Manifest Destiny Unit

A Complete Unit Plan for US History in Middle School or High School

The 7th unit in my US History curriculum delves into the concept of Manifest Destiny and America's expansion, with a focus on its effects upon American Indian groups along with crucial events like The Gold Rush.

The resources and lessons in this unit create fantastic opportunities for students to think critically about Manifest Destiny, which they can connect back to as we learn more about American expansion.

You can download all the lesson plans and activities for this unit here, or sign up for a Students of History subscription to access to everything online.


The unit begins with a look at Americans who were headed West in the 1800s. After a warm up, students work in collaborative groups for an interactive Manifest Destiny Act-It-Out Activity. Each group assumes roles based on the famous "American Progress" painting to read about and then share their reasons for going west.

 Lesson two covers the Mexican-American War, the Battle of the Alamo, and independence for Texas. An engaging PowerPoint with guided notes or a graphic organizer (along with Google Slides and "flipped classroom" video) breaks down the entire conflict and how Texas came to join the Union. Students next analyze a primary source from the Alamo or learn more about it through a fun reading about ghosts at the Alamo.

The next lesson has students learning about the devastating the Indian Wars that occurred throughout America's territorial expansion. A PowerPoint with guided notes (plus the Google Slides and video options) covers the major conflicts, including Little Bighorn and figures like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and George Armstrong Custer. Following this, students analyze primary sources and complete a map activity on America's expansion.

 The fourth lesson in the unit focuses on the California Gold Rush, with an engaging PowerPoint (of course with guided notes, Google Slides, and a video). Following this, students analyze trails west and a primary source poem on gold along with watching a video and a digital activity

 The unit concludes with a lesson on the Populist Party and rise of the Populism movement among America's farmers in the mid-1800s. To introduce the concept, teachers can use the available PowerPoint (with guided notes, Google Slides, and video) to provide fundamental knowledge on key concepts.

To deepen your students' understanding there is a wonderful activity comparing populism to the Wizard of Oz, along with a primary source analysis of William Jennings Bryan's famous Cross of Gold Speech.

A thorough unit guide packet and fantastic set of digital interactive notebook activities are available to use throughout the entire unit. 

This unit on Manifest Destiny finishes up with a set of review games and activities followed by an editable test, which includes editable Google Forms version for easy grading.

You can click any of the above links for teacher reviews or to download resources individually. You can download the entire unit here in a zip folder and save everything to your desktop. Or, you can gain access to everything through a subscription, which also grants you immediate access to the ENTIRE US History curriculum.

If you’re not sure which option is better for you, you can read more about the differences between subscriptions and TpT purchases here.

US History Units