The Trail of Tears was a dark stain on American history, and it’s a key point to study in Native American Social Studies classes. This historical event dramatically shaped the expansion of the nation, and it’s important for middle and high school students to understand the impact that the Trail of Tears had on history. We’ve collected eighteen of the top American resources for a history teachers to help their students understand the Trail of Tears, including comprehensive lesson plans and historical sources. Explore them below!
1. Introduction Activity
This activity provides an overview of all the major players in the Trail of Tears, including Andrew Jackson, John Ross, and the Cherokee Nation. It looks at the main causes of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which was a major turning point for Native Americans.
Learn More: Study.com
2. Interactive Trail Map
This is an online map that displays the Trail of Tears and all of the main points including Native American ancestral homelands, and geographical features along the way. It also highlights major historical events that occurred along the Trail of Tears.
Learn More: XR Learning Hub
3. Trail of Tears Web Quest
This Trail of Tears web quest is an interactive activity that follows Andrew Jackson’s decision to send Native American people to Oklahoma. It takes students along the horse trails and backwaters that have come to define the Trail of Tears.
Learn More: Trail of Tears Webquest
4. Trail of Tears Geography Lesson Plan
This resource features color maps and references historical events to give students a complete geographical understanding of the Trail of Tears.
Learn More: Twinkl
5. Major Lessons from the Trail of Tears
This online quiz is an activity that will help students understand and remember the lasting effects that the Trail of Tears had on Native American tribes and the development of the country as a whole.
Learn More: Quizlet
6. Who Was Andrew Jackson?
This video explores the life and personality of Andrew Jackson. It speaks to how his presidency impacted American Indians, the development of the country, and foreign policy; even to this day.
Learn More: TED-Ed
7. Traditions and Customs of the Cherokee Nation
This resource can help you teach more about the background of the Cherokee Nation. These customs offer a deeper insight into the devastating effects of the Trail of Tears on the Native American tribes; effects that can still be seen to this day. The resource offers comprehension and discussion questions to help your students internalize and synthesize the information in the guide.
Learn More: Native American Traditions in Appalachia
8. Vocabulary Worksheet
This worksheet will prepare your class to have an in-depth discussion. After covering these vocabulary items, students will be able to use the proper words and phrases to express their understanding of the Trail of Tears.
Learn More: Trail of Tears Vocabulary Worksheet
9. The Cherokee Nation and Forced Relocation
At the heart of the Trail of Tears, American Expansion turned to Official Indian Removal. This material digs into the causes and effects of the Trail of Tears and offers several ways to get students to write critically about the historical period from many different perspectives.
Learn More: Teaching with Historic Places
10. Video: The Trail of Tears Explained
This video is a great introduction to the Trail of Tears! It looks at many of the main themes and historic events that came to define this period of Native American relocation.
Learn More: Hip Hughes
11. Primary Source: The Indian Removal Act of 1830
You can explore the law that set off the Trail of Tears by analyzing the Act of 1830. This will help students get used to the language of the time, and see the law for how it really is.
Learn More: Indian Removal Act
12. History Mystery
This interactive slideshow is a wonderful, ready-to-use resource! It features an engaging approach to teaching the Trail of Tears and uses a narrative layout to keep students focused. It’s an online, gamified lesson that students can complete individually, or that you can work through together as a whole class.
Learn More: SlidePlayer
13. Trail of Tears Introductory Slideshow
This slideshow gives some of the historic and tragic events that came to define the Trail of Tears. It also looks at the period and policies from different perspectives and emphasizes students do the same.
Learn More: SlideShare
14. Primary Source Documents About the Trail of Tears
This is a whole collection of primary sources, along with a couple of secondary sources, that look at the Indian Removal Act of 1830 directly in its historical context. This will allow students to adopt a first-person perspective of this historical period.
Learn More: Dropbox
15. Trail of Tears Worksheet Bundle
This packet of worksheets includes guided notes and several paper-based activities for upper elementary and middle school-aged students. It features puzzles and games with the key vocabulary about the Trail of Tears, which will help teach and reinforce these important ideas.
Learn More: KidsKonnect
16. Discussion Questions About the Trail of Tears
This list of discussion questions will help motivate your students to talk about all the things they’ve learned about the Trail of Tears. The questions focus on higher-order, critical thinking.
Learn More: Bill of Rights Institute
17. Trail of Tears Essay Prompts
This is a list of essay prompts that will get students thinking and writing from different perspectives. You can use these questions as a way to assess students’ understanding at the end of the unit. You can also use these as test questions that will have students thinking deeper as the unit comes to a close.
Learn More: gradesfixer.com
18. Trail of Tears: End-of-Unit Research Project
For a deeper understanding of the Trail of Tears, have students complete an in-depth research project. This is a great way to promote research and writing skills that they will use throughout their academic careers. Students can also present the findings of their research in class.
Learn More: Ultius