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January 16, 2013

Texas Ho! (Colonization of Texas) - Updated

Texas Ho! is my favorite Social Studies lesson. After reading about Moses and Stephen F. Austin, students fill out their application for colonization.

I remind my students that we are pretending that it is 1820, so when they choose their "current state of residence", they have to select one that was actually a state in 1820 and NOT Texas. For their date of birth, we subtracted their age from 1820, but used the same month and date. Their "country of origin" had to either be the United States or a European country. Although, I did allow one boy to choose Russia. I, also, explained that majority of colonists were going to be farmers, and that most women would be homemakers. (The girls were seriously upset by this news.)

The next question may be a touchy one, especially in public schools, but I approach it from a purely historical aspect. One of the goals of Spanish explorers was to spread the Roman Catholic religion. Even after Mexico won its independence from Spain, they still required their citizens to be Catholic. I, also, remind them that the Mexican governor is going to give them free land, so would they be willing to pretend. The same caveat goes for the question of would they renounce their U.S. citizenship. Almost all agree to both.

Finally, we discuss how Moses Austin wanted to establish a colony of Anglo American settlers. He was only allowed to bring 300 families, so he could choose the best. They must have good moral character and manners. One of the hardest parts of this application ~ signing their name in CURSIVE.

They submit their application to the "Land Grant office" [my turn in basket], then the "Mexican governor" [me] reviews their application and stamps it "APPROVED" or "DENIED". [Actually, I've never found an approved or denied stamp, so I stamp it "Received", initial it and date it.]

The next day, I return their applications, usually to a lot of chatter about whether they were approved or not. Students who were approved become "head of households". I put them into "family" groups. I ask them to choose a last name. Some years, they have even assigned themselves roles in their families [ie. dad, mom, baby, cousin, grandma, etc...]

Now that "We are family..." (Is that song in your head now? You're welcome!)

I show them a Powerpoint of household items a family in 1820 might have owned.

Then, I give them a copy of  "Texas Ho!".
Updated file on 1/17/13 - I forgot the sack of salt. 

They work with their family to decide what household items they should load on their wagon and bring to Texas. I let them use a calculator to make sure they do not exceed the 400 lb. weight limit.

The final step is to pack their wagon. I give them an outline of a wagon. They draw the items in the wagon, then cut it out, glue it onto construction paper, and draw a horse pulling their wagon. We post a "GTT" [Gone to Texas] sign on our classroom door, and we are off to Austin's colony.

Note: I am not sure where the original "Texas Ho!" idea came from, perhaps some curriculum guide. My original copy has no copyright information on it. I apologize if I have infringed on copyright. Please notify me and I will remove it from my blog.

The "Application for Colonization" is my idea, which is why I added a copyright tag.

Last, but not least! This is the first time I have shared files on my blog. Please let me know if you have any difficulty accessing them.


  1. I love this lesson! The kids love it and get so much out of it. The application is very thought-provoking. Especially when they have to consider giving up their US citizenship and change religions. I really miss teaching Texas history. It's so colorful and exciting.

    Your files came through fine!

    Teaching With Moxie

  2. Hi! I'm using this fabulous Application for Colonization for a lesson I'm creating in grad school (it's more than that, but your application is *definitely* a key part of the introduction to the idea of colonization and multiple perspectives on Texas annexation). I'll be sure to credit you in the citations.