Lesson Plan: The Spanish-American War

The Causes of the Spanish American War

Stephan McAteer talks about the causes of the Spanish-American War.


In 1898, the United States went to war with Spain in what became the Spanish-American War. The American victory ended Spain's era as a colonial power. The war also expanded the United States' territory to include Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. The Spanish-American War was a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and secured the U.S. as a global power.


  • WARM-UP:

    Have the students answer the following questions at the beginning of the class.

    • What is a colony?

    • How can countries acquire colonies?

    As a class, review the Spanish territorial claims prior to 1898. On a world map, have them locate the following places. Discuss why the United States might find these places important in 1898.

    • Cuba
    • Guam
    • Puerto Rico
    • Philippines

    Pass out the following note-taking handout.

    HANDOUT: Spanish-American War Handout (Google Doc)

    Have the students view the videos either as a class or individually and record notes on the causes, the major events and the lasting significance of the war.

    Alternately, this assignment can be adapted by using the Spanish-American War Video Question Handout (Google Doc) instead of the note-taking chart.

    After viewing each of the videos, review the chart/answers with the class and address any misconceptions.

  • VIDEO CLIP: The Battle of Manila (2:51)


    As a class view the following clip:

    VIDEO CLIP: The Aftermath of the Spanish-American War (3:11)

    Have the students discuss the meaning of Professor Young's statement as a class. Individually, have them answer the following writing prompt:

    Did the United States' entry into the Spanish-American War and its subsequent imperialism conflict with its principles as a nation? Use examples from the clips to support your stance.


    Compare and Contrast- Pick a current foreign engagement and discuss the similarities and differences between the Spanish-American War that that current engagement.

    What If- What if the U.S. had not gone to war with Spain in 1898. Image the history of the world if the United States had not gone to world with Spain. What would be the same? What might have been different? Write down your history.

    Yellow Journalism Meme- Using pictures from the Spanish-American War, create memes representing what Yellow Journalism would look like during the lead-up to the Spanish-American War.

Additional Resources


  • Battle Of Manila
  • Civil War
  • Colonization
  • Expansionism
  • Imperialism
  • Jingoism
  • Militarism
  • Puerto Rico
  • Ratification
  • Reconciliation
  • Rough Riders
  • San Juan Hill
  • Spanish American War
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Treaty Of Paris
  • U.s.s. Maine
  • William Randolph Hearst
  • Yellow Journalism


Foreign PolicyU.S. HistoryWorld History


Middle SchoolHigh School