Grade 5 Early United States History

Grade 5: United States History, Geography, Economics, and Government - Early Exploration to Westward Movement

  • Pre-Columbian Civilizations of the New World and European Exploration, Colonization, and Settlement to 1700tomato3-new.jpg
  • The Revolution and the Formation of a Federal Government Under the Constitution, 1775-1789
  • The Principles and Institutions of American Constitutional Government
  • The First Four Presidencies and the Growth of the Republic: United States to 1820

Pre-Columbian Civilizations of the New World and European Exploration, Colonization, and Settlement to 1700

5.1 Describe the earliest explorations of the New World by the Vikings, the period and locations of their explorations, and the evidence for them.

5.2 Identify the three major pre-Columbian civilizations that existed in Central and South America (Maya, Aztec, and Inca) and their locations. Describe their political structures, religious practices, and use of slaves.

5.3 Explain why trade routes to Asia had been closed in the 15th century and trace the voyages of at least four of the explorers listed below. Describe what each explorer sought when he began his journey, what he found, and how his discoveries changed the image of the world, especially the maps used by explorers. amerigo.jpg

A. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa
B. John and Sebastian Cabot
C. Jacques Cartier
D. Samuel de Champlain
E. Christopher Columbus
F. Henry Hudson
G. Ferdinand Magellan
H. Juan Ponce de Leon
I. Amerigo Vespucci

5.4 Explain why the Aztec and Inca civilizations declined in the 16th century.

A. the encounters between Cortes and Montezuma
B. the encounters between Pizarro and the Incas
C. the goals of the Spanish conquistadors
D. the effects of European diseases, particularly smallpox, throughout the Western hemisphere
hernando-cortez-7.jpg montezuma-1.jpg

5.5 Describe the goals and extent of the Dutch settlement in New York, the French settlements in Canada, and the Spanish settlements in Florida, the Southwest, and California.

5.6 Explain the early relationship of the English settlers to the indigenous peoples, or Indians, in North America, including the differing views on ownership or use of land and the conflicts between them (e.g., the Pequot and King Philip’s Wars in New England).

5.7 Identify some of the major leaders and groups responsible for the founding of the original colonies in North America.


A. Lord Baltimore in Maryland
B. William Penn in Pennsylvania
C. John Smith in Virginia
D. Roger Williams in Rhode Island
E. John Winthrop in Massachusetts

5.8 Identify the links between the political principles and practices developed in ancient Greece and such political institutions and practices as written constitutions and town meetings of the Puritans.

5.9 Explain the reasons that the language, political institutions, and political principles of what became the United States of America were largely shaped by English colonists even though other major European nations also explored the New World.

A. the relatively small number of colonists who came from other nations besides England
B. long experience with self-government
C. the high rates of literacy and education among the English colonial leaders
D. England’s strong economic, intellectual, and military position

The Political, Intellectual, and Economic Growth of the Colonies, 1700-1775


5.10 On a map of North America, identify the first 13 colonies and describe how regional differences in climate, types of farming, populations, and sources of labor shaped their economies and societies through the 18th century.

5.11 Explain the importance of maritime commerce in the development of the economy of colonial Massachusetts, using the services of historical societies and museums as needed.

A. the fishing and shipbuilding industries
B. trans-Atlantic trade
C. the port cities of New Bedford, Newburyport, Gloucester, Salem, and Boston

5.12 Explain the causes of the establishment of slavery in North America. Describe the harsh conditions of the Middle Passage and slave life, and the responses of slaves to their condition. Describe the life of free African Americans in the colonies.

5.13 Identify the founders and the reasons for the establishment of educational institutions in the colonies (grammar schools and colleges such as Harvard and the College of William and Mary).

5.14 Explain the development of colonial governments and describe how these developments contributed to the Revolution.

A. legislative bodies
B. town meetings
C. charters on individual freedom and rights

5.15 Explain the reasons for the French and Indian War, how it led to an overhaul of British imperial policy, and the colonial response to these policies.

A. Sugar Act (1764)
B. Stamp Act (1765)
C. Townsend Duties (1767)
D. Tea Act (1773) and the Intolerable Acts (1774)
E. the slogan, “no taxation without representation”
F. the roles of the Stamp Act Congress, the Sons of Liberty, and the Boston Tea Party (1773)


The Revolution and the Formation of a Federal Government under the Constitution, 1775-1789

5.16 Explain the meaning of the key ideas on equality, natural rights, the rule of law, and the purpose of government contained in the Declaration of Independence.


5.17 Describe the major battles of the Revolution and explain the factors leading to American victory and British defeat.

Colonials-Review-web.jpgA. Lexington and Concord (1775)
B. Bunker Hill (1775)
C. Saratoga (1777)
D. Valley Forge (1777-1778)
E. Yorktown (1781)

5.18 Describe the life and achievements of important leaders during the Revolution and the early years of the United States.

A. John Adams
B. Benjamin Franklin
C. King George III
D. Alexander Hamilton
E. Thomas Jefferson
F. James Madison
G. George Washington

5.19 Identify the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including its date, its primary author (John Adams), and the basic rights it gives to citizens of the Commonwealth.

adams-national-park-and-brockton-musum-035.jpg john_adams,_jane_stewart.jpg

5.20 Explain the reasons for the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 and for its later failure.

5.21 Describe Shays’s Rebellion of 1786-1787 and explain why it was one of the crucial events leading to the Constitutional Convention.

external image Daniel_Shays_and_Job_Shattuck.jpg constitutionalconvention.jpg

5.22 Identify the various leaders of the Constitutional Convention and describe the major issues they debated.

A. distribution of political power
B. rights of individuals
C. rights of states
D. the Great Compromise
E. slavery

The Principles and Institutions of American Constitutional Government

5.23 Describe the responsibilities of government at the federal, state, and local levels (e.g., protection of individual rights and the provision of services such as law enforcement and the building and funding of schools).

5.24 Describe the basic political principles of American democracy and explain how the Constitution and the Bill of Rights reflect and preserve these principles.

A. individual rights and responsibilities
B. equality
C. the rule of law
D. limited government
E. representative democracy

5.25 Identify the three branches of the United States government as outlined by the Constitution, describe their functions and relationships, and identify what features of the Constitution were unique at the time (e.g., the presidency and the independent judiciary).


5.26 Identify the rights in the Bill of Rights and explain the reasons for its inclusion in the Constitution in 1791.

5.27 Explain how American citizens were expected to participate in, monitor, and bring about changes in their government over time, and give examples of how they continue to do so today.

The Growth of the Republic

5.28 Identify the changes in voting qualifications between 1787 and 1820 (e.g., the abolition of property requirements), and compare who could vote in local, state, and national elections in the U.S. with who could vote in England, France, and Russia.

5.29 Explain the events leading up to, and the significance of, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.


5.30 Describe the expedition of Lewis and Clark from 1803 to 1806.


5.31 Describe the significance and consequences of the abolition of slavery in the northern states after the Revolution and of the 1808 law that banned the importation of slaves into the United States.

5.32 Describe the causes of the war of 1812 and how events during the war contributed to a sense of American nationalism.

A. British restrictions on trade and impressment
B. Major battles and events of the war, including the role of the USS Constitution, the burning of the Capitol and the White House, and the Battle of New Orleans

5.33 Explain the importance of the China trade and the whaling industry to 19th century New England, and give examples of imports from China.

5.34 Explain the reasons that pioneers moved west from the beginning to the middle of the 19th century, and describe their lives on the frontier.

A. wagon train journeys on the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails
B. their settlements in the western territories

ortrail011.jpg trailmap.gif

5.35 Identify the key issues that contributed to the onset of the Civil War.

A. the debate over slavery and westward expansion
B. diverging economic interests


Image IDs from left to right:

1. Aztec calendar, from Agricultural Research Services website.
2. Amerigo Vespucci, from the Library of Congress.
3. Hernando Cortes, from
4. Montezuma, from
5. William Penn, from
6. map of the 13 Original Colonies, from the National Park Services website.
7. Boston Tea Party, from the National Park Services website.
8. Declaration of Independence, from the National Park Services website.
9. Battle of Lexington and Concord, from the National Park Services website.
10. Massachusetts Constitution, from The Traveling Wheelchair website.
11. John Adams, from the National Park Services website.
12. Daniel Shays Wikimedia Commons, "Daniel Shays and Job Shattuck".
13. Constitutional Convention of 1787, from the National Park Services website.
14. Three Branches of Government, from Ben's Guide: Branches of Government (3-5) website.
15. Lewis and Clark, from the National Park Service's web page on Fire and Aviation Management.
16. Louisiana Purchase map, from the National Park Services website.
17. Oregon Trail, from the National Park Services website.
18. Santa Fe Trail map, from the National Park Service's web page, "Bent's Old Fort NHS Learning Page".
19. Civil War soldiers, from the National Park Service's web page, "Time Machine: 1855".