Westward Expansion Dana Marie Brown, Ann Pember, and Derek Vandegrift

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american progress by george crofutt

In the years preceding the U.S.-Mexican War, the United States and Mexico were two nations headed in opposite directions.

The United States, fueled by new technological breakthroughs and inspired by the concept of "Manifest Destiny," confidently expanded its territories westward. The young country was regarded as a "go-ahead" nation, looking forward to a future of seemingly endless possibilities for itself and its people. Meanwhile, Mexico struggled to maintain control over the vast expanses of land it had inherited from Spain following its long war for independence. Lacking the resources to settle much of its territory and suffering from deep internal political divisions, Mexico looked to the past for its sense of meaning, back to a time when "New Spain" had once promised to be the continental power of the New World.

War Overview (1846-1848)the battle of sacramento - currier and ives

Between 1846 and 1848, two neighbors, the United States and Mexico, went to war. It was a defining event for both nations, transforming a continent and forging a new identity for its peoples. By the war's end, Mexico lost nearly half of its territory, the present American Southwest from Texas to California, and the United States became a continental power.

The Aftermath of Warmexican family daguerreotype

Graham Pilecki Collection

The legacy of any important historical event must be measured from many viewpoints. The discussion of the legacy is an on-going process because history, after all, is never final, as succeeding generations confront for themselves the forces and ideas that shape our lives.

The issues raised during the U.S.-Mexican War are ones that are still valid today: the contradiction between stated ideals and actual practice; the distinction between a "just" and an "unjust" war; the ways citizenship is defined and identified in a multicultural society; and the challenges in building progressive and democratic nations.


Inquiry Graphic Organizer

Group Topic: ____________________________

What are American values and interests are at stake in your topic?

  1. Values:

  2. Interests:

How might these values and interests be threatened by going to war with Mexico?






Conclusion: Based on the documents your group analyzed, was going to war with Mexico justified? Did it balance American values and interests for your topic?

Economic Documents

1). Comparing the US and Mexico at the start of the war periodical article from the New Englander

2) Casualties and wounded from the war, both sides:


3). Financial costs of the war, secondary summary


4). Principles of a “just war” from St. Augustine, rules for military combat:


5). Range of statistics for the war


Political Documents

1). Lincoln’s Spot Resolutions


"The war with Mexico was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President"

-Abraham Lincoln

  "The principle of waging war against a neighboring people to compel them to sell their country, is not only dishonorable, but disgraceful and infamous"

-Congressman Alexander Stephens (GA)
2) Polk’s war announcement speech


3). Statue summary of how Congress voted to approve the war


4) Treaty of Hidalgo exert, in English and Spanish.


5). Daniel Webster’s speech against the war with Mexico


I believe it to be a war of pretexts, a war in which the true motive is not distinctly avowed, but in which pretenses, afterthoughts, evasions and other methods are employed to put a case before the community which is not the true case.”

—Daniel Webster, September 1847


Social/Society Documents

1). Maid of Monterary song, from a Mexican woman’s point of view

2). Zachary Taylor for president political cartoon, 1848


3) The Mexican Eagle plucked cartoon


4). The Issue joined political cartoon


5). Speeches of Clay – bran bread is riz cartoon


Military Documents

  1. Army recruitment poster 1848


  1. A sketch of the war hero Zachary Taylor


  1. The Battle of Palto Alto cartoon


  1. Battles of Mexico


Media Documents

  1. Mobile newspaper article about the start of the war


  1. Death of Ringold song


Land Documents

  1. 12 maps of the war with Mexico


2). Map of the United States and Mexico used in the Treaty of Guadalupe


What is Mind Mapping?


Mind mapping is a strategy for helping students order and structure their thinking through mentally mapping words or/and concepts. Mind maps were developed by Tony Buzanas a way of helping students make notes that used only key words and images. They are much quicker to make, and because of their visual quality much easier to remember and review. The difference between concept maps and mind maps is that a mind map has only one main concept, while a concept map may have several.

What is its purpose?

This strategy helps students quickly relate a central word or concept. The mind forms associations almost instantaneously and 'mapping' allows you to write your ideas quicker, using only words or phrases.

How do I do it?

To make a mind map, start in the centre of the page with the main idea, and work outward in all directions, producing a growing and organized structure composed of key words and key images. Key features are:

  • Organization

  • Key Words

  • Association

  • Clustering

  • Visual Memory - Print the key words, use color, symbols, icons, 3D-effects,arrows and outlining groups of words

  • Outstandingness - every Mind Map needs a unique centre

  • Conscious involvement 

Mind Maps help organize information. This can allow students to develop a strategy for note-taking, creative writing, report writing, studying the easy way, studying as a group, meetings, think tanks and can alleviate writer's block.

The Process

  • Teacher models the process with prompted contributions e.g. a mindmap for 'Myself'

  • Children extend their ability to make contributions

  • Children begin to work through the process with increasing independence perhaps with the support of the main/smaller branches

Improving Your Mind Maps

  • Use single words or simple phrases for information

  • Print words

  • Use color to separate different ideas

  • Use of symbols and images

  • Use shapes, circles and boundaries to connect information

  • Use arrows to show cause and effect

mind map 2


1. Start in the Center

2. Add Branches

3. Add Details

4. Personalize it – Draw Pictures, color, size, shapes

CEPA: Westward Expansion

At the end of the unit students will be able to explain how Westward Expansion changed America’s perceptions of themselves and their role in the World.


Students are members of a Committee tasked with the project of creating high quality exhibits for a new museum on Westward Expansion. In addition to being curators of the exhibits, students will be informed critiques of their classmates’/other curators work.

When it comes time for creating the exhibit, students will be given specific roles: Team Leader, Researcher, Secretary, Editor, and Presenter.

Visitors to the Museum will be average tourists and school aged children in addition to content experts and researchers.


With plans to create a Westward Expansion museum, a committee has been formed to identify five quality exhibits on Westward Expansion.


Students will be able to create and present an exhibit for a new Museum on Westward Expansion. In this exhibit students will demonstrate their content knowledge and ability to answer one of the five essential questions in the unit.


Student Handouts:
Plans to launch a “Westward Expansion Museum” are in the works. You are a member of the committee tasked with creating the exhibits for the museum. Your goal is to create an exhibit for visitors giving them an overview of the important people, events, and accomplishments of the time period. The ultimate goal is for visitors (historians and otherwise) to understand how Westward Expansion impacted America’s perception of themselves and the nation’s role in the World.

You will have incredible freedom as you design your exhibits as the committee has not yet decided on formats for these exhibits – members have suggested modes ranging from pamphlets to video presentations. One thing that we do know is that each small group will be responsible for answering one essential question about Expansion in their exhibit.

In order to ensure that the final exhibit proposals will be exemplary, the committee has each small group to produce drafts of their exhibit to present their ideas to another group. Using a peer review form, each group will receive feedback about their proposed exhibit. You will be paired with other groups who have answered the same essential question as you and ultimately advance the best idea for revisions and completion. In total, five exhibits will be featured in the museum.


  1. Form small groups as directed by your teacher.

  2. Select your essential question (randomly) from the following list. This is the “big” question your group will be addressing in your final Museum exhibit.

  • Why do people move?

  • How do geography and topography affect travel and settlement?

  • Why did some survive and prosper in the West while others did not?

  • Who were the winners and who were the losers in the settlement of the West?

  • What happens when cultures collide?

  • How did Westward Expansion change

  1. Use the attached template to outline what your exhibit will look like and include. Be sure to complete each part of the template, as it will assist you in reporting out to the other groups. (Be sure to refer back to any materials you have on Westward Expansion)

  2. Present your proposal to the other groups. Use the Peer Review form to assess the other groups’ outlines. Each group should get between 3 and 5 minutes to pitch their ideas. Remember that you are looking for historical content, aesthetic appeal, and whether the exhibit addressed the Essential Question. At the end of the process, there will be one exhibit that has the greatest potential to attract and inform visitors. Since there are five groups in the class, there will be five exhibits total that are taken to completion. The exhibit that your group chooses during this process will become the shared product of the newly formed group.

  3. Using revisions suggested from the Peer Review forms, implement your group’s exhibit idea to be presented to the whole committee (class). Specific roles for creating your exhibit appear below.

  4. At the conclusion of this project, each group will submit their completed exhibit outline, the peer review form(s) that they received from another group(s), and all materials included in their final exhibit presentation.

Group Roles and Responsibilities

Team Leader

  • Monitors work of other group members. Facilitates discussion and fills in other roles on an “as needed” basis.

  • Expected product(s) to be submitted: written “group report” summarizing group members’ efforts throughout process of exhibit creation, final exhibit

Researcher (2)

  • Locates information to be included in the group’s presentation – both from class notes and beyond.

  • Expected product(s) to be submitted: research notes and works cited list


  • Uses researchers’ notes to create script / presentation. Collaborates with team leader to produce exhibit.

  • Expected product(s) to be submitted: draft script / exhibit


  • Reviews the work of the writer and team leader. Makes necessary edits and revisions. Receives final approval for all changes from team leader.

  • Expected product(s) to be submitted: writer’s draft of exhibit and presenter’s draft “artist’s statement” with evidence of changes / revisions made


  • Prepares “artist’s statement” explaining the choices that the group made while constructing their exhibit to the class.

  • Expected product(s) to be submitted: written “artist’s statement”, class presentation

Westward Expansion Museum – Exhibit Proposal Template

What is the essential question you’ve been assigned to answer?

Which people and events will you include in your exhibit? Why? List your selections and briefly explain why you have chosen each in the space below.



Which artifacts and primary sources will you include in your exhibit? How does each of your selections connect to your essential question?

What format (ex: museum panel, video, computer presentation, etc) have you chosen for your exhibit? Why have you chosen this format?

Expansion Museum Exhibit and Presentation Rubric







Content was consistently appropriate, accurate, and carefully chosen. Information was drawn from multiple, credible sources.

Content was generally appropriate, accurate, and carefully chosen. Information was drawn from more than one credible source.

Content was partially appropriate, accurate, and carefully chosen. Information was drawn from one credible source.

Content was inaccurate or inappropriate. No credible sources were used for information.


Answer to the Essential Question was insightful, clear and effective. Shows a sophisticated understanding of the question.

Answer to the Essential Question was somewhat clear and effective. It shows a general understanding of the question being asked.

Students did not have a clear answer to the Essential Question.

Students did not attempt to answer the essential question.


Exhibit format was appropriate and carefully chosen. Exhibit was aesthetically pleasing, organized, and free of errors.

Exhibit format was appropriate. Exhibit was mostly aesthetically pleasing and organized with few errors.

Exhibit format was not carefully chosen. Exhibit was lacking in organization and included some errors.

The exhibit was not organized and was not aesthetically pleasing.


Exhibit was creative and

original. Showed imaginative design and use of materials.

Exhibit was mostly creative and original. Showed a degree of imaginative design.

Exhibit was lacking in creativity and originality. Did not show imaginative design.

Exhibit was not creative or original.


Pitch was extremely persuasive and gave the audience a clear overview of the exhibit. Presentation of final exhibit was engaging, detailed, and organized. It was, clear and easy to follow.

Pitch was fairly persuasive and gave the audience a somewhat clear overview of the exhibit. Presentation was mostly engaging and organized. It was mostly clear and easy to follow.

Pitch was lacking in persuasive techniques and did not give the audience a clear overview of the exhibit. Presentation was engaging and organized to a limited extent. It was difficult to follow.

Pitch was not persuasive and did not explain the museum exhibit. Presentation was disorganized and difficult to follow.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

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