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Teaching Guide

Teaching Louisiana Purchase: Haitian Revolution to Lewis & Clark

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In this guide you will find

  • an activity about Jefferson's racial attitudes and slave revolts. 
  • discussion questions on diplomacy, economy, and politics.
  • modern resources from NPR, National Geographic, and everyone's favorite documentarian, Ken Burns.

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  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Objective: Lewis and Clark have been called "the writingest explorers of their time (source)," and in this exercise, your students will use that to their advantage. 

First, they'll examine eight days of Lewis and Clark's expedition journals. Then they'll jump into character—as Lewis, as Clark, as an amalgamation of the two—and write a report back to President Jefferson offering their recommendations for interacting with the Sioux in the future. 

Length of Lesson: 1-2 class periods.

Materials Needed: 

Step One: First, a little background. Before letting students dive into the journals, you'll need to set the scene. Remind them that these entries were written in 1804 and ask them how that fact alone might impact what they're about to read. A few considerations: 

  • There were no laptops, no ballpoint pens, and no slick Trapper Keepers (though if there were, we would fully expect Lewis and Clark to be carrying this one). 
  • There was no easy way to make copies except to write and rewrite and rewrite again. Lewis and Clark kept multiple notebooks each, and various members of their expedition also kept notebooks, sometimes rewriting entries multiple times to create copies for various people.  
  • Spelling in the early 19th century was often... creative. In their journals, Lewis and Clark (neither of whom would have been contenders in a local spelling bee) spelled "Sioux" twenty different ways. 

So, when they get to the journals, they're going to see multiple versions of entries for each day (all of which are legit), and they're going to need to do a little deciphering. 

Step Two: Time to dive. Direct your students to the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and ask them to read the entries from 23 September 1804 to 30 September 1804.  As they read, they should keep the prompt below in mind. 

  • You are a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition (you can decide which member—there were thirty-three), and you have been charged with writing a report back to President Jefferson. Your report should summarize the lessons you have learned about the Teton Sioux, but remember: the President has requested more than just details about their ways of life. He also wants information that might help future exploration and settlement parties deal successfully with the western Indians. In other words, are the Indians peaceful or hostile? Should they be treated with kindness or force? What sorts of goods do they desire? Can they be trusted? You make the call, and let the president know.

Go over this assignment with them to make sure everyone understands the ultimate aim, and then let them get reading. 

Step Three: Give students class time to begin writing their letters to the president. If there isn't enough time for them to finish (or if you want them to write multiple drafts), let them know when their final copies will be due and provide them with any necessary guidelines (spacing, font, paper or digital copy, etc.). 

Step Four: When all of the recommendations are written, invite students to read their letters—or portions of their letters—to the president aloud. Alternately, divide students into pairs or small groups and encourage them to share their work.

Instructions for Your Students

Remember that morning you first encountered the Teton Sioux? There was a gentle breeze, you saw smoke, you noticed 80 or so lodges near the mouth of the river and another 60 a short distance away... 

No? 

Of course you don't, because that wasn't you. That happened on the Lewis & Clark expedition. (But you knew that, didn't you?)

Today you'll read from the journals of those intrepid explorers and learn straight from their field notes what that first encounter with the Sioux was like. Then, you'll get into character—as Lewis, as Clark, as a combination of the two or some other member of the expedition—and write a report back to President Jefferson with your recommendations for how future settlers should interact with the western Indians. 

Step One: First, a little background. Before you go diving into the journals, there are a few things you need to know. These entries were written in 1804. Consider that for a moment and think about how that fact alone might impact the way the entries were written and their content. A few considerations: 

  • There were no laptops, no ballpoint pens, and no slick Trapper Keepers (though if there were, we would fully expect Lewis and Clark to be carrying this one). 
  • There was no easy way to make copies except to write and rewrite and rewrite again. Lewis and Clark kept multiple notebooks each, and various members of their expedition also kept notebooks, sometimes rewriting L&C's entries multiple times to create copies for various people.  

    And finally...
  • Spelling in the early 19th century was often... creative. In their journals, Lewis and Clark (neither of whom would have been contenders in a local spelling bee) spelled "Sioux" twenty different ways. And that's just one example.

So, when you get to the journals, you're going to see multiple versions of entries for each day (all of which are legit), and you're going to need to do a little deciphering. Ready?

Step Two: Time to dive. Head over to the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and read the entries from 23 September 1804 to 30 September 1804.  As you read, you should keep the assignment below in mind. 

  • You are a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition (you can decide which member—there were thirty-three), and you have been charged with writing a report back to President Jefferson. Your report should summarize the lessons you have learned about the Teton Sioux, but remember: the President has requested more than just details about their ways of life. He also wants information that might help future exploration and settlement parties deal successfully with the western Indians. In other words, are the Indians peaceful or hostile? Should they be treated with kindness or force? What sorts of goods do they desire? Can they be trusted? You make the call, and let the president know.

Go over this assignment with your teacher and classmates to make sure everyone understands the ultimate aim. When you're sure you understand what you're being asked to do, go ahead and get reading. 

Step Three: You may have class time to begin writing your letter to the president. If there isn't enough time to finish (or if your teacher want you to write multiple drafts), you may have some homework ahead of you. Be sure you know when your final copy will be due and if there are any guidelines you need to follow (spacing, font size, paper or digital copy, etc.). 

Step Four: When all of the letters are written, you'll get a chance to read your letter—or a portion of your letter—to the president aloud. 

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING LOUISIANA PURCHASE: HAITIAN REVOLUTION TO LEWIS & CLARK?

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