gold Rush, and the Mexican-American War. Additionally, they’ll use maps to chart states according to when they joined the United States. They’ll later have to answer questions about individual states and territories. This will require some memory work as they recall the information they learned.

Specific topics in the lesson include the Northwest Territory and the concept of Manifest Destiny. Students will discover that territories were not the same as states. In fact, some territories, such as the Northwest Territory, became several states. They will also learn that people supported the Westward Movement for several reasons. One was their belief in Manifest Destiny, or their God-given right to explore the West.


The activity gives students the chance to share their knowledge through several maps. The worksheet provides a list of the 48 adjoining states. Students will identify and label the states added to the Union during certain periods. For instance, they will label the 13 original colonies/states on one map. On the next map, they will use the list to determine which states joined between 1791 and 1796. There is a total of seven maps. If you want, you can have students work on the activity in pairs. You could also require them to draw their own maps from scratch.


For the practice, students will identify and label each state by its territory. The list on the worksheet only contains 27 of the 48 adjoining states. They will also have to answer questions based on what they learned during the lesson. There are 16 total questions for them to answer.


The homework assignment requires students to do research using the internet or other resources. Students will write a story from the perspective of a settler heading west. They will need to identify traits of the period and people to ensure accuracy. There is a lot of room for students to write and show their creativity.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies

State Educational Standards

NCSS.D2.GEO.7.3-5, NCSS.D2.GEO.8.3-5, NCSS.D2.GEO.9.3-5, NCSS.D2.HIS.2.6-8

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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Westward Expansion

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