Beacon Lesson Plan Library

America Doubled

Andrea Raley


What could you do with 15 million dollars? The US doubled in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Students learn about Lewis and Clark and experience traveling through the land like them rationing out what items they would need and their importance.


The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of fourth grade or higher level content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes (for example, journals to reflect upon ideas, reports to describe scientific observations).

The student interacts with peers in a variety of situations to develop and present familiar ideas (for example, conversations, whole group interactions, discussions).

The student uses strategies to respond to speakers (for example, asking questions, making contributions, summarizing, reflecting on ideas).

The student prepares for and gives presentations for specific occasions, audiences, and purposes (including but not limited to group discussions, informational or dramatic presentations).

The student uses discussion strategies (for example, acting as participant and leader; volunteering relevant information; responding to opinions and ideas of others; summarizing information heard).

The student understands selected geographic and economic features of the growth and change that occurred in America from 1801 to 1861 (for example, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Louisiana Purchase).


-AMERICA’S STORY, Book One, 1995, Austin, Texas, Steck-Vaughn (if available or other textbook resource)
-Lewis and Clark Expedition worksheet
-Weighted book bag
-One-dollar bill
- Play money
-Grading rubrics


1. If you are using a textbook as a reference, read through the information thoroughly and identify any key elements referring to the Louisiana Purchase that you need to make during the class discussion such as those listed in step 5 of the procedures.
2. Prepare a backpack with books or other objects in it that would be equal to the weight of a baby.
3. Have identified ten foods to use as the model of ranking items.
4. Have copies made of the Lewis and Clark Expedition worksheet in the attached file ready for the students.
5. Print copies of the grading rubrics included in the associated file.


NOTES: This lesson could be used with the AMERICA’S STORY textbook by Steck-Vaughn or another resource. Instruction of paragraph writing should have been given to the students at an earlier time, so they can complete step 14.

1.Remove a dollar from your pocket and wave it around the room.

2. Ask the students who wants the dollar. Then ask the students what they would buy with a dollar. Allow for discussion.

3. Now show a lot of money to the students using play money and ask students what they would buy with one million dollars. Allow for discussion.

4. Explain to the students that the United States paid 15 million dollars to France to purchase a piece of land that doubled the United States in size.

5. Lead a discussion with the students about the Louisiana Purchase. The following items need to be included in the class discussion to ensure their understanding of the importance of this event for the United States. You may use a textbook that contains the information about the Louisiana Purchase to help in this discussion.

· Native Americans and settlers fought to determine who would use the land.
· Spain had given the United States permission to use the port city of New Orleans.
· Louisiana was owned by Spain first, and then it was given back to France.
· President Jefferson was worried that the US could not use the port.
· The ruler of France was Napoleon.
· Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to the US in 1803 for 15 million dollars.
· The US doubled in size.
· Jefferson hired Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Territory.
· They carried an African American slave with them on the expedition named York. He was an excellent hunter, and he could communicate with the Native Americans.
· Along the trip, Lewis and Clark had Sacajawea, a Native American woman, to lead them across the Rocky Mountains.
· During the trip, Sacajawea had a baby boy, and she carried him on her back throughout the journey.
· The journey began in 1804 and ended in 1806. They had explored 8,000 miles.

6. Ask the students to explain how far one mile is. After they can visualize the mile, have them imagine that they had to walk or ride a horse for 8,000 miles. Remind students that this is the year 1804, and there are no stores, cars, or fast food restaurants. Ask students what kind of difficulties could they face. Briefly discuss their reactions to the questions.

7. Ask one of the students to volunteer to be Sacajawea. Put a backpack with some weight on him/her to represent a baby and have the student walk across the room a couple of times.

8. Ask the students to imagine now having to carry a baby on your back for 8,000 miles.

9. Display on the board or overhead a list of ten foods. Have them watch you as you model to them how to rank each food item in order of preference.

10. Distribute the Lewis and Clark Expedition worksheet located in the attached file with a list of ten items that Lewis and Clark may have had with them on their journey exploring the Louisiana Territory. Have the students complete the list in the individual column only.

11. Now divide the students into groups of four. Have them discuss with their group the items that they have chosen as their most important.

12. Then the groups need to come to a consensus and determine what their group would choose as the most important item and rank these things in their worksheet in the group column.

13. After the groups have ranked their items, they need to determine why they have chosen them in the order they have selected, so they can present their group’s decisions to the class.

14. Have the groups appoint a spokesperson to explain to the class why they chose the item as number 1.

15. Ask students to return to their desks. Have them write a paragraph summarizing the events that led to the Louisiana Purchase and its exploration.


Use the paragraphs and the individual and group findings on the Lewis and Clark Expedition worksheet to formatively assess the students.

The rubrics in the attached file include the criteria for successful performance.

-Construct a paragraph summarizing the events that led to the Louisiana Purchase and its exploration.
-Create a chart of items of preference that would be used if traveling in the exploration individually and cooperatively.
-Complete a checklist of how the members of the group participated

Paragraph – Points needing to be included in paragraph:
-Native Americans and settlers fought to determine who would use the land.
-Spain had given the US permission to use the port city of New Orleans.
-Louisiana was owned by Spain first, and then it was given back to France.
-President Jefferson was worried that the US could not use the port.
-The ruler of France was Napoleon.
-Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to the US in 1803 for 15 million dollars.
-The US doubled in size.

Each item is ranked to 10 for individual paper and for cooperative groups.

Group checklist – Points needing to be evaluated:
-Members discussed what he/she chose for their first item.
-Cooperative attitude
-Every member discussed with the group what he/she thinks should be the first item for the group.
-Group successfully ranks the items in order from 1 – 10


NOTE: Prior instruction of expository essays must have been done before this activity can be completed.
To extend this lesson into a writing activity you may do the following.
-After the students complete step 10 in the procedures section, have the students write an expository essay giving all the necessary details and elaboration to support why they have chosen the item for their first preference.

Attached Files

The Lewis and Clark Expedition worksheet and two grading rubrics.     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.