I put together an outline for eighth grade American History and decided to share it in hopes it will help other mothers. History can be some of the hardest blocks to put together for several reasons: because there is so much, because we are trying to teach through themes and biographies which is different than the way we were taught in school, and because we are trying to bring in light in the darkness of some of these time periods for our children in the upper grades of six through eight.
We did Colonial history and American independence in seventh grade, so I picked up with Native Americans in the opening of this block. I wanted to paint a picture of our country with its First Nations, and how these changes were affecting these nations. Since we live in an area of the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears, I wanted to use a different Native American group to show that what happened in our area was not isolated. I chose the Navajo and the Long Walk. We began with Navajo poetry and the book “Sing Down the Moon” by Scott O’Dell. We really worked with this book from a literary analysis kind of perspective. From there, we went to the biography of Thomas Jefferson – what did he look like? what did his contemporaries say about him? what was important to him? what were his interests? We studied the Louisiana Purchase, and the journey of Lewis and Clark and the biographies of Lewis, Clark, York and Sacajawea. Our main read aloud was Burchac’s “Sacajawea”.
From there we moved into Westward Expansion, the Erie Canal and the Golden Age of Canals (the Erie Canal was not the only canal!!), the steamboat. From there we looked at Texas – how did Texas form as an independent Republic, biographies of famous Texans of this time period, The Mexican –American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe and why this was important.
We reviewed the ideas of Manifest Destiny and how the brief Pony Express still captures the minds of Americans. Wae looked at Sutter’s Mill and the California Gold Rush (the first major gold rush in the US actually was here in the Southeast and not too far north of where we live so we have been there to look at things), how this impacted the Native American population and we looked at how this lead to things like the race for faster ships and then the growth of the clipper ships and whaling industry in the Northeast. Then we looked at general technological advances, mainly through the biography of Eli Whitney and the cotton gin and how this only increased and entrenched slavery in the south and led to immigration in the North (although we also talked about the telegraph, John Deere, the vulcanization of rubber, etc) I talked about some of the resources and things we are doing in our Civil War studies in the back posts where I recap every few weeks what we have done in eighth grade.
So we are essentially looking at all the events leading up to the Civil War, the biography of Abraham Lincoln and some of the famous Africans who struggled for freedom, the Underground Railroad, and then specifically at the battles and course of the war through the biographies of Lee, Grant and Sherman. Then to reconstruction, the 13th and 14th Amendments, and biographies to compare and contrast Booker T. Washington and WEB DuBois. We will talk specifically about the rebuilding of Atlanta and the beginning of the historical black colleges in our area. We will then look at Custer, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull and I hope to talk about the Lakota Waldorf School and the Pine Ridge Reservation today. The last things we are going to talk about will include Joseph McCoy and the rise of the Cattle Industry, and the Transcontinental Railroad with a special and close look at the Chinese laborers who made the building of this railroad possible.
We will pick up History again in February and cover The Gilded Age right through the War on Terrorism, Israel-Palestine, the Information Age/Digitality (nanotechnology), and the the third millenium – what are the challenges, what is our responsibility or role? Just planting seeds for high school!
Later in the spring, we also will have a Peacemakers block where we will cover the important biographies of Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr, (and compare and contrast Martin Luther King Jr to Malcolm X; I read a biography of Malcolm X this summer that was very interesting), Andrew Young and John Lewis from our own state. We will also talk about Women’s Rights with Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B Anthony, Wangari Maathai and Malala Yousafzai. Lastly, we will end with a look at nationalist Peace Movements with Ghandi, a look at Sierra Leone and Liberia, along with Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah, and Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the fight against apartheid. Other figures may be covered during read-alouds or assigned independent reading – some many great figures to be covered. Other areas will be covered in our World Geography track and our Asian Geography block (the Dalai Lama will certainly be included in our Asian Geography block).
Our eighth grader will be over fourteen and a half by the time we hit the last parts of this, and is pretty ready for these topics. This outline could be completely different based upon the child in front of you! So, don’t take my word and run with it – look at your child, dig around in your history books and on websites and see what you would like to bring in when.