Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

*Click to open and customize your own copy of the Westward Expansion Lesson Plan.

This lesson accompanies the BrainPOP topic Westward Expansion. It supports the standards of analyzing the concept of Manifest Destiny, and explaining how westward expansion affected Native Americans. Students demonstrate understanding through a variety of projects.


Ask students:

  • What are some reasons people might move to a new place?


  • Read the description on the Westward Expansion topic page.
  • Play the Movie, pausing to check for understanding. 
  • Assign Related Reading. Have students read one of the following articles: “In Depth” or “In Practice” Partner them with someone who read a different article to share what they learned with each other.

Step 3: APPLY and ASSESS 

Assign Westward Expansion Quiz, prompting students to apply essential literacy skills while demonstrating what they learned about this topic.


Students express what they learned about Westward Expansion while practicing essential literacy skills with one or more of the following activities. Differentiate by assigning ones that meet individual student needs.

  • Make-a-Movie: Create a travelogue from the perspective of a pioneer traveling west. Explain what motivated your journey, and describe what your life is like on the trail. 
  • Make-a-Map: Create a concept map identifying the causes and effects of westward expansion.
  • Creative Coding: Code a digital museum exhibit featuring artifacts to represent the history and impact of westward expansion.
  • Primary Source Activity: Examine the 1872 painting American Progress, then cite details to answer accompanying questions.

More to Explore 

Time Zone X: Westward Expansion: Place historical events in chronological order in this interactive timeline game.

Related BrainPOP Topics: Deepen understanding of westward expansion and its effects with these topics: Lewis and Clark, Wounded Knee Massacre, California Missions, and Reservations.

Teacher Support Resources:

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments