Grade Level and Unit: Grade 8 Unit 4

History/Social Science Standards:
8.4 Students analyze the aspirations and ideals of the people of the new nation, in terms of its physical landscapes and political divisions and the territorial expansion of the US during the terms of the first four presidents.

Language Arts Standards
Research and Technology:

1.4 Students plan and conduct multiple-step information searches using computer networks and modem-delivered services.

Writing Applications

2.1 Students write biographies, autobiographies, short stories, or narratives that:

  • relate a clear, coherent incident, event or situation by using well-chosen details.
  • Reveal the significance of, or the writers attitude about the subject.
  • Employ narrative and descriptive strategies.

Lesson Purpose:
To become familiar with the territory purchased as the Louisiana Territory , its importance, and the people responsible for exploring this region
Writing, cooperative group work, research, map skills, decision making

Lesson Length: 8 days

Extra materials:
Markers, brown paper, Internet resources, library resources, outline maps

Teaching Tips for completing the process:

Step 1
Help students locate the basic information in the text about Lewis and Clark, the Louisiana Territory, and this expedition.  Monitor and then facilitate the small groups, and the class discussion.  Record on the board or chart paper the important historical figures, the major route taken, and some of the results of this expedition.  Guide students to discuss and/or speculate on the hopes and expectations Thomas Jefferson had for this journey.

Hand out the introduction to this assignment and explain to the students that they (the students) are critical for making certain this expedition was not a disastrous failure.  Their journals will provide the information President Jefferson needs to:

  • determine the value of the Louisiana Territory.
  • decide whether or not the drainage basin of the Missouri River extends far enough into Canada to give the United States reason to lay claim to Canadian territory.

Students are to research Lewis & Clark, the Louisiana Territory, Thomas Jefferson's presidency (focus on the purchase of the Louisiana territory,) Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacajawea.  Schedule time in the library (two days if possible) and time with computers.   CD ROM and Internet resources are listed.  Review note-taking, identifying important facts, and summarizing as opposed to bulk copying.  Encourage them to look for detailed maps of the expedition.  Allow 4 days for this if possible.

Step 2
Assigned homework the night before this activity is for each student to identify the person they felt was most important on this journey based on their research and give at least two reasons for their choice.  They are also to identify two sights or events on the trip that they would include and illustrate on a map as being most unique or significant.  They are also to list some of the daily chores of the trip, challenges, and any events they remember that they believe would be important enough to include in their journals.

Step 3
In class the next day, organize students into small character alike groups for an "expert group" discussion. After they have developed a good list of events, challenges and chores, reform the class into a large group.  Students will use a round-robin discussion so that each small group can contribute one new thing to each of these categories until there are no further new contributions.  Students are to take additional notes and add to their ideas any significant events they think they have missed.

Step 4
Using their research and extra information from class discussion, students are to begin developing their journal.  See the rubric for the guidelines for this journal and be certain to consider the key points.  Encourage art work, brown paper for journal pages and maps, neat lettering, simple designs and details to support their statements. Give them at least three days to complete this.


On the due date for these journals, students will complete a self-evaluation page to fill in and submit with their journal.  This page reflects the rubric, and asks students to use the rubric to determine what grade they believe they deserve, and why they should get it.   Emphasize their reasons for getting the grade are critical so they need to specifically refer back to the rubric.  Also, ask them to identify what they learned from this project and where they had difficulty.  In small groups, ask them to share with group members their favorite part of their journal - the map, the diary, or their choice for the most important person on the trip.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

  • Language Arts - writing in journal style.
  • Science - weather, calories and human body needs for such strenuous activity.
  • Math - calculation of the duration of the expedition and distance traveled.

Adaptations to Special Needs:
Based on differing abilities, team students for this project.  If students are English learners or have difficulty with writing or reading, select one of the three portions of the journal instead of all three, emphasize the graphics.

Corps of Discovery

Teacher notes 

Student Rubric