Top 12 Lessons & Units for 8th Grade History Curriculum

8th grade u.s. history curriculum & lesson plans
US History Curriculum for 8th Grade

No matter what standards your school district or state follow, the simple fact is that most 8th grade social studies curriculum encompasses a study of history, specifically, United States history between the colonial times and the Reconstruction Era!


Yes, there's SO MUCH MORE to the history of the United States, but for decades now, the vast majority of state requirements and standards alignment for the 8th grade year of social studies courses revolves around early American history up to the end of the Reconstruction period. There's a number of reasons for this, but a primary reason is to ensure that by the time an 8th grader enters the high school level of social science they have a solid foundation of knowledge as it pertains to the development of the United States and the American government. This is especially important as they progress through high school and begin to delve deeper into the many diverse content areas that encompass social studies. For example, a deeper-level study of American history, world cultures & world geography, ancient history & ancient civilizations, the modern world, ethnic studies, civics curriculum, among others!


Just as vital as the U.S. history curriculum topics that are covered during 8th grade, the BEST 8th grade curriculum includes just the right amount of:

  • Essential questions designed to enhance and grow students critical thinking skills (cause and effect)
  • Case studies to help prepare students for the larger world and strengthens their own life skills
  • Use of primary source documents and secondary sources
  • Content that ties important historical events to modern history
  • A diverse set of activities and assignments that inspire students creative writing, formal writing, and language arts skills
  • Team and individual projects
  • Exercises that enhance a students ability to identify bias and to always consider the importance of historical context


Collectively, curriculum packages which incorporate the above will not only promote and arouse students curiosity -BUT-, they'll also assist in the teaching and learning of important topics and fundamental ideas. And the best yet?? Students will not only learn, but RETAIN their learnings with minimal effort!


And that brings me to this - the TOP 12 Lessons & Units for 8th Grade U.S. History:


Unit 1: Think Like A Historian (1-2 weeks)

  • Importance of thinking critically, using reason, evidence, contextualization & corroboration of evidence
  • How to organize & analyze information, write persuasively, identify bias, and cite sources in MLA and APA formats


Unit 2: Colonial America 1500s-1763 (3 weeks)

  • The Atlantic Slave Trade
  • In-depth look at the New England Colonies, Middle Colonies, & Southern Colonies
  • What colonial life was like
  • The Great Awakening & Enlightenment
  • Outbreak of the French and Indian War


Unit 3: The American Revolution 1763-1783 (2-3 weeks)

  • Causes and effects of the Stamp Act, Tea Act, Townshend Acts, Coercive/Intolerable Acts, the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party
  • First & Second Continental Congress
  • Declaration of Independence
  • The American Revolutionary War


Unit 4: U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights 1783-1791 (3 weeks)

  • Strengths & weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation
  • The Constitutional Convention
  • Establishment of the three branches of government
  • Overview of Article I, Article II, Article III of the Constitution (Legislative, Executive, & Judicial branches)
  • Breakdown of the Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10)


Unit 5: Early Challenges of the U.S. 1789-1828 (3 weeks)

  • Presidency of George Washington
  • Rise of political parties
  • Washington's Farewell Address
  • Significance of the presidential elections of 1796, 1800, & 1824
  • Alien and Sedition Acts
  • Lewis & Clark Expedition
  • Causes and effects of the War of 1812
  • Era of Good Feelings


Unit 6: Age of Jackson 1828-1836 (2-3 weeks)

  • What America was like in 1828 and the most important issues to Americans
  • The "Spoils System"
  • Nullification Crisis
  • Causes and effects of the Indian Removal Act
  • National Bank debate
  • Rise of the Whig Party


Unit 7: Westward Expansion 1800s-1850 (3 weeks)

  • Meaning of Manifest Destiny
  • The Northwest Territory
  • Louisiana Purchase
  • Impact on Native Americans
  • Oregon Trail, California Trail, & Santa Fe Trail
  • Causes and effects of the Texas Revolution and Mexican-American War
  • The California Gold Rush


Unit 8: Industrial Revolution, Immigration, & Reform 1800s-1870s (3 weeks)

  • Causes and effects of the Industrial Revolution in America such as urbanization
  • Transformation of the American economy during the 19th century
  • Industrial Revolution working conditions
  • Rise of the labor movement and organized labor
  • Causes and effects of immigration to the U.S. during the 1800s
  • Southern economy, culture, and society pre-Civil War
  • The Underground Railroad


Unit 9: Sectionalism Divides the Nation 1840s-1860 (2-3 weeks)

  • Fugitive slave laws
  • Causes and effects of the Compromise of 1850
  • Historical significance and influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Impact of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (KS-NE Act)
  • The Dred Scott Decision
  • Raid on Harpers Ferry
  • Presidential election of 1860


Unit 10: Civil War 1860-1865 (4 weeks)

  • Attack on Fort Sumter
  • The Border States
  • Examination of North (Union) and South (Confederacy) demographics
  • Civil War strategy for the Union and Confederacy
  • Major Civil War battles such as the First Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Shiloh, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Gettysburg, and several others
  • Importance of the Siege of Vicksburg
  • The Emancipation Proclamation
  • Gettysburg Address
  • Life during the Civil War


Unit 11: Reconstruction Era 1865-1876 (3 weeks)

  • How Americans (Northerners & Southerners) viewed Reconstruction
  • Causes and effects of Black Codes
  • Influence and rise of Radical Republicans
  • The Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th, & 15th Amendments)
  • Role of the Freedmen's Bureau
  • Rise and Fall of President Andrew Johnson
  • Military Reconstruction Act
  • Effects of Reconstruction such as the rise of Jim Crow laws


Unit 12: Rights & Responsibilities of U.S. Citizens (2 weeks)

  • In-depth overview of our rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens
  • Meaning of unalienable rights
  • Overview of the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution (the Bill of Rights)
  • The Naturalization Process


If you're looking for high quality, easy-to-use, and affordable 8th grade social studies lesson plans, look no further. I've been a teacher and school administrator myself (for more years than I care to admit!) and consider myself a self-proclaimed "history buff". I've created an entire year's worth of 8th grade social studies curriculum that covers all the important historical topics and events as outlined above, PLUS so much MORE!

If you're sick and tired of the anxiety and stress of lesson planning, or just plain exhausted from having to spend hour-after-hour searching various websites for awesome lesson plans, put an end to the sheer madness right now! I've already done EVERYTHING for you. I'd be humbled and honored to help. You can check out my complete 8th grade social studies curriculum offer right here!

Full YEAR - 8th Grade U.S. History Curriculum Bundle



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