What Would George Washington Do?

By: Whitney Kennon
from Margolin Hebrew Academy

Development of Critical and / or Creative Thinking

Subject(s) of entry:

Design-Thinking Model

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
8, Middle school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
8, Middle school

This lesson plan introduces George Washington and his philosophy of government. We investigate and discuss how he dealt with issues during his first presidency and how political parties developed.

Entry Narrative

Class: 8th Grade US History

Goal: Teach Students How Political Parties Form and Develop; Understand Washington’s Presidency

Discussion of problems Washington faced during his two terms:




Problems the New Government Faces During George Washington’s Terms


  • tax placed on Whiskey
  • angers the Pennsylvania farmers and they start a rebellion
  • Class Discussion: Why would this anger the farmers
  • What would George Washington do?
  • Everyone has an index card
  • Set the stage–George has just taken out his dentures (wooden, of course) and turned down his oil lamp; he is all snuggled in bed when he gets the news that the mob is getting more and more violent in Pennsylvania; this is the first real challenge the government has faced; What would George Washington Do? (WWGWD)
  • students write their answers and why on the card
  • have each student read the card and put them in groups around the room based on their answer
  • discuss with your peers (if there are any) what you wrote
  • give them opportunity to switch
  • tell them one group is right and the others are wrong
  • let them switch again
  • tell them the answer
  • sent in national troops to control the rebellion and stop it; does not stop the tax
  • Did George do the right thing?
  • write yes or no and explain why on the other side of your card
  • get into groups again and come up with a consensus of why you chose your answer
  • elect a speaker to try to convince the other side you are right
  • allow time for switching sides
  • give the right answer–there is none–this is partly why political parties form
  • how do you interpret the constitution? How do you know if you’ve done the right thing as president? How do you convince others?


  1. movement west caused numerous run-ins with Native Americans

ex: Battle of Fallen Timbers

Treaty of Greenville–got Ohio

–British are trying to rile up the Native Americans


  • what expectations did settlers have when they moved west? Why did the government take the land from the Native Americans? Is this right or wrong? What could have been done differently?


  1. there’s a conflict in Europe between France and Europe

–French send Edmond Genet to ask us for help


  • WWGWD?
  • set the stage–George has just started to eat his delicious pot roast dinner by candlelight when Edmond Genet comes knocking on the door; George invites him in for dinner by the fireplace; Edmond explains the war in France and begs for George to help; WWGWD?
  • on second index card write George’s response
  • divide into groups according to response
  • have a spokesman from each group try to sway the other groups
  • allow students to switch groups
  • Discuss the answer–the U.S. can’t join a war at this time and proclaims neutrality
  • What is neutrality?
  • Why would we do this?
  • What is it like being a baby country?
  • How do we stay friends with both France and England?
  • Why is important not to offend either at this time?


–we declare neutrality

  1. send John Jay to negotiate peace with England–Jay’s treaty


  • Discuss the treaty and why it was important


  1. negotiate with Spain–Pinckney’s Treaty

–allows us to use the Mississippi River and the Port of New Orleans


  • Why is this important–especially to the south?


  1.  Washington announces he will only serve two terms

–in his farewell speech he warns of the dangers of political parties


  • Why do political parties form?


Using what you now know about George Washington and his early years, please answer this question in a journal entry to be discussed tomorrow in class: What do you think about political parties? Are they good, bad? Why?


Sample Student Journal about Political Parties:

I think that political parties are good. They make everyone feel heard. If we didn’t have political parties no one would be happy. We have political parties so everyone has someone they can agree with. I think that political parties are important to show everyone’s side. They make everyone feel like their opinion is valued, because there are people like them in the government.

If we didn’t have these parties people would be angry. They would feel like nothing they do is worth it because they aren’t heard. They would think there is nothing i can do if everyone believes the same. If no one thinks it could change. If my feelings aren’t in the majority, I don’t have to vote. There is no one out there to support my side or share my feeling, so I won’t vote. If there were no political parties no one would feel like they matter. Political parties make people want to vote, or do something because they can be heard.


Sample Student Journal about Political Parties:

Let’s first began by saying there’s always two sides to a story. We can definitely relate that to what I am about to speak about. Now there is the Republican party and the Democrat party. That’s definitely two sides. I think it’s very good to have 2 sides. Why? Because if there weren’t two sides and people couldn’t share their ideas, thoughts, and what they believe in the situation we would only listen to one person

Having two groups of people explain why this person is good or this person is bad helps us understand why the should choose the specific person. Like in a debate, there is one person saying why the situation is right and there’s another group saying why the situation is bad. I think it’s always good to have 2 political parties. Even if at times it can get out of hand because people think the other person is wrong it’s always a good thing.

Entrant Bio(s)

Dr. Whitney Kennon is the General Studies Principal at Margolin Hebrew Academy. She has a Ph. D. in Medieval and Renaissance History and specializes in political theory and women’s spirituality. She has been teaching almost twenty years and is passionate about the importance of history. In addition to teaching a variety of high school history courses, she also teaches graduate medieval courses online at The University of Memphis.