Eighth Grade Social Studies

The United States Through Reconstruction

Unit 1: Revolution in the Colonies
Toward Independence
When is it necessary for citizens to rebel against their government?
Activity: Response Group. Students participate in a series of colonial town meetings to debate whether to rebel against British rule. In the process, they evaluate the events that deeply divided the American colonists and eventually caused them to rebel against the British government.

The Declaration of Independence
What principles of government are expressed in the Declaration of Independence?
Activity: Writing for Understanding. Students learn about key events leading up to the writing of the Declaration of Independence and, in a Writing for Understanding activity, analyze key excerpts of the Declaration and the principles of government they express.

The American Revolution
How was the Continental army able to win the war for independence from Great Britain?
Activity: Experiential Exercise. Students participate in a game of Capture the Flag. They compare their experience to the determining factors of the war for independence from Great Britain—examining the strengths and weaknesses of each side, important battles, and other key factors in the conflict—to determine how the British were defeated.

Unit 2: Forming a New Nation
Creating the Constitution
Activity: Experiential Exercise. Students examine the factors that led to the creation of a stronger central government under the U.S. Constitution by re-creating a key debate from the Constitutional Convention.

The Constitution: A More Perfect Union
How has the Constitution created “a more perfect Union”?
Activity: Social Studies Skill Builder. Students explore the key features and guiding principles of the U.S. Constitution by assuming the role of law students taking a final exam on the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights
What freedoms does the Bill of Rights protect and why are they important?
Activity: Response Group. Students learn about the important rights and freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights by analyzing a series of scenarios to determine whether the Bill of Rights protects certain actions taken by citizens.

Unit 3: Launching the New Republic
Political Developments in the Early Republic
How did the Federalist and Republican visions for the United States differ?
Activity: Experiential Exercise. Students compare Federalist and Republican visions for the United States by taking on the roles of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson to debate the main issues that divided the two groups.

Foreign Affairs in the Young Nation
To what extent should the United States have become involved in world affairs in the early 1800s?
Activity: Response Group. Students assume the roles of foreign policy advisers to early presidents to evaluate the extent to which the country should have become involved in world affairs

A Growing Sense of Nationhood
What did it mean to be an American in the early 1800s?
Activity: Writing for Understanding. Students visit an art exhibit, cotillion, and literary gathering to experience American culture in the early 1800s. They then create a chapter of a book describing what it meant to be an American in this period.

Andrew Jackson and the Growth of American Democracy
How well did President Andrew Jackson promote democracy?
Activity: Visual Discovery. Students analyze and bring to life images of key events in the presidency of Andrew Jackson to evaluate how well he promoted democracy.

Unit 4: An Expanding Nation
Manifest Destiny and the Growing Nation
How justifiable was U.S. expansion in the 1800s?
Activity: Response Group. Students re-create each territorial acquisition of the 1800s and then evaluate whether the nation’s actions were justifiable.

Life in the West
What were the motives, hardships, and legacies of the groups that moved west in the 1800s?
Activity: Problem Solving Groupwork. Students create and perform minidramas about eight groups of people who moved to the West in the 1800s to explore these people’s motives for moving, the hardships they faced, and the legacies they left behind for future generations.

Unit 5: Americans in the Mid-1800s
An Era of Reform
To what extent did the reform movements of the mid-1800s improve life for Americans?
Activity: Response Group. Students examine the reform movements of the mid-1800s to evaluate to what extent they improved life for Americans. In a Response Group activity, they debate the extent to which grievances from the Declaration of Sentiments have been redressed today.

The Worlds of North and South
How was life in the North different from life in the South?
Activity: Visual Discovery. Students analyze and bring to life images from the mid-1800s to compare the different ways of life in the North and the South.

African Americans in the Mid-1800s
How did African Americans face slavery and discrimination in the mid-1800s?
Activity: Writing for Understanding. Students analyze quotations and examine images to discover how African Americans faced slavery and discrimination in the mid-1800s. They then create a journal describing some of the experiences of a slave in the period.

Unit 6: The Union Challenged
A Dividing Nation
Which events of the mid-1800s kept the nation together and which events pulled it apart?
Activity: Visual Discovery. Students analyze and bring to life images depicting the growing conflict between the North and the South to understand why the nation could not prevent civil war.

The Civil War
What factors and events influenced the outcome of the Civil War?
Activity: Experiential Exercise. Students take on the role of soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg and encounter key aspects of what it was like to be a soldier in the Civil War and then write about their experiences.

The Reconstruction Era
To what extent did Reconstruction bring African Americans closer to full citizenship?
Activity: Visual Discovery. Students analyze primary source images to evaluate how close African Americans came to full citizenship during Reconstruction.

Other Resources

State Social Studies Grade Level Content Expectations for Eighth Grade 384kb PDF externallink.gif

 

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