Teacher’s Guide to Upon a Pivot


Welcome to the teachers’ guide to the Tennessee History for Kids booklet Upon a Pivot.

Please do NOT copy the booklets. That is a violation of our copyright and makes it difficult for us to continue to exist. The reason we sell them for only $2.50 is so teachers will not be tempted to copy the booklets. We print these booklets on non-glossy paper because we want students to write in their booklets and keep them.

If you would like answers to the quiz questions in the booklet, email Bill Carey at bill@tnhistoryforkids.org.

Chapter One


You may already realize that the 13 Colonies are not specifically cited as one of the standards for fourth grade; that they are listed in the third grade standards as a way of getting students ready for fourth grade. However, I decided to include this chapter on them because I didn’t necessarily think that students would remember the stories behind them.

There’s a lot of material packed into this chapter. Here are some supplemental questions that you might want to ask your students after they read it:

Who is Georgia named for? What colony was known for its toleration of Catholics? What colony was associated with Quakers? What colony was split into two colonies?


Chapter Two


As you go through this material with your students, remember that under the new standards, this is intended to be a “straight up” U.S. history course. It is hoped and expected that students will learn more about the events that took place in Tennessee in the stand-alone Tennessee history semester in fifth grade.

AevanStock/Shutterstock photo

The photo on pages 8 and 9 is interesting, because it shows very clearly how close downtown Pittsburgh is to the former site of Fort Duquesne (later Fort Pitt).

Click on this image to the left to see another view. The former site of Fort Duquesne is to the right of the fountain which is located right where the two rivers meet.


Chapter Three


Click here to take a Tennessee History for Kids virtual tour of Fort Loudoun and here to see a THFK-style video about these events called “Happy Times at Fort Loudoun.”

If your students are interested, there apparently is a connection between Justin Timberlake and Henry Timberlake. Click here to read more about this.

Chapter Four


The newspaper clipping on page 19 contains a poem which you should be able to read if you click on the image on the right.

It’s important to emphasize that the Boston Massacre was made famous in newspaper articles and made even more famous as Americans taught their history in the 1800s. It is amazing to realize that one of the key events that led to the American Revolution involved the death of five people. Other events dubbed “massacres” have much higher death tolls. (In fact, five Americans died in the U.S. Capitol riots of January 6, 2021!)

Also, the photograph on page 14 shows a man who has been tarred and feathered, and this may seem funny to your students. Please emphasize that tarring and feathering was a matter of torture, carried about my mobs. You might consider showing your students this short clipping from the HBO miniseries John Adams. However, please preview it first. Some teachers might find it disturbing; hard to say.


Visitors from Tennessee throw “crates of tea” into Boston Harbor. (THFK photo)

Chapter Five


On page 22, I make reference to the fact that we know the names of 116 people who took part in the Boston Tea Party. Click here to be taken to this list on the website of the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, a historical tourist attraction in Boston.

Take a close look at the painting on page 23. What appears to be the attitude of the man sitting in the front? Rothermel, the painter, was obviously trying to communicate the fact that not everyone in the room agreed with Henry.


Chapter Six


It surprises many Americans to learn that both famous poems referred to in this chapter were written generations after the events took place.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1860. When he wrote the poem he was trying to remind Americans about the patriotic acts which had taken place during the American Revolution. It is a remarkable poem, but contains many factual errors. Click here to read about this.

The phrase “Shot Heard Round the World” comes from a poem called “Concord Hymn” which was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1836.


THFK photo

Chapter Seven


I went to Philadelphia, toured Independence Hall, Congress Hall and the National Constitution Center, and created this virtual tour that includes a lot of interesting points about all these historic sites, along with their Tennessee connections.

I realize that you can’t take students to Philadelphia to see some of the places shown in the tour. But if you ever have a chance to go, I strongly recommend you do.

Anna Robertson photo

Chapter Eight


The content of Chapter 8 is important, but I can see that there are people in America today who would be offended by its content. After all, it was only recently that teachers even began to talk to schoolkids about the fact that the words in the Declaration of Independence did not mean that women had equal rights or that slavery did not exist.

Click here to read more about the statues of Phillis Wheatley and Abigail Adams in Boston. These statues aren’t very old; in fact, they were unveiled in 2004.


Chapter Nine


A couple of things about the painting on page 41:

First of all, the other man on horseback is supposed to be the Marquis de Lafayette.

Secondly, John Ward Dunsmore created this painting in 1907. Again, it is important to remember that Dunsmore did the painting based on his imagination. He was painting something that happened more than a century before, and obviously he had no photographs from that time period.


Painting by Edwin Austin Abbey

Chapter 10


Click on the image to the right to see a larger version of the painting on page 44.

Public school students may no longer learn much about Von Steuben, but they certainly learn about him at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A training manual that he wrote called Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States remained the official U.S. military guide until 1812. Click here to read more about it.

Click here for a virtual tour of Kings Mountain National Battlefield and here for a tour of Sycamore Shoals State Park.

On page 46 of the booklet is a scene from the movie which is shown at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. To the left and the right are other scenes. The one on the left shows what Yorktown might have looked like from the American trenches during the seige. The one one the right shows what it might have looked like in those trenches.

Finally, it is important to remember just how much King George III regretted the loss of the American colonies. Click here to see a wonderful scene from the movie The Madness of King George that illustrates this.


The graves of Andrew Jackson’s two brothers, in South Carolina (THFK photo)

Sidebar: Prisoners, Flags and Traitors


On page 48 there is mention of the fact that many soldiers died as prisoner of war on British ships. Not only did men die, but some American women who had volunteered to serve as nurses for these men also died–including Andrew Jackson’s mother, who died in a British ship in Charleston Harbor!

Click here to learn more about the early life of Andrew Jackson.


Chapter 11


Textbooks often fail to mention that the saga of the “Lost State of Franklin” was one of the incidents in early American history that showed the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation government. As you can see from this very interesting map, many counties of present-day Tennessee were part of the state of Franklin for a short while.

Click here for a virtual tour of the Lost State of Franklin.


Painting by Howard Chandler Christy

Chapter 12


First of all, an early version of this booklet has a small mistake on page 54. The men whose statues can be found in Signers’ Hall are all the signers of the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence. Oops!

Check out the painting on page 56-57 and discuss the fact that it was created more than a century after the signing of the Constitution. This is a good time to point out that there never was a “signing ceremony.” In truth, it took several weeks for the document to be signed.

In fact, Howard Chandler Christy is the artist of this painting. He was born in 1872 and died in 1952. Among many other things, Christy is known for creating World War I propaganda posters such as the one shown on the left.

Finally, here is an interesting question that may give your students’ pause: How many Tennesseans signed the Constitution? The answer would appear to be zero, since Tennessee was not a state in 1787 and didn’t therefore send any delegates. However, as it turns out, there was one man who signed the U.S. Constitution who is considered an important Tennessean. One of North Carolina’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention was William Blount. President Washington later appointed Blount to be governor of the Southwest Territory, which is why he moved to present-day Tennessee. Blount later became one of Tennessee’s first U.S. senators, and his mansion still stands in downtown Knoxville. Click here to be taken to its website.


Sidebar: We the People


The great Don Knotts as Barney Fife

Although memorizing isn’t necessarily the best way to learn material, I still think students should memorize the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Whether or not you make this assignment however, this is a really good time to interject some humor into your fourth grade social studies classroom. Google the words “Barney Fife Preamble” and show them the hilarious scene from Andy Griffith, where Barney tries to prove that he still remembers memorizing the Preamble in school.


Chapter 13: Constitutional Fractions


Public elementary schools in Tennessee have a division when it comes to subject matter in fourth grade. The person who teaches math in fourth grade is often different than the person who teaches social studies in fourth grade. If this is the case in your school, then please get together with the math teacher, and show her this material. It might be very useful to know whether students have learned fractions before they cover this material.


Chapter 14


Massachusetts Sentinel illustration

The details of the illustration on page 63 may be difficult to see. Click on the image on the right to blow it up and see it more clearly.

There is a chapter in the new eighth grade booklet (Free and Independent State) about some of the events that were also taking place in Tennessee during the era in which it became a state. You might want to read this chapter. If so, copies of the booklet cost only $2 each. Click here to see more about it.

Here is an interesting point about the naming of Tennessee’s Washington County: it was originally named Washington County when present-day East Tennessee was still part of North Carolina. So it was named for George Washington before he was president!

Finally, isn’t it interesting that when Tennessee became a state, it only merited a small mention in the Philadelphia newspaper? That brief item shown on page 66 is all that there was!


Chapter 15

Click on this image to make this map (which also appears on page 69) much larger.

Here is a very interesting point about New Orleans being controlled by Spain in the 1790s. Since all rivers in Middle and East Tennessee flow to the Mississippi and New Orleans, it was extremely important for early Tennessee to maintain a positive relationship with Spain. This is why Middle Tennessee was originally given the official name of Mero District–named for the Spanish governor of Louisiana.

Finally, you may have noticed that the title of this booklet comes from George Washington’s letter quoted on pages 69 and 70. Click here to see a short instructional video about this letter and Washington’s career as a canal promoter.


THFK photo

Chapter 16


There are two chapters in the War of 1812 in particular that involve Tennessee soldiers, Tennessee leadership and Tennessee’s image to this date.

Click here for a Tennessee History for Kids virtual tour of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and here for a tour of Chalmette National Battlefield, where the Battle of New Orleans took place.


THFK photo

Sidebar: Dawn’s Early Light


If you are ever in Baltimore, I strongly recommend that you take the water taxi to Fort McHenry, watch the movie, and do the guided tour there. As you can see, part of the tour involves everyone working together to fold an American flag properly.


Matthew Rhea map, 1832

Chapter 17


This chapter describes how important water-powered mills were to the American economy in the early 1800s. In 1832, a mapmaker named Matthew Rhea created a huge map of the state of Tennessee, and at the right is the section of the map that includes Hardeman County, in West Tennessee.

If you click on this map and blow it up you will see that, at that time, Hardeman County contained at least 11 watermills. Since the economy of Hardeman County was entirely dependent on the growth and sale of cotton, we can assume that most, if not all, of these mills were used to operate cotton gins.

Rhea’s map doesn’t show as many mills in Tennessee’s other counties, but I believe there were mills on rivers such as these all over Tennessee at that time.


A map of the country traversed by the Erie Canal (from Water-ways from the Ocean to the lakes / by Thomas Curtis Clarke — Scribners Magazine, Vol. XIX, no. 15, 1896, p. 104)

Chapter 18


Click on the image to the right to blow up the map of the Erie Canal shown on page 85.

I think it’s worth it to emphasize just how narrow the original Erie Canal was–only 12 feet wide! You might make your students stand up and, using tape of the floor, demonstrate how narrow this is. It is probably narrower than the hallway at your school.

The Erie Canal (www.eriecanal.org photo)


The image on the left (click on it to make it larger) shows the Erie Canal being used today. For more images such as this, check out the website www.eriecanal.org.