Commencement Level Lessons | Caustic Causes

One class Period

Program Segments

Introduction (3 ½ minutes)
1800 – 1810 Prelude to War (3 minutes)
1810 – 1811 Calls for War (7 ½ minutes)
June 1812 Declaration of War (6 minutes) 

NCSS Themes

VI: Power, Authority, and Governance
IX: Global Connections 

Canadian (Ontario) Concepts
Power and Governance

Canadian(Ontario) Specific Expectations – Seventh Grade

Describe the major causes and personalities of the War of 1812
Describe the impact of the War of 1812 on the development of Canada

Students will be able to:
• describe the major events that forced America into a second war with Britain 

Focus Questions

  1. What are the forces that push a nation to the point where declaring war on another nation is needed?
  2. Is one major reason enough to commit troops or is there a series of injuries which force a conflict?

Key Concepts
Impressment, War Hawks 

Instructional Resources

The War of 1812 DVD
Icon Causes Study Sheet (26.6 KB)


Program Segments for Lesson Plan


  1. The teacher will show the first segments of The War of 1812 which highlight the causes of this conflict.
  2. The teacher will explain to the students that there are other possible causes than the documentary describes and the students will have an opportunity to explore them.
  3. The teacher will divide the class into five groups and give each group one cause to explore along with a paragraph of information pertaining to that cause. (See appendix.)
  4. The students will discuss within their group whether their particular cause would have been a large enough reason to declare war.
  5. The teacher should add to each group’s discussion the possible costs of war in terms of financial and human costs and that students should not take the decision to commit these resources lightly.
  6. After a period of allotted time for debate, each group will propose to the class their specific cause, their findings, and whether or not they have decided to commit troops.
  7. Once each group has spoken, open the discussion to a new larger debate involving the entire class and propose the viewing of all the causes together. See if there are any changes in their declarations.
  8. To conclude the lesson, the teacher will make the point that there is usually more than one reason which leads a nation to engage another militaristically.

Assessment Tasks
Students should have appropriate participation within their small group discussions and presentations of information to the class. Using the program and outside resources, the students will determine how few or how many reasons led to the beginning of the War of 1812.

Related PBS Resources

Civil War: Manassas
Examine the causes of the Civil War, describe why the battles at Bull Run and Manassas awakened both the North and the South to the realities of war and read and discuss personal accounts of what it was like to be a slave.

WWI: Beginnings and Progression
Examine the events and people that led the world toward global war. Research and analyze the causes to determine how the events, if altered, might have averted war or ended it sooner.

Causes of the Cold War
Investigate the political circumstances that led to rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Speculate on ways the Cold War might have been avoided and determine why it ultimately wasn't.

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Icon Caustic Causes Lesson Plan (434.6 KB)

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