Lesson Plan

Go West!

Integrated Study for Westward Expansion
Catherine B.
Classroom teacher
Copper Mesa Elementary (Highlands Ranch, CO)
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My Grades 4
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies

Students will be able to...

Analyze the reasons why settlers chose to go west

Evaluate the different perspectives involved with Manifest Destiny (settlers/Native Americans)

Understand the hardships involved with the journey west

Understand the cause and effect relationship of choices made on the journey 


Social Studies
Grades 4 – 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Westward Ho!

Play the video.

Create a Padlet page with the title "What We Know Now-Moving West" (or something similar).  Have students add some of the reasons mentioned in the video for moving west, and encourage them to come up with reasons they think people went west.  

Student Instructions

Watch this video.

Then, go to the linked Padlet (provided by your teacher) and add some of the reasons why you think people decided to move west. 


2 Pack your Wagon

Refer students to the website.  There is an ad at the top that looks like a related game--instruct them not to click on it.  It is not related to the task.

Students should look at the site, which gives common items and how much they weigh. 

In small groups, have them create a spreadsheet (Google Sheets) that is shared among team members.  

Tell them that they have a wagon that can carry 2000 pounds, and they will need to determine as a team, which items to take, using the website to guide their thinking. 

Tell them that they may need to justify their rationale for wanting to include things or leave others.  Be prepared for some lively discussions!

Students should add items to the spreadsheet (item name in Column A and weight in Column B.  They should use the SUM formula, highlight Column B and see how much their wagon is carrying.  They can take out, or add items as needed.  

As a whole class, compare and contrast the packing list for different groups.  Have them share out why they chose some of the things they did and any challenges they might have had in determining as a group what to bring. 

Student Instructions

You have 2000 pounds of space in your wagon.  As a small group, decide what you should take and what you should leave behind. 

This website lists the items most commonly taken and how much they weigh. 

Note: Do not click on the link that looks like a game. It is unrelated to the task. 

Add the items you will take into a Google Spreadsheet.  Put the item name in Column A and the weight in Column B.  Then, use the  SUM formula to add up the weights in Column B to see how much space you have used.  Take out or add items as needed.  Be prepared to justify why you chose the items you did. 

3 On the Trail

This is the classic Oregon Trail game.  It should work on most browsers. 

You might choose to have students play in teams of 2-3, or individually.  

Have them think about the cause (choice) and effect (consequence) relationship while playing.  They might play multiple times to see how different choices have differing results. 

Encourage them to periodically "learn about the trail" and read the descriptions of the various stops, instead of just clicking through the game. 

After the activity is complete, have them brainstorm as a class what their challenges were and what "aha" moments they had. 

Student Instructions

Play the original Oregon Trail Game.  

Click on the green "power" button to start. 

Note: This game is old school. You can't use the mouse to navigate. You'll need to use the keyboard to make your selections.  

Think about cause and effect with this game.  What consequences do different choices make. Play the game more than once, making different choices along the way.  Did it change your outcome. 

4 Perspective is Everything

Have students view both videos.

It would be beneficial to play the Native American perspective one  more than once, and possibly pause periodically for students to take notes and/or discuss. 

After that, use a tool such as Popplet to have students capture their thinking in a compare/contrast format.  (Could do one Popplet with similarities and one with differences, or just put them in one Popplet). 

You could also do a Poll Everywhere to have students "vote" for which perspective they align to, or which was more convincing. 

5 Show What You Know

In small groups, have students create a quiz to give to their classmates.  

Possible tools include: