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Unit Plans

Need new ideas on how to teach American history? Search our database of plans to discover plans aligned to  Common Core Standards and the Pennsylvania State Standards (SAS).    Big Ideas, Essential Question, Concepts and Competencies are outlined for you. 

Unit plans link to lesson plans that fit class periods.  Each lesson includes learning objectives, vocabulary, and background material for students and teachers as well as primary sources from our collection.



This unit explores the work and life of Leonard Covello and discusses themes related to the ethnic and immigrant history of the United Stated during the early twentieth century. Covello was an Italian-born American who dedicated his life to implement strategies for cultural integration.

Middle School, High School
8.1.U.A , 8.1.U.C

Emilie Davis was a free black woman living in Philadelphia during the Civil War. Her three diaries, written in 1863, 1864, and 1865, highlight her perspective on many important historical moments, such as, the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s assassination, and the Battle of Gettysburg. Comparing her diaries to other accounts and sources from the same time period will allow students to see the world in which that Emilie lived. As a woman in her early twenties, she was concerned with her personal goals, friends, and daily routines.

High School
8.1.6A, 8.1.7A-B

The American Revolution is commonly perceived as the tale of thirteen fed-up colonies banding together to defeat the tyranny of Great Britain, but is this really how it happened?  In the traditional narrative, Loyalists and women are few and far between, and there is no mention of the daily lives that continued during the conflict.

Middle School, High School
8.1.9.A-B, 8.3.9.A-B, 8.2.9B

Catholicism has a long and noteworthy history in Philadelphia, from the first recorded Mass celebrated in 1707 to the 200 parishes established between 1844 and 1924 and the founding of our nation’s first seminary. It is estimated that currently 35 percent of the population of greater Philadelphia are baptized Catholic, making Catholicism the single largest religious denomination in the area. Now, as the location of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, all eyes are on Philadelphia as it welcomes Pope Francis.

High School
8.4.4.B, 8.4.6.B, 8.4.8.B
Capitalism and the American nation have long been bedfellows; after all, they are both the children of eighteenth century Neo-Classical Liberalism.  It is worth noting that both the “Declaration of Independence” and Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” were presented to the public in the same fateful year of 1776. 
High School
8.1.12.A, 8.1.12.B, 8.1.12.C, 8.1.12.D, 8.3.12.B

The Bank of North America: Our Nation’s First Central Bank, is comprised of three lessons that work as an interdisciplinary unit on economic history, math, and financial literacy. The lessons in this unit take students through the history of the bank, how to use a bank, and the history of our currency. It follows the financial literacy standards for the 4th and 8th grade benchmark, although the history and economics activities can be adapted for all grade levels.

Grade School, Middle School
8.3.5.B, 8.3.9.B, M3.A.1.2.1, M4.A.1.1.1, M5.A.1.5.1

Throughout the history of our country, immigration has been a much debated and heated issue. From the “Irish Need Not Apply” signs, to the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the current issues surrounding illegal immigration, our nation has not always welcomed immigrants with open arms. This unit will explore attitudes towards immigration in the 19th century and encourage students to explore the similarities and differences between them and present-day attitudes and polices about immigration. 

Middle School, High School
8.1.8.B, 8.3.8.D

Observing science textbooks of the 1800s gives students the opportunity to learn the historical roots of their scientifical lessons. One way to accomplish this lesson is through botany. The following lesson combines history with language arts and science in order to learn the parts of a plant, poetry, and how to create a herbarium using 19th century textbooks specifically designed for women.

Middle School
8.3.6-8A, 8.3.6-8B, 1.4.6-8A, 3.1.6A5

Political cartoons were a popular source of information during the Civil War and created an excellent way to disperse a political or social opinion to a wide audience. The Lesson in this Unit features almost twenty political cartoons ranging from 1860-1868 that capture the spirit of the Civil War and help students to learn the multiple opinions and perspectives of those living through it.

High School
8.1.5A, 8.1.9A, 8.1.12B & C, 8.3.9C & D

The Lesson in this Unit discusses the Progressive Era from the late 1890’s through the 1912 Presidential Election. The political cartoons provided allow students to analyze opinions  and economic changes that took place. 

High School
8.1.12A, 8.1.12C, 8.3.9B