Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Problem Action Reaction for Bleeding Kansas
Robert Brosseau
American History
Time Frame:
1 night homework, 30 minutes class time
Civil War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will learn how to impliment cause and effect to analyze Bleeding Kansas. The students will have the ability to use Cooperative Learning. The teacher should teach content while practicing position argument.


Give practice for DBQ & Free Response essay writing.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

AP class standard is set by Community College curriculum and AP curriculum.  Specific content is not required by state Content Level Expectation.  Closest state standards are:

  • SS2  (Knowledge of Principles and Processes of Governance Systems) 1.6 & 1.9

Principles and purposes of government – majority rule, minority rights, limited government

  • SS3 (Knowledge of Continuity and Change in the history of Missouri and the US) 1.6 & 1.9 Understand the migrations of people – motivations & challenges for immigrants
  • SS3 (Knowledge of Continuity and Change in the history of Missouri and the US) 1.6 & 1.9

Political Development in the US – analyze the development of American democracy

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Text – American History: A Survey, Alan Brinkley 12th ed.
  • Internet sources
  • Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era, Nicole Etcheson

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Needed - none
  • Optional – use NARA site as a source for students to retrieve documents from to support conclusions

Full description of activity or assignment.

Students are given a sheet with the following events listed on them:  Topeka Constitution, Lecompton Constitution, 1855 election, KS-NE Act, Pottawatomie Massacre, Charles Robinson arrest, founding of New England Emigrant Aid Company.  (Optional additions include more national events such as the caning of Charles Sumner, the Dred Scot decision; or more local issues such as the special election of May 1855, and the formation of the Kansas Legion).  Listing can be put in correct sequence to make assignment easier.     

Teacher demonstrates using the term ‘Compromise of 1850’ by listing term on the board.  above the term write a single sentence listing the cause of the Compromise such as, “The cause of the Compromise of 1850 was California’s request to enter the Union as a free state”.  Below the term write a sentence explaining the effect of the term such as “The effect of the Compromise of 1850 was increased political pressure on northern states to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act”.  The teacher could then use Daniel Webster’s “7th of March” speech as one way to support the argument. 

For homework, students are to complete the sheet with their own sentences, two per term, one each for Cause and Effect.  The next day, the teacher assigns each student to put one of their sentences on the board and then defend their choice. 



Instead of sentences to explain their Causes & Effects choices, have the students return a Primary Source document to illustrate their choice.  In this case, have the students select from the NARA website one document (diary entry, law, picture, artifact) that represents their choice, have them e-mail that choice to the teacher, and then when presenting the terms/choices the next day in class, simply project their choice onto the screen which students can then defend.   

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Must be simple so grading is quick.  The major assessment is during the oral defense of their positions, teacher pretty quickly sees which students have completed their work or not.  Students submit their sheets.  7 words with two sentences per word.  Two points per sentence equals 28 points.  This allows you to knock off a point for unclear connections without failing the “term” (3 out of four total) unless the student misses both sides of the term (2 out of 4) yet still gets some credit unless they skip the term entirely (0 out of 4).  Give the kids +2 points for a total of 30 points. 

Make notes to self on separate sheet while presentations are going on so that points can

be added or deducted due to presentation as desired.