Free Lesson That Introduces the Big Ideas of American History

As teachers we often find that our students are drowning in the details of history and are unable to retain basic information. Without understanding some of the big ideas and concepts of  history, students have no way to connect information and organize events and other important details.

TCI has created a great lesson that combats this problem by introducing five  ideals from the Declaration of Independence that can serve as a foundation for learning American history. In this lesson students study the Declaration of Independence and are introduced to five big ideas from the document: equality, rights, liberty, opportunity, and democracy. Next, students preview key events from  American history and decide how the event connects to the five big ideas. In the final part of the lesson, students write an essay where they argue how they think America has lived up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of the Independence. It’s a great introductory lesson, but the real pay off comes later. Throughout the year as you discuss and review events with students, you can continually ask them to link the event back to the ideals introduced in this lesson and evaluate if it advanced those ideals or was a setback. Finally, at the end of the year students are asked to write an essay on the same topic, but this time we ask them to include evidence they have gathered throughout the year. 

We’d love for you to teach this lesson and share how you have adapted it to your students. The sample lesson is embedded below. If you’d like to try the lesson using our presenter technology, simply sign up for a trialof History Alive! Pursuing American Ideals at

History Alive! Pursuing American Ideals Sample Chapter