How To Teach the War of 1812

How do you teach the War of 1812?

First, ask important planning questions:

Why does the War of 1812 matter?

Often called the "Second War of Independence," this conflict helped the young nation establish itself as a player on the world stage. Issues of free trade, infringements on the rights of American citizens, flawed diplomacy and caustic regional politics all contributed to the War's outbreak. While the War of 1812 had no clear winners (indeed, the Treaty of Ghent gave no concessions to either side), there were certainly losers. Indigenous populations in the northwest and southeast were dealt a staggering blow, from which they never recovered. The Federalists, who had adamantly opposed the war, never regained the prominence they once enjoyed, and faded from the American political scene. Even so, Americans often regarded the post war period with affection. With the advent of peace came decades of stability, improved diplomatic relations and economic growth, the so-called "Era of Good Feelings." A sense of self-confidence pervaded the nation, and it inspired the western expansionism that characterized the rest of the nineteenth century. The War of 1812 allowed the new nation to break free of its colonial past, and told the nations of Europe that a new player had emerged on the world stage. As British diplomat Augustus J. Foster acknowledged at war's end, "The Americans . . . have brought us to speak of them with respect." As we celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, we are reminded that the conflict laid the groundwork for all that was to follow - westward expansion, international diplomacy, and the self confidence to stand up for the virtues that we still hold true today. There are a vast number of War of 1812 resources, historic sites, and celebrations honoring this time period during the bicentennial that your students are likely to encounter. America was a developing nation during the War of 1812, and it emerged as a global power and overcame economic, political, and societal disputes. Teaching your students about the War's causes and consequences offers an opportunity to discuss many of the issues that have shaped our nation. Out of the war came greater unity and it created new heroes and symbols, including USS Constitution and the "Star Spangled Banner." The War was very much a turning point in American history and study of the it provides a lens for your students to understand today's current events and America's place within them.

Is the War of 1812 included in my curriculum?

If your state has adapted the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts or Mathematics, A Sailor's Life for Me has numerous lesson plans and activities that are already aligned for your use. In addition, the entire curriculum has been linked to the National Council for the Social Studies' curriculum standards. Every state will treat the War of 1812 differently and you should consult with your state's standards to assess the degree to which the conflict is treated. Across the nation, most state standards mandate studying the nation's expansion of its boundaries, foreign policy, challenges, and stability. Integrating the War of 1812 satisfies these social studies standards. Remember also that the lessons and activities suggested in A Sailor's Life For Me go beyond just social studies into an array of interdisciplinary approaches to the War of 1812 including mathematics, science, English language arts, fine arts, and more. Lessons and activities can be found for all age ranges as well from kindergarten through the twelfth grade.

How much time does it take to teach the War of 1812? That's up to you!

Teaching the War in 1 Hour, 1 Day, or 1 Week

1 Hour: Causes and Consequences of the War
Explore the causes of the War in our Leaving Home Annotated Scene, and in the Why Fight? Lesson Plan. Explore the consequences of the War in our Returning Home Annotated Scene; all of the 5 activities suggested highlight the symbolism in America following the War.

1 Day: Causes and Consequences with Major Turning Points of the War
Use the above suggestions in "1 Hour" to cover the Causes and Consequences of the War. Depending on where you live, highlight a battle or event that occurred in your locale. (See our Timeline and Overview of the War of 1812) Discuss the "Star Spangled Banner", one of the more important symbols to come out of the War. Use other mandated curriculum points, such as math, science, technology, or literature, and use an interdisciplinary approach to teach a little history of the War of 1812. Use our Search Feature to find some suitable War of 1812 Lessons which go beyond the subject of history. Discuss and complete activities to teach about any of USS Constitution's major Battles, with these suggested lessons.

1 Week: Causes, Consequences, Major Turning Points, and Social Aspects of the War
Use the suggestions above in "1 Hour" and "1 Day" to cover the Causes, Consequences and Major Turning Points of the War. Meet the sailors who served on board USS Constitution, and the families who supported them in "Meet the Crew." Learn about African Americans during the War of 1812 through the eyes of a sailor named Jesse Williams. Teach your students about firing a cannon and the importance of a team, navigating a ship at sea, how to muster like a Marine, and follow directions from a Captain with these active lessons. Learn about surgery, health, medicine, and even cook some treats that were served on board USS Constitution in the War of 1812 through activities and lessons suggested in the annotated scenes of Sickbay, Sailors Eating, Cockpit After Battle, and Dinnertime. Use the dimensions of USS Constitution and what she could hold to integrate math into your curriculum using the calculations of volume, weight, area, and similar triangles. Search our lesson plans for activities that highlight math.