Lesson: Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal

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Lesson Objective

By the end of the lesson, SWBAT explain how American expanded its role in the world during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

Lesson Plan




·       Theodore Roosevelt expanded America’s influence in the hemisphere by encouraging and brokering the construction of the Panama Canal.

·       Theodore Roosevelt flexed U.S. muscle by building and sailing the “White Fleet” in the Asian waters.

·       Theodore Roosevelt knew that America needed to show its strength to keep peace.

·       Theodore Roosevelt used the army to end a counter-insurgency in the Philippines.

·       Theodore Roosevelt showed the world that America is a super power.  

·       Essential Question: “How did Theodore Roosevelt make America a powerful country in the world?”

·       Vocabulary: Theodore Roosevelt, Panama Canal, Philippines, White Fleet. 



T will informally assess their knowledge by asking different questions during the Power Point.


T will assess the students’ work on the map activity.


T will assess the students’ stories about the Panama Canal.





SS5H3 The student will describe how life changed in America at the turn of the


c. Explain how William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt expanded America’s

role in the world; include the Spanish-American War and the building of the

Panama Canal.

1. OPENING ( 10 min.)  (Engage/Explore) 



·       At the start of the lesson, T will put up a political cartoon of Roosevelt digging the Panama Canal. T will put the following sponge on the board: “Look at the following political cartoon, discuss with your tablemates what you think this cartoon is trying to say?”  

·       T will have the Ss share their responses with tablemates.  

·       T will ask the Ss to share out their starter answers. 

·       T will explain the objective for the day: By the end of the lesson, SWBAT explain how American expanded its role in the world during the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. 



·       Ss will share their starter with group mates.

·       Ss will share their ideas with the class.





·       T will begin the lesson by showing a Power Point about the growth of American power around the world thanks to Theodore Roosevelt (Technology).

·       T will stress that the construction of the Panama Canal was pivotal in the development of trade between Asian countries, and the East coast of the U.S. with the West coast.

·       T will also stress that Theodore Roosevelt also flexed the power of America by sailing the Great White Fleet into Asian waters, and by fighting back the insurgency in the Philippines.


·       Ss will fill out the graphic organizer on Theodore Roosevelt and the expansion of U.S. power.

·       Ss will ask questions when they arise.

3. GUIDED PRACTICE (15 min.) (Extend)



·       T will put up the following writing prompt: “How did the creation of the Panama Canal increase America’s power and the amount of trade that was there?”

·       T will tell the Ss that they are going to use the information from the Power Point and the graphic organizer to come up with a well-constructed essay as a class.

·       T will use guided questions to ensure that students talk about increase in trade, more power in the hemisphere, and a savings in time trying to get goods from one place to another.

·       T will go sentence by sentence using the Ss thoughts.

·       T will encourage the Ss to think critically about subjects and not just write surface answers – go deeper.


·       Ss will offer thoughts on the writing prompt.

·       Ss will learn how to correctly approach a writing prompt.

·       Ss will provide information that can be put into the writing.

4. INDEPENDENT PRACTICE (40 min.) (Evaluate)



·       T will the Ss to use a map of the Western Hemisphere to draw a trade route pre-Panama Canal

·       T will ask the Ss to draw a trade route after the Panama Canal was created.

·       T will ask the students to compare and contrast the maps and answer discussion questions such as:  “How did the Panama Canal help trade in America?” T will also ask the Ss to write down the facts on the sheet in their graphic organizer packet.

·       T will ask the Ss to complete a map key that explains the different routes. Ie: dashes = the route taken by ships prior to the Panama Canal, and dots = the route taken by ships after the Panama Canal was built.

·       T will then have the Ss complete a story either from the point of view of a sailor who was the captain of a ship when the Panama Canal existed or when it did not exist.

·       T will insist that the stories contain information that they learned in the lesson – such as: the Panama Canal made shipping easier, the Panama Canal helped businesses make more money, without the Panama Canal ships sometimes got stuck in the ice off the Southern coast of South America.

·       T will ask the higher-level learners/early finishers to try to calculate the difference in distance between the trade route pre-Panama Canal, and post-Panama Canal by using the key provided on the map.


·       Ss will complete the map exercise.

·       Ss will work with the teacher if they need remedial work.

·       Ss will create their own stories.

·       Ss will calculate distances for enrichment.

5. CLOSING (5 min.)



·       As a closing, T will have some students share out their maps and/or stories.

·       T will review the key points.

·       T will present the homework: If you have access to a computer, research five more facts about President Roosevelt or the Panama Canal that you did not learn in class.


·       Students will answer questions.

·       Students will ask any last minute questions.


Teacher's Reflection:

I found that when I taught this lesson, it really helped to repeat America's desire to increase their sphere of influence and improve life for its citizens. This theme helped students understand why Roosevelt wanted to build the Panama Canal and the Great White Fleet. 


In addition, I made sure to be very careful not to glorify the building of the Panama Canal and America's extension of America's sphere of influence.


Finally, when it came to writing the group writing activity in the Guided Practice, I noticed that the students did a great job coming up with ideas, but it was a great way to incorporate a writing lesson because students definitely needed practice taking their ideas and incorporating them into writing in a clear and organized fashion. 

Lesson Resources

Turn of the Century in America - Lesson 6 - Teddy Roosevelt and Panama Canal - PowerPoint   Smart Board
Turn of the Century in America - Lesson 6 - Teddy Roosevelt and Panama Canal - Map Activity   Activity
Turn of the Century in America - Lesson 6 - Teddy Roosevelt and Panama Canal - Key Note (Mac)   Smart Board
Turn of the Century in America - Lesson 6 - Teddy Roosevelt and Panama Canal - Graphic Organizer and Narrative Activity   Activity
America at the Turn of the Century Unit - Lesson 6 - Teddy Roosevelt and Panama Canal - Lesson Plan   Lesson Plan


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