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Homestead Act of 1862

Lesson Plan:


a homestead certificate, 1868



Western Expansion – Homestead Act of 1862

Grade Level:

4th Grade


55-minute class period

Social Studies Content Standard:

Historical Thinking and Skills:  2. Primary and secondary sources can be used to create historical narratives.
Heritage: 3. Various groups of people have lived in Ohio over time including prehistoric and historic American Indians, migrating settlers and immigrants. Interactions among these groups have resulted in both cooperation and conflict.

ELA Content Standard:

Writing Application: C. Write formal and informal letters that include important details and follow correct letter format.
Writing conventions: B. Spell grade-appropriate words correctly.
C. Use conventions of punctuation and capitalization in written work.
D. Use grammatical structures to effectively communicate ideas in writing.

Primary Resource:

Homestead Act of 1862 (

Lesson Summary:

Students will be introduced to the primary resource, The Homestead Act of 1862, and dissect the first two sections of the act. They will understand the main concepts of the acts and use that information to write a letter to a relative explaining why they moved to Ohio.

Instructional Steps:

Day One:
Students will be put into six cooperative groups. They will be given a copy of the original handwritten Homestead Act of 1862 and fill out a  by themselves. Once everyone is completed, they will share within their group their answers and discuss how they interpreted the information as the teacher moves around the room to check on each group’s understandings. Next the group will be given a typedtranscript of the Homestead Act of 1862. Three of the six groups will be responsible to read and be able to explain section one of the act and the other three groups, section two. They will put their findings on poster paper. As the teacher reads each section, the students will highlight the concepts they perceive to be important. Next they will come together to share their findings and decide what must be put on the poster paper. Students will then write an Exit Slip listing three important facts from Homestead Act so teacher can reteach the gaps the following day.
Day Two:
Each group will share their poster’s information to the class and teacher will summarize each section and type on the Smart Board the main points, so students have a visual for their post assessment. Next students will work on their writing assignment in class.


Students will write a letter to a relative explaining why they would move west to Ohio utilizing information found in the Homestead Act.

Teacher Materials:

Handwritten and typed , highlighter, , and Smart Board.

Student Materials: 

Handwritten and typed Homestead Act, spiral questioning handout, poster paper, markers, and pencil.