Top 12 Lessons & Units for 5th Grade History Curriculum

5th grade history curriculum & lesson plans
Lessons for 5th Grade Social Studies

Let's face it, the search for high quality, affordable, and easy to use lesson plans and teaching resources for 5th Grade Social Studies is no walk in the park!


That's why I've personally spent hundreds of hours creating an entire year's worth of fifth grade U.S. history curriculum! So, who am I, and why should you keep reading this post from someone you've never heard of before??!🧐  Well, that's a great question and one which I'd be asking myself right about now 😜 


Long story, short, I'm a "history buff" at heart with a minor in history to go along with my over 10+ years in the classroom, and several more as a district administrator. ALL my resources have been used extensively both by myself and other teachers with great success throughout the U.S. Oh, and I love, love, LOVE curriculum design and creation!! 🥰  I've personally spent more time that I care to admit searching the internet and sites like Teachers pay Teachers (TpT) for lesson plans and resources to use on the fly when I didn't have enough time to make them on my own. As it turned out, I'm fairly certain that I spent more time meandering my way through the massive collections of resources on TpT, looking for just that *right* resource (a.k.a. "the unicorn" 🦄 😋 ) and several hours later, after finally finding that perfect resource (the "unicorn") and excitedly making a purchase only to find out that the teacher-author of that resource is W-A-Y better at marketing their product, than they are at actually creating the product itself ...or more often than not, closing my internet browser without purchasing a single resource, and then trying to convince myself that I'll never waste another Sunday afternoon and evening searching online for social studies lesson plans about [insert specific topic(s) here] for fifth graders ever again - only to find myself in the exact same predicament the very next Sunday ...and the Sunday after that ...and the one after that, and so on. And that brings me (and YOU) here, my little corner of the internet, Lesson Plan Guru!!


It's my most sincere hope to help my fellow educators achieve and maintain a HEALTHY work/life balance. I've been in your shoes and after successfully creating thousands of resources and lesson plans for my own use in the classroom, worked up the courage to begin selling them on Teachers pay Teachers, and now *gasp* on my OWN website!! 😳  


I firmly believe that the lesson plans and resources I've created offer the BEST 5th grade curriculum out there for those looking to teach 5th graders all about U.S. history (especially after combing the web for an embarrassingly exorbitant amount of time that I'll never admit to for lesson plans to use in my own classroom). My fifth grade social studies curriculum emphasizes the use of primary sources and secondary sources of information across all units and lessons. This also includes the use of primary source documents whereby students hone their critical thinking and analytical abilities. In addition, several of my lessons have been specifically curated to help inspire and promote students’ life skills through the study of history. For example, students will learn how one of our most important Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who was born in the Caribbean and abandoned by his father in early childhood, leaving his mother to raise and support both him and his older brother. And then when Hamilton was just 13 years old, his mother contracted Yellow Fever and died, leaving him orphaned. Yet, despite the unfortunate circumstances he was faced with, through sheer determination and dedication, Hamilton persevered, leaving the Caribbean island of St. Croix behind to make his way to New York (a trip funded by local community leaders after being impressed with an essay he wrote) where he could attend university and where he'd eventually join the ranks of the Continental Army, showcase his loyalty and intellect, become a trusted aide to General George Washington, play an instrumental role at the Constitutional Convention, become the first Secretary of the Treasury and leader of the Federalist Party, and ultimately one of the most prominent and influential politicians in all of U.S. history ...all this despite the astounding odds he faced!


The full curriculum of my 5th Grade Social Studies Units covers ALL of these TOP 12 Unit topics!


U.S. Geography

  • Map reading
  • State abbreviations and capitals
  • Physical geography of the U.S. (major bodies of water, climates, etc.)
  • Economic, political, and population regions of the U.S.
  • Settlement patterns


 Colonial America (1500s-1760s)

  • The 13 Colonies (New England Colonies, Middle Colonies, & Southern Colonies)
  • English colonies and settlements such as Virginia and Jamestown
  • Influence of French, Dutch, & Spanish colonies in North America
  • Early forms of self-government (Mayflower Compact, Virginia House of Burgesses, etc.)
  • The French and Indian War


American Revolution (1760s-1780s)

  • American Revolution and the Revolutionary War
  • Declaration of Independence &
  • Boston Massacre & Boston Tea Party
  • Acts of Controversy (Stamp Act, Tea Act, etc.)
  • Articles of Confederation


United States Constitution (1780s)

  • Constitutional Convention
  • The Virginia Plan and Three-Fifths Amendment
  • Breakdown and analysis of the Bill of Rights
  • Constitutional Amendment process
  • Creation of the U.S. government (separate branches, three branches of government)


 Birth of the United States (1790s-1820s)

  • The Whiskey Rebellion
  • Alien and Sedition Act
  • Louisiana Purchase
  • Lewis & Clark Expedition
  • Causes and effects of the War of 1812
  • The Star Spangled Banner
  • Free Enterprise System (Capitalism)


Westward Expansion (1800s-1840s)

  • Impact on Native Americans (Indian Removal Act, Trail of Tears, Westward Expansion, etc.)
  • The Texas Revolution
  • Mexican-American War
  • Oregon Trail
  • California Gold Rush
  • Territory of Utah and the Mormon Migration


Sectionalism (1800s-1850s)

  • Evils of slavery
  • Missouri Compromise
  • Rise of Abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and several others
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe and the influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • The Underground Railroad
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act (KS-NE Act)
  • Dred Scott Decision
  • Election of 1860


Civil War (1860-1865)

  • Attack on Fort Sumter
  • Civil War transportation
  • Civil War regiments and the draft
  • Emancipation Proclamation
  • Important battles of the Civil War (Antietam, Gettysburg, etc.)
  • Gettysburg Address
  • Assassination of President Lincoln


Reconstruction (1865-1876)

  • Role of Radical Republicans
  • The Freedmen's Bureau
  • Black Codes
  • Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th, & 15th Amendments)
  • Effects of Reconstruction such as sharecropping and Jim Crow laws


Industrial Revolution & Urbanization (1870s-1900s)

  • Birth of the steel and oil industries, and monopolies
  • European immigration to the U.S.
  • Historical significance of Ellis Island, Angel Island, and the Statue of Liberty
  • Working conditions and labor reform efforts
  • Rise of labor unions
  • Women of the Industrial Revolution


WWI to WWII (1910s-1940s)

  • Causes of World War 1 (WWI)
  • The Roaring 20's
  • The Great Depression & New Deal
  • Causes and effects of the Dust Bowl
  • Breakout of WWII
  • WWII in Europe
  • WWII in the Pacific
  • Effects of WWII


The Cold War (1945-1989)

  • Threat of communism
  • The Iron Curtain, Marshall Plan, and role of NATO
  • Causes and effects of the Korean War
  • U.S./Soviet Arms and Space Race
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Outbreak of the Vietnam War
  • Collapse of the Soviet Union (fall of the Iron Curtain)


Civil Rights Movement

  • Segregation
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
  • Role of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • Civil rights Act of 1965
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Equal rights for women and minority groups
  • Role, influence, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK)


Modern Day America (1990s-Today)

  • Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and U.S. patriotism
  • The War on Terror and Axis of Evil
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Elections of 2008, 2016, & 2020 (they each featured a minority and/or a female candidate)


This is just a SAMPLING of the American history curriculum my lesson plans and resources cover! Through the numerous social studies activities provided throughout the curriculum, your students will form a solid foundation of core knowledge history that'll help propel them towards future success in ensuing grade level! As I've outlined above, the colonial period to modern day America is ALL covered and touches on just enough of the various significant events, political movements, social movements, major issues, economic growth and time of major economic development, to give your fifth graders as complete a history of the United States (in one calendar school year) as humanly possible without the need to worry about making it through it each day's lesson before the bell rings -OR- overly confusing your kiddo's with the subject matter.


With all of that said, I've already done all of the hard work for you! My extensive library of fifth grade social studies curriculum is guaranteed to save you several hours each week of the school year. STOP the endless stress, anxiety, and countless hours creating and searching for 5th grade social studies lesson plans and resources. You can use them for in-person classroom learning, as online curriculum, or hybrid learning... my lesson plans offer MAXIMUM flexibility!


From engaging presentations that feature built-in discussion-based questions (DBQ) in PowerPoint and Google Slides formats, to student exercise assignments (all with teacher answer key) that come in printable PDF and digital format (via Google Apps), and so MUCH more, it's all right here for you!


Start getting your nights, weekends, and lunch periods back RIGHT NOW and regain a healthy work/life balance and spend more time actually teaching, and WAY less on creating, searching for, and preparing lesson plans!


Check out my 5th Grade Social Studies YEAR-LONG Curriculum bundle!



I'd be truly humbled and honored to be offered the opportunity to take care of your lesson plan needs. If you have any questions, please reach out! [email protected]



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