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Westward Expansion After the Civil War

Grade Level Grades 3-8
Standards Alignment
Common Core State Standards


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Westward Expansion After the Civil War focuses on the causes and effects of the westward movement of Americans in the later 1800s, which often led to conflict with Native Americans displaced from lands they had long inhabited. Students learn how the prospect of gold or silver lured many adventurers westward, while millions of settlers were drawn by the Homestead Act, which Congress passed to encourage western settlement. Students consider how transcontinental railroads accelerated the settlement of the West by providing transportation for people and goods and opening new agricultural markets. Students explore the myths and realities of cowboy life and the “Wild West.” Students learn how the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, which provided the nation with a vast territory teeming with wildlife and rich in natural resources. Students also consider the late-nineteenth century idea of the “closing of the American frontier.” The material incorporates a rich array of civics-focused knowledge, questions, and activities. In choosing the specific content to call to teachers’ and students’ attention, we have been guided by the civics test developed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

This unit includes a Student Reader, Timeline Image Cards, and Teacher Guide, providing Guided Reading Supports and the following Additional Activities: analysis of art and literature from the 1800s, including Emily Dickinson’s poetry and the art of Currier & Ives; analysis of cowboy songs; domain vocabulary exercises; videos about the Buffalo soldiers; a nonfiction excerpt about Annie Oakley; and a Unit Assessment.


Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.
Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.


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