Lesson Plan

Compromise of 1850, 7th & 8th Grade

Lesson Plan Image
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
State Standards:
Missouri:  #3Synthesize Ideas from multiple texts.  History:  Theme 4 - Analyze expansion; Analyze political compromises over slavery.
Kansas:  Events:  La. Territory, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Mississippi River, Compromise of 1850
Additional Standards:
Oklahoma:  8.6.4 - increased tension between Southern sectionalist & Northern nationalist perspectives.  8.8 Examine concept & opposing perspectives of Manifest Destiny. 8.8.2 Explain territorial growth of U.S.
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

Is Compromise necessary for the success or survival of a representative government?


Students will be able to examine the essential issues that the Compromise of 1850 hoped to address and evaluate the effectiveness of this compromise in terms of national


Show video: Triumph and Tragedy
Bios for Character Composites
Discuss five main issues confronting U.S. in 1850
 1) Abolishing slave trade in Washington, D.C.
 2) Admitting California as a free state
 3) Decision about admittance of Mexican Cession: Utah and New Mexico
 4) Stronger Fugitive Slave law
 5) Border dispute between Texas and New Mexico


Discuss parts of a rubric and how to create one.


Lesson Hook/Preview

Ask students to brainstorm issues that people always argue over. When do issues come up the most? When do people talk about them the most? How are issues commonly dealt with today? Have students construct a rubric to determine how effective a compromise is. Have them create categories to judge the impact and fairness of compromises. What elements are needed in order to have a successful compromise . (Could have them create a WATCH OUT rubric...rank items that could sabotage compromises....rank them from most to least dangerous?.


Discuss how events and context occurring in the United States impacted the construction of the Compromise of 1850:
1) Mexican-American War - Reasons for war and outcome)
2) California Gold Rush of 1848-49
3) Status of Senate (balance)
Points of View:
 1) Pro-Slave-ideology that perceives slavery as a positive good or an otherwise morally acceptable institution.
 2) Abolitionist-person who favors abolition of a practice or institution, especially capital punishment or (formerly) slavery
 3) Freesoiler-member of an anti-slavery political party in the years before the Civil War that supported free distribution of government-owned lands. Opposed spread of slavery into new territory. 
 1)Territory in the U.S.-1840's U.S. acquired massive territory in Southwest and Pacific Coast. A complex mix of political, social, and economic factors fueled American expansionist sentiment in the 1840's.
 2) Boundaries-Dispute between Texas and New Mexico over shared boundary
 3)Slavery-the state of a person held in forced servitude.

Assign students multiple states that represent the points of view above. Have them craft a position that states what the goals are for each state and WHY their goals are justified. Then have them develop a plan that will allow them to have their goals realized.

Once students construct their plans, compare them to the actual Compromise of 1850. How are they alike and different? What did they include that the Compromise of 1850 did not? Have them evaluate the effectiveness of settling the dispute of territory acquisition and the issue of slavery by comparing their rubrics to the compromise itself for evaluation.

Concluding Discussion:
What issue today could end up being debated like the ones that drove the need for the Compromise of 1850?
How can these issues be solved without worsening the situation? (What needs to be done and what needs to be avoided?)


Mexican-American War: The Mexican-American War was a conflict between the United States and Mexico, fought from April 1846 to February 1848. ...It stemmed from the annexation of the Republic of Texas by the U.S. in 1845 and from a dispute over whether Texas ended at the Nueces River (the Mexican claim) or the Rio Grande (the U.S. claim).
The Compromise of 1850 consists of five laws passed in September of 1850 that dealt with the issue of slavery and territorial expansion. ...As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was amended and the slave trade in Washington, D.C., was abolished.
California Gold Rush: The California Gold Rush was a gold rush that began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.
Status of Senate (balance): The Compromise of 1850 consists of five laws passed in September of 1850 that dealt with the issue of slavery and territorial expansion. In 1849 California requested permission to enter the Union as a free state, potentially upsetting the balance between the free and slave states in the U.S. Senate.
Map of Compromise of 1850

Supports for Struggling Learners

Question Creation:

Have students construct questions they have about the Missouri Compromise.

Then have the student take their questions and collaborate with three other students.

The student should record their classmates' responses in a paraphrase form.

Then construct a one sentence summary of what the fellow students shared.

Then, the student will take their set of original questions to an expert student (one that has been designated by the teacher): together the students will collaborate and discuss points that are accurately clarified and points of misconception.

From there the student will take a post-it note and write down their refined and supported understandings about the Missouri Compromise: The Post-It Note should address the following prompts:
 *The issue that it addressed within the Missouri Compromise
 *Different views about the Missouri Compromise
 *The impact of the Missouri Compromise on the nation

Enrichment Activities

Questioning Reflections

Have students construct responses that demonstrate their ability to grasp abstract concepts and critically analyze events and information to infer its overall impact.

Reflection Statements:
1) How was James Tallmadge different from Henry Clay?
2) What are the characteristics of a successful compromise? How do you know these are needed?
3) In what ways could we show the impact of the Missouri Compromise outside of Congress?
4) How does the Missouri Compromise relate to the Civil War?

Have students share their reflection with a student that sees the content differently or in a way that is more supervisual in understanding. After the student shares their reflections, have the listener write a response to their part on a post-it note and place on the teacher's desk (or designated spot by the door on their way out of class).
1) What is one thing that you still have a questin about after your conversation?
2) What are two things that you feel you understand better?
3) What are three things that you now know FOR SURE?

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Last updated: September 28, 2021