The American West Project Assessment Critical Thinking


Students will unleash their inner historical detective in this assessment! Middle school students will explore the multifaceted reality of the late 1800s American West, crafting three unique adjectives beyond “wild” and backing them up with evidence from their journey through the Peacefield History American West Unit.


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With this assessment, students will evaluate the events they discussed relating to the West in the late 1800s, generate three adjectives to better describe the west than just “wild,” and then use evidence from the unit to describe their reasoning on a one-page assessment. The idea behind this assessment is that the west is so much more than just “wild.” Students will engage in a thoughtful discussion about what the west really was in this time – in all its complexity.

This assessment requires critical thinking and the use of evidence, but it’s provided at a level that middle school students can access. It’s linked to all of the lessons from the Peacefield History American West Unit.

You can view more in the preview here – American West Assessment

Included in this resource:

  • Classroom Presentation – Made to be utilized in an in-class situation with students. A PowerPoint version is included in the file and the Google Slides version is provided with the link.
  • Digital Presentation – This version has the questions embedded in the presentation and it can be assigned in Google Classroom or made compatible with Pear Deck.
  • Handout for Students – Printable version that is made to coordinate with the classroom presentation – (PDF, Google Slides link, and PowerPoint)
  • Lesson Plan for implementation

This lesson is tied with the following NYS Standards:

8.3a.1 – Students will examine the effects of the transcontinental railroad on the movement toward westward expansion.

8.3a.2 – Students will examine examples of Native American resistance to the western encroachment, including the Sioux Wars and the flight and surrender of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce.

8.3a.3 – Students will examine United States and New York State policies toward Native Americans, such as the displacement of Native Americans from traditional lands, creation of reservations, efforts to assimilate Native Americans through the creation of boarding schools, the Dawes Act, and the Indian Reorganization Act and the Native Americans’ various responses to these policies.

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