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Rise of the American Nation - Part 1

Subject: American History

Grade: 9 and 10

Behavioral Objectives

Cognitive domain:  The student will read and research further the material presented that will bring about a new knowledge of who and how discoveries of the new world affects the present day.

Affective domain:  The student will begin to get an understanding of who and why the 'New World' was discovered.

Psychomotor domain:  The student will write notes/outlines/summaries in learning how the New World was founded.

Learning Outcomes:

1.  The students will read about the various explorers of the 'New World'. The students will also be able to define what these explorers wanted to find and do.  

2.  The students will be able to find these locations on a world map both past and present map forms along with what latitude and longitude readings of 'New World' locations and then Spain, Portugal, England, France.

3.  The students will learn and define vocabulary words, for example: viceroy.


Handout of Chapter one: Rise of the American Nation volume one (1968) Lewis Paul Todd and Merle Curti

After a brief introduction to the chapter the teacher writes on the blackboard the terms:  Europeans, Spaniards, British and continuing with the lecture/lesson plan the first chapter is about how the building of the colonies started with what was called the ‘Invincible Armada’.  The teacher then could write the date July 30, 1588 on the blackboard and tell the class that this was the first battle of the New World between the Spaniards and the British out on the ocean.  The teacher could find pictures of various kinds of ships and discuss the differences between the British lighter type vessel and the Spaniards larger type ships.

Teachers can start a discussion on the battle strategy for how confident the Spaniards were feeling, but how the English were able to move more swiftly and out of range of the Spaniards guns and boats.  They wanted hand to hand combat, but the English knew they were outnumbered and outgunned and they did not want a frontal attack. Now the teacher can mention a few famous people of the time period, as in Sir Francis Drake, Lord Howard of Effingham and after writing these names on the blackboard the teacher describes them.  Sir Francis Drake who had contempt for the Spaniards but was only the second in command.  The teacher could mention that Drake led by Lord Howard of Effingham who scorned Drake’s tactics.

The teacher could have the students keep a notebook of famous people mentioned in class starting with Sir Francis Drake and Lord Howard of Effingham.

Going on with the lecture the teacher can also teach a mini-geography lesson on map skills where they can find all the countries mentioned in the chapter.  When showing where these countries were the teacher can mention there was a running battle that lasted almost a week and have a student come up to a map and find the ‘Harbor of Calais’ (kay-al) off the coast of France.  When the student finds this site the teacher gets back to the history lesson and this is when the Spaniards were terrified at the sight for the fire ships were bearing down on them.

Now on the blackboard the teacher can write- Englishmen and the ‘Invisible Armada’ is when the English gunners paired broadside to broadside and the results showed what was left of the Spanish fleet who fled to the north around Scotland then turned south for a storm came up and wrecked many of the remaining vessels and then returned to Spain.  This is when history makes a turn and defeat of the Spaniards (‘Spanish Armada’ is another term to write on the blackboard) by the Englishmen which was a decisive moment in world history.  (With this discussion the teacher writes the date 1588) and states this is when a conflict between England and Spain erupted on the ‘English Channel’ and that was a turning point in Spain’s fortunes in the New World.

Europeans search for an all-water route to far off Asia.

The teacher writes on blackboard the name Columbus- Reasons for Success

1. Finds riches and honors, trading routes that were needed that explains the importance of trade with Asia

Write ‘Asia’ on the blackboard along with various other countries in the form of a chart.                     


various products


sugar, glass, cutlery





East Indies/ Spice Islands 

cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg


porcelain, silks

These were the products for they could not produce them themselves.  Another reason is they needed to use these materials for their homes to be more livable.  Another term that is written on blackboard is ‘Black Gold’ which is actually the spice ‘pepper’ to make their food taste better.  Now a question that the book asks as well as the teacher could ask ‘Why is trade difficult?’ The old trade routes were always difficult, dangerous and expensive. ‘Why?’ It took months/years to deliver from Asia to Europe or from the East Indies across the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea to reach Genoa or Venice and merchants had a ‘monopoly’ (a term that is written on blackboard) how products reached Europe.

Search for New Route

Bearing on the discovery of America and getting materials more cheaply to Frenchmen, Englishmen and Dutchmen. Portugal and Spain resented the virtual control of east west trade that the Venetians and Genoans enjoyed.  This all started when Columbus was still young and playing around the wharves.  This expansion of trade out of the Mediterranean Sea and into the world started the ‘Commercial Revolution’ (term to be written on blackboard) 

Portugal finds a way and Prince Henry of Portugal aka Prince Henry the Navigator wanted to explore so he built a shipyard and a school for navigators. ‘What was taught and learned at his school?’ They experimented with new types of ships and sails along with building vessels seaworthy enough to brave the open Atlantic Ocean as well as newer methods of navigation, newer maps, and newer instruments for determining latitude and longitude and directions that would be needed to guide them better across the seas.  (Write these terms on blackboard- compass, astrolabe.) 

Prince Henry sent several expeditions down along the unexplored coast of Africa.  He died but the trips continued, and in 1488 Bartholomew Diaz and crew rounded the southern tip of Africa and he continued toward Asia, but his crew did not- (Why?) Too fearful of unknown and he turned back. In 1498 – Vasco da Gama of Portugal followed Diaz’s routes around ‘Cape of Good Hope’ (write term on blackboard) but did not continue across Indian Ocean to Calicut in India. (Show where Calicut was in India on a map. This is showing map skills.)  This was the new all water route to India and the Spice Islands.  In 1494 a treaty between Portugal and Spain established the ‘Line of Demarcation’ (write term on blackboard). This line was at 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. (Have students locate this line.)  Lands west of this land belonged to Spain and the lands east of the line belonged to Portugal.  (The teacher could have a student come up to a map and locate this line and the various countries that the trade routes were formed.

Columbus Leads Europeans to Explore the New World

Columbus headed directly west and started the ‘Geographic Revolution’ (teacher write term on blackboard).  October 12, 1492 landed what is called San Salvador now the Watlings Island in the Bahamas (locate on map). After several attempts he still believed that he failed in his goals and died in 1506.  Vasco Nunez de Balboa (write name on blackboard) discovered a new ocean in 1513 as he starts across the Isthmus of Panama (locate on map). Balboa is seeking gold that Indians tell him lies in the west. Led through a hot forest and many hardships and finally at the foot of a mountain he catches a glimpse of the ‘South Sea’ (write on blackboard) which is now called the ‘Pacific Ocean’.

‘Magellan’s Victoria’ circles the Earth that proved Balboa was right in 1519 a Portuguese sailing for Spain sailed through the ‘Strait of Magellan’ (write on blackboard) which is the tip of South America and the teacher points this out on the map.  According to his observations he calls this land ‘Tierro del Fuego’ (write term on blackboard) ‘Land of fire’.  After he passes through the strait and sails out upon the immense sea that he names it the ‘Pacific Ocean’ (write term on blackboard). “Why?” It is so vast and calm and he sets out to prove Balboa right. 

September 1522- a vessel ‘Victoria’ sails into a Spanish harbor and 18 men on this voyage survived out of 237 who started out from Spain three years earlier.  They were the first to have sailed around the world.  Magellan one of the original leaders lies buried in the Philippine Islands. This also proved Columbus’s voyage was true as well and gave Spain their claim to the Philippine Islands. Spain sent soldiers to conquer the Filipinos. Missionaries were sent to convert these people to Christianity and merchants to open trade and this began the Spanish colony.

Start a list on Blackboard of Explorers and Conquerors:

  • Pedro Alvores Cabral-Brazil for Portugal
  • Amerigo Vespucci- Florentine-America
  • Ponce de Leon- 1513- Spanish nobleman sailed and along the coast that he named Florida. He was killed by an Indian’s arrow as he moved inland.
  • Hernando Cortez-1519- He was the explorer that wanted to conquer the Aztec Indians along with their leader Montezuma or die trying. Cortez was and received glory and gold.
  • Francisco Pizarro-1531-1535- Led the expedition southward from the Isthmus of Panama and into Inca territory.  He conquered the Inca’s got gold and silver when he marched over the Andes Mountain passes.  This journey was near what the countries are now Ecuador and Peru. (Locate on map). 

As an oral quiz the teacher can now ask the students which explorer did what. Extra credit could be had if the student can find the latitude and longitude of each could and site.

  • Cortez and Pizarro voyages gave the Spaniards control of these strategic areas of Mexico, Central America and South America.  All these areas and voyages made Spain the wealthiest and the most powerful nation in Europe.

Exploring Southward

This is a section that introduces a new vocabulary word to write on the blackboard ‘Conquistadores’ or conquerors.  A few of these people were Hernando de Soto and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado for their own fame and fortune.

The teacher will write these names on the blackboard along with the dates 1539-1540-1541:

  • 1539- DeSoto in golden armor-leader- ‘Father of Water’ (Ask ‘Why?’) He discovered the Mississippi River in the southern part of the United States now in the heart of the New World.  He died 1542 and his followers weighted his body and lowered his body down into the muddy waters of the Mississippi River. 
  • 1540- Coronado was hoping to find the ‘Seven Cities of Ciliala’ in search of what could be many treasures.  One of Coronado’s lieutenants discovered the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River and not finding treasure he was able to march eastward in a part of the Texas panhandle and the eastern part of what is now Kansas. 

England states a Claim

1497- John Cabot an Italian sea captain commissioned by King Henry VII and his voyage was the coasts of what are now Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New England. (Locate on the map) Cabot was rewarded 10 pounds and a annual pension of 20 pounds from King Henry of England and now England has a large part of the North American continent. 

France enters the Contest

The explorer Giovanni da Verrazano and Jacques Cartier (write these names on the blackboard and remind the students to put these names on the list of names and places in their notebooks to study later.)  Verrazano in 1524 and his search of a water route through America to Asia. His exploration added to man’s knowledge of the world and gave the French their first claim to new lands overseas. Ten years later, 1534, Cartier and the first of three voyages to lands across the Atlantic.

On the blackboard the teacher will write:

#1. Explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence

 #2. Explored the St. Lawrence River as far as the present site of Montreal

 #3. Explored the St. Lawrence River as far as the present site of Montreal and tried to build a colony not far from where Quebec stands now and was not a success, but this did strengthen French claims to what is now Canada.

On the blackboard the teacher will write:

For 50 years these countries Spain, Portugal, England and France all succeeded in one way and even with the failures the New World became more.

Related lessons:

Rise of the American Nation Lesson Plan Part 2

Rise of the American Nation Lesson Plan: Part 3

Written by Mark Graham, Education World® Contributing Writer

Mark has earned two Bachelor degrees, a Master's, a Post-master's and Doctorate in Education, College teaching, Curriculum and instruction, Reading and literacy as well as a certificate in Children's literature.