ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Pioneer America: Legendary Westerners

Can one person really make a difference?


Key Staff

Classroom Teacher

Key Skills

Making Art: Performance Skills and Techniques
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture
Creative Thinking: Communication and Collaboration


Students will gain a sense of how individuals can have an impact on history by focusing on legendary westerners during the period of westward expansion in U.S. history. In this lesson, students will work in pairs to research legendary westerners. Each student pair will be tasked with scripting a television interview with a westerner, then performing it for the class. Students will also write an essay on four additional legendary westerners, outlining their specific contributions to history.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Research people who contributed to the history of westward expansion
  • Enhance oral communication skills through the use of interview techniques
  • Sharpen reading skills through content reading
  • Apply the writing process to playwriting
  • Act as an interviewer or a legendary westerner
  • Write an essay about the contributions of specific people to U.S. history

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Research
  • Role Playing
  • Cooperative Learning

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Learner
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers should be familiar with some of the individuals who made history during postcolonial westward expansion.

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Students should know about the westward expansion of the U.S.
  • Students need to be familiar with TV interviews.

Physical Space

  • Auditorium
  • Computer Lab


  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction
  • Individualized Instruction

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



There’s a saying: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” While the majority of the pioneers who set out for the new lands of the west probably were ordinary, well-behaved people, there were also some people who stood out. The list of “Legendary Westerners” includes outlaws, explorers, brave people, innovators, and some colorful characters.


1. Review with students the term "westward expansion." Discuss what students know about people who headed west as explorers or pioneers during the 19th century, and ask what kind of people might have chosen to make that journey from the east.

2. Prepare students to research an important figure during the post-colonial westward expansion of United States territory. Pass out the Legendary Westerners handout located within the Resource Carousel to view a list of individuals important in U.S. history during this time period. Students, working in pairs, will research one legendary westerner.

3. Review internet research skills. Go over the rules of your classroom or computer lab regarding Internet use, and any guidelines you like to use for information searches. Suggested websites are listed below.

Build Knowledge

1. Allow students sufficient time to gather information using resources available in the library, computer lab, and/or classroom. The following resources will be helpful in this process:

2. Have students take notes about the figure they’re researching.


1. Have students write a television-style interview between their favorite TV interviewer and the person they are researching. Working in pairs, students should write a series of questions and answers that reveal the most important aspects of this person's contribution to U.S. history.

2. Introduce key concepts about interviews. Distribute copies of the handout Helpful Hints for a Successful Interview located within the Resource Carousel and review with students as they begin developing their interview questions and responses.

3. Because the interview will be performed for the class, you may also wish to inform students of good techniques in script writing. Refer to the handout Playwriting with Your Students located within the Resource Carousel for more information on helping beginning playwrights.

4. Allow students ample time to rehearse before performing their interviews for the class. Encourage students to bring in props and costumes. The interviewer could be a modern-day journalist; the interviewee should be dressed in the kind of clothing the character wore when he/she was alive.

5. Let student pairs perform their interviews in front of the class. While each pair is performing their interviews, the rest of the class should take notes. Tell students that they should pay careful attention to the interviews, because they will be asked to write about four important individuals (excluding the person they interviewed) of their choosing.


1. Ask students to write four paragraphs (one paragraph per individual) based on the 'Legendary Westerners' writing prompt. The Postmaster General is planning a set of four stamps honoring legendary westerners, and students will write a proposal suggesting four of the people listed in the handout.

2. Encourage students to write the best proposal they can, to increase the chances of their four westerners being chosen. Point out that the Postmaster General will be most impressed by a well thought out proposal with a paragraph containing a topic sentence for each of the people, plus an introductory and a concluding paragraph.

Extending the Learning

1. Have interviews of more than one individual at once. For example, have Kit Carson and Sacagawea interviewed together, or Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.

2. Once the proposals have been completed, read them to the class and vote on the four westerners to be commemorated with stamps. Have students design the stamps and create a bulletin board display of the designs


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 1: Script writing by planning and recording improvisations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 2: Acting by assuming roles and interacting in improvisations


Grade K-4 Theater Standard 5: Researching by finding information to support classroom dramatizations

National Standards in Other Subjects
Grades K-4 History

Grades K-4 History Standard 5: Understands the causes and nature of movements of large groups of people into and within the United States, now and long ago

Grades K-4 History Standard 6: Understands the folklore and other cultural contributions from various regions of the United States and how they helped to form a national heritage

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Language Arts Standard 3: Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions



Rebecca Haden

Bernard Franklin
Original Writer

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Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



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