Standard 1: The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to

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Standards, Benchmarks and Indicators

Virginia and United States History

Standard 1: The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to

  1. Identify, analyze, and interpret primary and secondary source documents, records, and data, including artifacts, diaries, letters, photographs, journals, newspapers, historical accounts, and art to increase understanding of events and life in the United States;

  2. Evaluate the authenticity, authority, and credibility of sources;

  3. Formulate historical questions and defend findings based on inquiry and interpretation;

  4. Develop perspectives of time and place, including the construction of maps and various time lines of events, periods, and personalities in American history;

  5. Communicate findings orally and in analytical essays and/or comprehensive papers;

  6. Develop skills in discussion, debate, and persuasive writing with respect to enduring issues and determine how divergent viewpoints have been addressed and reconciled;

  7. Apply geographic skills and reference sources to understand how relationships between humans and their environment have changed over time;

  8. Interpret the significance of excerpts from famous speeches and other documents.
irginia Standard of Learning VUS.1: Historical Skills and Thinking

Focus Questions:
1. What is the correlation of geography to the study of history?

2. What is the difference between primary and secondary sources?

3. How does analyzing and verifying historical data contribute to interpreting historical events?

4. What are various ways in which one can present historical data?

5. How does the analysis of historical events contribute to decision-making used to solve current problems?
Essential Historical Skills: Students should conduct inquiries and research—acquiring, organizing, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and communicating facts, themes, and general principles operating in American history.

Benchmark 1.1: The student will gather and organize various data and information.

Performance Indicator 1.1

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Use primary and secondary sources, including library and museum collections, diaries, interviews, newspapers, artifacts, historic sites, and electronic technologies such as on-line sources and the Internet.

  2. Use visual, literary, and musical sources, including fine arts, architecture, literature, folk tales, cartoons, and popular and classical music.

  3. Use historical maps to explain geography’s influence on historical events, demonstrating an understanding of basic geographical concepts, such as:

Scale Direction Legend Longitude Latitude Time-zones Map projection Elevation Land forms Map bias Relative location Distribution

  1. Use information organized in a variety of charts, tables, graphs, and graphic organizers.

  2. Use sources of information in the community including interviewing family and community members, inviting speakers to school, visiting local historical sites, and attending cultural events.

  3. Group information in categories according to appropriate criteria and state relationships between categories of information.

Benchmark 1.2: The student will analyze, interpret, and evaluate information and data.

Performance Indicator 1.2

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Read primary and secondary sources to reconstruct the literal meaning of the historical passage by identifying who was involved, what happened, where it happened, why it happened, and what outcomes followed.

  2. Read for a variety of purposes: critically, analytically, to predict outcomes, to answer a question, to form an opinion, to skim for facts, and to draw inferences.

  3. Formulate historical questions based on critical examination of relevant information in order to develop hypotheses, to test the hypotheses, and to construct a thesis about a topic in American history.

  4. Analyze cause and effect relationships, focusing on multiple causations; the importance of the individual in history; the influence of ideas, human interests, and beliefs.

  5. Compare and contrast different accounts of the same event assessing the credibility and authenticity of the sources.

  6. Differentiate between historical facts and interpretation.

  7. Challenge arguments of historical inevitability, recognizing that different choices might have led to different outcomes.

  8. Detect bias in data presented in various forms: graphic, tabular, visual, and print.

  9. Assess differing interpretations historians have written about the past.

Benchmark 1.3: The student will communicate information in various formats.

Performance Indicator 1.3

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Create time lines to demonstrate chronological thinking.

  2. Use a variety of maps to present information.

  3. Present information visually, using a variety of charts, graphs, models, graphic organizers, and illustrations.

  4. Use a variety of electronic technologies, including word processing to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish information; telecommunications and multimedia to communicate historical understandings.

  5. Construct a historical narrative reflecting the origins, development, and outcome of an issue, problem, or event, using a variety of written forms such as:

  • Diaries

    • Letters

    • Journals

    • Parodies

    • Dialogue

    • I-searches

    • Poems

    • Reviews

    • Learning logs

    • Research papers

    • Satire

    • Cartoons

    • Classroom games

    • Songs

    • Research projects

    • Newspaper articles

    • Essays

    • Interviews

  1. Prepare an oral or visual presentation on a topic in American history such as:

    • Speeches

    • Simulations

    • Slide shows

    • Photo essay

    • Dramatizations

    • Posters

    • Graphic organizers

    • Panel discussions

    • Role plays

    • Multimedia presentations

    • Debate

  1. Document information appropriately, including the use of citations, footnotes, or other forms of attribution to demonstrate scholarly integrity.

Benchmark 1.4: The student will apply knowledge of American history to make decisions and to solve problems.

Performance Indicator 1.4

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Identify a situation in which a decision is required.

  2. Secure needed factual information relevant to making the decision.

  3. Recognize the values implicit in historical events and decisions.

  4. Identify alternate courses of action and predict likely consequences of each.

  5. Make decisions based on the data obtained.

  6. Take action to implement the decision.

United States and Virginia History

Historical Overview of Period 1492 – 1760

Standards 2 & 3

The study of United States history begins with an examination of the first people of North America some 30,000 years ago. It is important to discuss briefly the extensive and complex settlement in what Europeans called the “New World.” Students might want to embark on this survey through an examination of the role that geography played in the development of Native American cultures. Students should note the extraordinary linguistic and cultural diversity of Native American societies in the Americas.

After examining Native-American life and culture, students should study the epic events of the late fifteenth century when three worlds met: when Europeans, the inhabitants of North and South America, and the peoples of Africa entered upon an historic encounter that was to shape much of modern history in over half the world. The ensuing exchange of ideas, technology, food, and disease had enormous implications for the world.

The study of the colonial era in United States history is essential for students because the foundations for many of the most crucial developments were established during those years. Without an understanding of the “seed time” of the American nation it is almost impossible for students to understand such important developments as the formation of political institutions and values, the development of economic systems, the multi-ethnic and culturally diverse population of the United States, and the history of slavery and the enduring problems of race that were its legacy.

A brief survey should be made of the English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish colonization. Major emphasis should be placed on the English colonies where new political values and institutions were shaped. The sheer scope of our nation’s colonial history requires that students have a clear focus for instruction—one that may be found using any of the three following themes to concentrate on continuity in the period.

One way to embark upon a study of the colonial period is to carry forward the theme of the coming together of varied peoples and their cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity. An analysis of the social, cultural, and economic similarities and differences among the New England, Middle-Atlantic, and Southern colonies will illustrate the diverse character of settlements that characterized early America.

Another important theme for understanding the colonial era is the pre-revolutionary development of self-government, as shaped during the evolution of civic life, political ideas, and institutions. Special attention should be given to the building blocks of representative government—the New England town meeting and the first elected colonial legislatures.

A third focus for studying the colonial period is an examination of the economic development of the colonies. Colonial economic development is important because the abundance of land, periodic labor shortages, the absence of craft guilds, and the “Protestant work ethic” created wider opportunities for upward mobility. Many colonists nurtured a competitive, entrepreneurial ethos, and a devotion to private property that grew to become part of the American value system.

United States and Virginia History

Virginia Standard of Learning VUS.2: Early Interactions

Standard 2: The student will describe how early European exploration and colonization resulted in cultural interactions among Europeans, Africans, and American Indians (First Americans).

Instructional Time: 1 week

Focus Questions:

1. What were the characteristics of societies in the Americas prior to 1492?

2. What motivated the English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese to explore and to settle colonies in North America and how did it impact their settlements?

3. What were the consequences of the interactions between indigenous societies, Europeans, and Africans?

4. What ideas of representative government and religious toleration did the colonies implement in the new world?

5. What immigrants settled in the colonies and why?


Benchmark 2.1: The student understands reasons for European exploration and colonization.

2.1 Performance Indicators

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Review the technological and commercial advances in Europe that prompted exploration in the Americas.

  2. Compare motives for English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese exploration and colonization (religious freedom, economic opportunity).

  3. Evaluate the course and consequences (diseases and violent conflicts) of the Columbian Exchange on Western Africa, the Americas, and Western Europe.

Benchmark 2.2: The student understands the contacts between Native Americans (First Americans) and European settlers during the Age of Discovery and the pre-colonial period.

2.2 Performance Indicators

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Describe the social composition of the early settlers and compare their various motives for exploration and colonization.

  2. Analyze the relationship among the English colonists, Native Americans, and Africans in the redistribution of the world’s population as millions of people from Europe and Africa voluntarily and involuntarily moved to the New World.

  3. Describe the evolution and long-term consequences of the labor systems such as encomienda and slavery in Spanish and Portuguese America.

  4. Explain and evaluate the Spanish interactions with the Aztecs, Incas, and Pueblos.

  5. Contrast French settlement with British settlement in the New World.

Benchmark 2.3: The student understands the characteristics of early exploration and settlement in the New World.

2.3 Performance Indicators

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Analyze the ideas of representative government in the colonies (“covenant community,” Mayflower Compact, town meetings, direct democracy, House of Burgesses – first democratic assembly elected in New World; today known as the Virginia General Assembly – 1640s)

  2. Compare and contrast the characteristics and motives for settlement in the New England (Puritans), Middle-Atlantic (English, Dutch, and German immigrants), and Southern Colonies (Virginia “cavaliers,” Jamestown - 1607, Virginia Company of London, Shenandoah Valley or western Virginia).

C. Compare and contrast indentured servitude and slavery in the British colonies.

United States and Virginia History

Virginia Standard of Learning VUS.3: Colonial Beginnings

Standard 3: The student will describe how the values and institutions of European economic life took root in the colonies and how slavery reshaped European and African life in the Americas.

Instructional Time: 1 week

Focus Questions:

  1. What were the social, cultural, and economic similarities and differences among the New England, Middle Atlantic, and Southern colonies?

  2. How did political institutions and ideas about religious freedom evolve in the North American colonies?

  3. Why was slavery introduced into the colonies and how did it influence European and African life in the colonies?

  4. How did slave labor and indentured servant labor systems differ?


Benchmark 3.1: The student understands the economic characteristics and social developments of the New England, Middle-Atlantic, and Southern colonies.

3.1 Performance Indicators

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Identify the impact of geographic features on the political, economic, and social developments in the colonies.

  2. Analyze the motivation for colonization and the influences of these motives on the patterns of settlement (the establishment of private ownership and free enterprise in colonial life).

  3. Explain the economic relationship between the mother country (England and Spain) and its colonies (mercantilism).

  4. Compare the economic and labor systems in the New England colonies (shipbuilding, fishing, lumbering, small-scale subsistence farming), Middle colonies (shipbuilding, small-scale farming, and trading among middle class artisans and business owners), and Southern colonies (plantations, “cash crops”—tobacco, rice, indigo, Appalachian subsistence farming, hunting, and trading).

  5. Describe religious groups in the colonies and the role of religion in colonial communities, including: Puritans (Massachusetts; Puritan work ethic; religious intolerance), Quakers (Pennsylvania; religious tolerance), Catholics (Maryland; religious tolerance), and the Church of England or Anglican Church (Virginia).

  6. Identify the growth of colonial cities (seaports and commercial centers) such as New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

Benchmark 3.2: The student understands social and cultural change in British America.

3.2 Performance Indicators

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Explain how and why family and community life differed in various regions of colonial North America.

  2. Explain the reasons for settlement of Rhode Island (religious dissenters fleeing persecution by Puritans in Massachusetts).

  3. Analyze how Enlightenment ideas of 17th and 18th centuries influenced American political and cultural values.

  4. Explain the impact of the mid-18th century series of religious revivals, the Great Awakening (Methodists and Baptists), on colonial society in the justification for the American Revolution.

  5. Compare and contrast in the New England colonies with the Middle-Atlantic and Southern colonies (family status, education, social structure and land ownership).

Benchmark 3.3: The student understands how the development of indentured servitude and slavery influenced European and African life in the colonies.

3.3 Performance Indicators

Students reach this benchmark when they are able to:

  1. Analyze the forced relocation of Africans to the English colonies in North America and the Caribbean (Middle Passage).

  2. Identify the changing status of Africans and African-Americans in the American colonies after their first arrival in Jamestown (1619).

  3. Explain why the slave labor system in many of the colonies resulted from plantation economies and labor shortages.

  4. Compare and contrast indentured servants (poor people from England, Scotland, and Ireland) and slaves (enslaved people from Africa and the Caribbean).

  5. Analyze how a slavery-based agricultural economy in the Southern colonies would lead to the Civil War.

  6. Analyze the impact of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia (1676).

United States and Virginia History

Historical Overview of Period 1760 – 1790

Standards 4 & 5

The American Revolution is of single importance to the study of United States history for the light it sheds for students on a major theme in history: the long struggle for liberty, equality, justice, and dignity. The American Revolution severed the colonial relationship with England and created the United States of America. The revolutionary generation laid the institutional foundations for the system of government under which the United States is governed. The Revolution, inspired by the ideas concerning natural rights and political authority that were transatlantic in nature, affected people and governments over a large part of the globe in what has been called “the age of democratic revolution.”

A study of the American Revolution has a natural starting point in the Seven Years’ War. This contest for empire removed France from North America, reducing the colonists’ need for England’s protection. The war prepared a group of political and military leaders to play roles on a larger stage and gave the colonists a sense of confidence in themselves. England’s decision to maintain troops in the colonies after the war and to make colonists bear part of the cost of the war began to drive a wedge between England and her North American colonies.

In studying the decade preceding the American Revolution students should be able to trace the political and constitutional rights invoked by those colonists who debated and protested English policies. Students should discern the connection between revolutionary ideals and the economic interests of different groups such as Virginia tobacco planters, New England merchants, and urban artisans. Some of the drama of the period can be brought to life by exploring the character, thought, and political theatre of the various leaders and polemists such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and Samuel Adams.

The Revolutionary Era lends itself to developing a respect for the power of ideas in history, how they originate, how they are shaped over time, and how they are expressed at particular moments of crisis to promote and channel the forces of change.

The Revolution changed the ways Americans thought, acted, and ordered their institutions. Students should be able to draw up a rough balance sheet that indicates to what extent different groups in society accomplished their goals and to what extent compromises were made.

Students should study how the rebellious colonists established new governments and they should understand the political principles upon which they built government anew. A thoughtful study of the Declaration of Independence will become a touchstone for the survey that follows. Students should also examine the powers allowed the central government and the powers reserved to the states under the Articles of Confederation.

The study of nation building in the generation after 1783 is important for students to understand the creation and ratification of the United States Constitution and the evolution of the political democracy it established. Students should examine the fundamental ideas underpinning the political vision of the nation’s eighteenth century founders expressed in the Constitution, the debates over ratification, and the Bill of Rights. The debate over the Constitution’s ratification is equally absorbing and important. To study the ratification debates in Virginia, where Madison and Randolph debated Henry and Mason, is to open windows to the politically sophisticated political discourse of this era. Students gain an understanding of both the fluidity and uncertainty of those early years and the sharp division of opinion at the very time the United States was struggling to define itself.

United States and Virginia History

Standard 4: The student will demonstrate knowledge of events and issues of the Revolutionary Period by

  1. Analyzing how the political ideas of John Locke and those expressed in Common Sense helped shape the Declaration of Independence;

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