Teaching Guide: Exploring the War of 1812

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, The War of 1812, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. How does the image of the council between William Henry Harrison and Native American leaders help us to understand the differences between the Native American peoples who resided in the “Old Northwest” and the increasing number of white American settlers? Describe Tecumseh’s steps after this fateful gathering.
  2. Using the items in this set, describe the importance of transatlantic trade to the young United States. How were the steps of Great Britain before the War of 1812 negatively impacting both the US and British trade interests?
  3. In the American declaration of war, which governmental body declares war on Great Britain? Who is the affirming President? Who is Speaker of the House of Representatives?
  4. What does the image of Fort George show us about the proximity of the US and British-Canadian forces? What can you suppose about pre- and post-war relations between these two sides?
  5. Use the “Naval Heroes” image and the 1813 poem to describe the country's view of Oliver Hazard Perry. What did he do to earn this acclaim?
  6. Use the medallion to help describe the Battle of the Thames. Why would a Kentucky governor be on the flip side of the coin?
  7. Use the 1816 description of the Battle of Baltimore and the sheet music to “The Star Spangled Banner” to describe what happened in the Battle of Baltimore and why it received accolades in song.
  8. Given the 1816 description of the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson’s account, and the image of the Constitution, explain how the tide turned towards the end of the war.
  9. What does the letter from Benjamin Hawkins tell us about the steps taken to announce the end of the war?

Classroom activities

Using the sources, students should create a news segment on the War of 1812. Students should report in from the various battle sites covered in the documents. Additionally, a special report should be given on relations with Native Americans. Other segments may include updates on new music and poetry. Finally, a panel should give commentary on the lasting outcome of the War and its impact on the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Native Americans. Tasks will need to be assigned, research done, scripts written, storyboards created, and, finally, presented (perhaps videotaped and then presented).

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