Jefferson’s International Relevance: National Expansion

Lesson Plan


Grade Level

Middle School

Author Info

Melissa Mitchem
Casablanca American School
Route de la Mecque, Lotissement Ougoug, Quartier Californie
Casablanca, MA 20150

Type of Lesson

Document Analysis


1-2 class periods



In this lesson, students will learn about the different ways a country can extend its boundaries by examining the context of the Louisiana Purchase in American history. Students will begin by talking about the different ways of expanding a nation and analyzing the benefits and consequences. Then students will look at vocabulary pertinent to the lesson. Students will embark on a web quest by reading an article on Monticello’s website about the Louisiana Purchase and answering corresponding questions. Most of the lesson focuses on the Louisiana Purchase Investigation activity in which students look at primary and secondary sources to try to answer the question “Was the Louisiana Purchase just?” (meaning, was the Louisiana Purchase the best and most ethical decision Jefferson could have made?). Then students will look at other examples of countries expanding their boundaries. An “exit slip” will be used at the end of the lesson to gauge students’ understanding of the material. 

Prior Knowledge

This lesson is designed for students in international or American schools abroad as well as students in the United States with limited exposure to American studies and history. It is designed for an American history class, but depending on the curriculum, it could be adapted to suit a world history classroom. Students who have been studying the beginnings of American republic will find this lesson relevant. A prior textbook reading on Thomas Jefferson’s presidency and exposure to 18th century primary sources are recommended prior to this lesson but not imperative.

State Standards

Virginia Standards of Learning: 6th Grade US History to 1865

USI.7 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the challenges faced by the new nation by

a) identifying the weaknesses of the government established by the Articles of Confederation;

b) describing the historical development of the Constitution of the United States;

c) describing the major accomplishments of the first five presidents of the United States.

Common Core Social Studies: English/Language Arts Standards –History/Social Studies- Grades 6-8

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes

Students will understand:

-that conquest comes at a cost- for the conquered.

Students will know:

-the various ways a country can expand its boundaries.

-the key events and details of the Louisiana Purchase.

-the key people involved in the Louisiana Purchase, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Napoleon.

Students will be able to:

-read and analyze primary source documents.

-argue and defend their answers to the question: “Was the Louisiana Purchase just?”

-apply the idea of national expansion to other countries and situations around the world.

Essential Questions

Was the Louisiana Purchase just?


  1. 10-15 minutes

    *All Worksheets can be found in the "Jefferson's International Relevance: National Expansion Lesson Plan" in "Related Assets" section under the Handouts and Downloads section

    Warm-Up:Pass out the handout “Warm-Up: Expanding a Country,” and give students a few minutes to work on it. Tell them that they need to read the statements and write if they agree or disagree. After a few minutes, discuss students’ answers.

  2. 15-20 minutes
    Vocabulary:Project the PowerPoint presentation on slide four, and pass out the worksheet “Vocabulary: The Louisiana Purchase.” Read through the vocabulary as students write down the definitions. After the vocabulary has been copied down, give students time to practice the vocabulary by completing the sentences on the worksheet. Go over the answers with the students.
  3. 20-25 minutes
    Web Quest:Pass out the handout “Louisiana Purchase Web Quest.” Tell students that today they will read an article from the Monticello website to learn about how the United States increased its boundaries during Jefferson’s presidency. Students will need computers or Smart phones to complete this activity. After students have finished, go over the answers with them.

  4. 45-60 minutes
    Louisiana Purchase Investigation:Before letting students go through the documents, model how to read a primary or secondary source. Advise students to read the “background” portion about the document before looking at the document itself. You may need to model several documents for the students depending on their familiarity with primary and secondary sources. Divide students into groups or pairs, and give each group/pair a set of the documents. Students need to look through all of the documents and write how each resource answers the question “Was the Louisiana Purchase just?” Students should write their answer on poster or large paper and present to the class when finished. As a class, reach a consensus on the Louisiana Purchase.

  5. 25-30 minutes
    Country Challenge:Divide students into groups. Give each group a card from the “Country Challenge” handout. Tell the students they must fill out the “Proposal for the United Nations” form based on their country’s scenario. Have students present their work, or just collect the UN proposal sheets if time is an issue.

  6. 5-10 minutes
    Exit Slip:Each “Exit Slip” handout has two slips on it, so prior to the lesson, the teacher will need to cut it out. Pass out the half sheet “Exit Slip.” Give students about 5-10 minutes to work on it before turning it in. Use this sheet to gauge students’ understanding of the lesson.

Related Assets

Handouts and Downloads


Materials Needed

-Computers for the class

-Computer and projector

-PowerPoint presentation: "Jefferson's International Relevance: National Expansion Powerpoint"


-Worksheets (“Warm-Up,” “Vocabulary,” “Web Quest,” “Louisiana Purchase Resource Kit,” “Country Challenge,” “Proposal for the United Nations,” and “Exit Slip”) – all within Jefferson's International Relevance: National Expansion Lesson Plan

Technology Needs

The teacher will need a computer and projector for the PowerPoint presentation, and students will need access to the Internet for the "Web Quest" activity.


The “Exit Slip” handout is a formative assessment in this lesson. The teacher can use students’ results on the slip to gauge their understanding of the content in this lesson.


Accommodations – Students with Special Needs

-In the activity “Louisiana Purchase Investigation,” the teacher can allow students to pick their own groups or group students together by interests or readiness.

-Develop a graphic organizer to help struggling readers process the information from the reading instead of using questions.

-Allow students the choice to write out their answer to the question “Was the Louisiana Purchase just?” instead of presenting their answer.