Whether you’re a school teacher or a parent who teaches your children at home, lessons in American history are key to any child’s learning.
From Christopher Columbus to George Washington, an understanding of American history helps to educate kids on what it really means to be American.
And to help you deliver the best history lessons possible, we’ve included ready-to-print worksheets on each historical topic throughout — so that you’ve got all the resources you need to be ready for the classroom.
Let’s get started!
American history for kids: Native American history and Christopher Columbus
From learning about why we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day to understanding Jefferson’s Westward Expansion, lessons and worksheets on Native American History are key to teaching students how America came to be.
Filled with expeditions and revolutions, Native American History is a period that formed the very foundation of the USA — plus, it’s a topic that can quickly capture a child’s imagination in the classroom.
But how should you educate young students on what is an expansive, and very complex, period of history?
The key is to deliver lessons that are fun, interactive and relevant to who you’re teaching.
Christopher Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of America, for example, is sure to excite any adventurous group of kids. And as well as asking students to complete worksheets on his era, why not set up a treasure trail in your class to really involve them in the journey of Columbus?
You could also get kids to role-play notable ceremonies, events or celebrations from Native tribes, too. Combine this with our worksheets on Iroquois, Seminole, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, and you’ll have a class of native experts in no time!
Of course, there are some more somber moments of history to cover in this era.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830, where American Indians were forced from their homes, held in concentration-type camps and then made to travel over 1,000 miles, is an important event to discuss — but it needn’t be a disheartening lesson to plan. Instead, try rewriting history by tasking your class role-play key decision-makers and tribe leaders, with the aim of finding a peaceful and fair resolution for all involved.
Get creative and have some fun — it’ll really pay off!
American history for kids: the First Settlers and Thanksgiving Day
The history of the first settlers in America is a great way of teaching children the origin of country-wide traditions, and the values that underpin American culture today.
For example, if it wasn’t for the first Pilgrims who traveled to Massachusetts in 1620, Thanksgiving Day may not have ever been.
Having traveled on the Mayflower across the Atlantic, only half of the Pilgrims made it to America and survived the winter. Thankful to be alive, the surviving Pilgrims celebrated their new life and the help of the local indigenous people with what is now known as the first Thanksgiving meal in American history.
And to really get your class thinking about what the first settlers risked — and what it took to build their own communities — you could also ask your students to think about what they are thankful for, and what they love most about where they live.
This is a great way of teaching the origin of American culture in a context that’s relevant, fun and educational, whilst keeping your lessons tied closely to your students’ lives.
American history for kids: The Colonial Period, The American Revolutionary War, and George Washington
Lessons on the colonial period of American history are an important part of any child’s curriculum, and help educate kids about the importance of American democracy.
After rejecting British control, the thirteen colonies started the American Revolutionary War in 1775 to fight for independence. Ending in 1783, the war ultimately led to the establishment of the United States of America, freeing the colonies from British rule and giving them the freedom of self-determination.
The key to teaching this period effectively is to explain how each of these topics coincided to create the USA as we know it today.
For example, when teaching the American Revolution, it will help to point out how George Washington became the country’s first President, after successfully freeing the colonies as Commander-in-Chief in the war. This will help your students understand the concept behind the Founding Fathers, and how America came to be.
It’s also important to explain that we celebrate the Fourth of July as an anniversary of when, in 1776, the thirteen colonies started the foundations of an independent USA.
By drawing back to something that is relevant to a kid’s life today, you’ll be able to teach American History in the most engaging way possible.
American history for kids: The Confederation Era, The Bill of Rights, and The Industrial Revolution
The 1770-1780s were a critical period for the USA, a time when the country began to define itself as its own political entity and create a model of democracy that would later be emulated around the world. As such, teaching your students the importance of this era is key to helping them understand our country’s history.
So what’s the best way to teach this busy era to kids?
Well, we think it helps to divide this era into three, key sections.
Firstly, you’ll want to talk about The Confederation Era — a pivotal period in American history that defined the US after declaring its independence from Britain.
With our worksheets on the Confederacy, it’s important to teach your students how increasing tension and debate around black slavery ultimately led in the ratification of the US constitution. This, in turn, established a powerful, unified national government, like the one we know today (albeit after a long and grueling period of civil war).
Secondly, you should teach your students how The Bill of Rights created a precedent for protecting the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. This is key to the values that underpin American culture today.
And thirdly, defining this era of American history, worksheets on the Industrial Revolution will help your students understand how manufacturing changed American life forever.
If your class has ever traveled by train, in the US or any other country, they’ll be fascinated to learn about the first transcontinental railroad, built in 1862. Before this, travelers would take a six-month sea voyage to travel from coast to coast. It’s hard to imagine now, isn’t it?
As well as using our worksheets, you should also make your lessons as interactive as possible. Why not ask your students what rules they might instill if they were writing the Constitution today? Or ask them to bring in their favorite objects from home, which may have roots way back in the Industrial Revolution?
This will help your class understand the importance of this pivotal era in American history.
American history for kids: modern American history (WW2, Black History Month, civil rights and equality)
Whilst the first centuries of America should form the basis of any American history syllabus for kids, it’s important your class understands how modern history has profoundly changed the USA over the past one hundred years.
Our worksheets on Pearl Harbor, for example, will help you to teach your students how America’s role in World War II unified the country and led the United States into becoming the world power it is today.
In terms of the history of civil rights, it’s vital that your students learn of how iconic figures like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and Malcolm X transformed American society for minority groups.
To build on your class’s developing sense of right and wrong, and injustice and fairness, it’s important to come up with fun ways to engage the kids on a level they can really connect to. You can use our worksheets on the civil rights movement as a foundation, and then plan interactive lessons using other resources you have at your disposal.
For example, getting your class to relate the civil rights movement to popular culture today will help them understand how far American society has developed. Completing worksheets on modern figures like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and even Beyonce is a great way of making connections for a young audience. You could even use YouTube video clips from films like Hidden Figures, The Butler, and The Help (just make sure you check the film’s rating certification before you do!).
Ready for the classroom?
We hope this article has helped you prepare for your lessons on American history for kids. If you stick to the facts, keep it relevant and have some fun, you’ll deliver a lesson that we’re sure your students will love.
And don’t forget to check out our other worksheets on American history and more, by clicking here. Good luck!
P.S. If you’re teaching older students (ages 11-18) why not check out School History? It’s packed with history resources for middle and high school students following UK and International curriculum. Take a look at its American History category for ideas.
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