I had the pleasure of teaching a summer school history course for high school students who hadn’t been successful in the other summer school class. It was suggested I had the students read the book and I would check their answers to the questions in the book and write tests, but they weren’t motivated to do that and neither was I. I ended up writing packets for the last two topics in the class (westward expansion and causes of the Civil War) including pictures, primary sources, questions interspersed within the reading and most importantly questions worthy of able young minds, not just defining key vocabulary in one sentence, which would end up being copied out of the book word for word. They had to complete the packet and any questions that were incomplete or wrong had to be redone until they were complete. Each student worked at their own pace. When they were done with the questions, we discussed it together, they completed a review sheet, and when that was perfect they were allowed to take the test.
Here is the packet I used to replace the textbook for Westward Expansion with the questions, as well as the unit test at the end. I did not want to make the test too difficult, but I wanted students to have to read in order to pass it. One of my students in particular was so used to the rhythms and techniques of textbook tests that he could spot the right answer without having done the reading. I wanted to challenge that young man, and the other students, to take their reading seriously and answer reasoning questions rather than just recall– although there is certainly some recall of major facts and ideas.
Part I: The West before Europeans
When Lewis & Clark explored the Louisiana Territory in 1803, there were already millions of people living there, mostly Native Americans. Many historians estimate that there were over 400 different tribes each with their own unique language and culture. Northern tribes such as the Ojibwa and Ottawa relied on hunting, fishing and farming to get through the harsh winters. Tribes such as the Sioux Nation on the Great Plains became dependent on hunting a single species: the Bison. Tribes traveled seasonally, following the bison herds. They supplemented their diet with fruits and vegetables they gathered, as well as some farming. Other tribes such as the Haida of the Pacific Northwest had a plentiful diet of fish and plants to readily available, which freed up their people to concentrate on religion, the arts, and social matters. Still other tribes, such as the Powhatan in New England, had by the 1800s been mostly destroyed by white settlement. Some tribes were peaceful and lived in harmony with their neighbors, while some tribes practiced warfare as a way of life. The tribes of North America are so diverse that the only trait that they all share is that they lived in America long before Europeans arrived.