How Do Nations Resolve Disputes without Violence?


How Do Nations Resolve Disputes without Violence?


Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State


In this focused inquiry, students will learn about the Pig War as a topic to investigate the question: How do nations resolve disputes without violence? They will also consider: How and why did the Pig War happen? Students will engage in deep reading, develop information summaries, conduct independent research, and participate in small and large group discussion. Students will write an argument with a well-formed claim, clear evidence, and reason.

Lesson Objectives

1. Students will be able to read primary and secondary sources, and gather information that helps them answer compelling and supporting questions.

2. Students will explain the chronology of events that resulted in the Pig War in a one-page document.

3. Students will develop a claim with evidence and reasoning to answer the compelling question.

Source Materials

Featured Source(s):


• H2.6-8.2: Explain and analyze how individuals and movements have shaped Washington State history since statehood.

• H3.6-8.5: Analyze multiple causal factors to create positions on major events in United States history (1763- 1877).

• CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

• CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


Compelling Question:

How do nations resolve disputes without violence?

Staging the Question:

  • Ask students about wars. Give each student five sticky notes and ask them to write down either one word or a short phrase on each sticky note, describing what most wars are like. These should be adjectives. This could also be done on a Jamboard, Padlet, Mentimeter, or other digital tool.

  • Ask students to post their answers so that they are visible to all students. Students should now read the shared sticky notes and sort them into categories. Allow students to do this in any way they want; there really isn’t a wrong answer. Make sure students name the categories they have created.

  • After students have sorted and named the categories, ask them: What are some common threads we see in the responses? Common threads will most likely include violence, bloodshed, death, and killing.

  • Ask students: Have you ever heard of a war that didn’t result in bloodshed? What would that be like? What would that require of each “side” in the conflict?

  • Tell students that today they will be learning about a war that involved very little bloodshed and discover how nations resolved the dispute without violence: The Pig War. The only casualty was a pig that belonged to a British farmer, killed by an American living on the island (you can keep this a secret if you want).

Supporting Questions:

What causal factors created The Pig War? What were the events and how did no violence occur?

Formative Performance Tasks:

Step 1: Map Analysis

Show students the map of the Pacific Northwest and the corresponding questions. In partners or independently, invite them to read it carefully and to answer the questions based on the map.

Step 2: Image Analysis

Show students the sign marking the English Camp on San Juan Island and the corresponding questions. In partners or independently, invite them to read it carefully and to answer the questions based on the sign.

Step 3: Video Analysis

Note: This step has two parts. Be sure to watch the video before you show it to students and be ready to pause it at the correct time noted on the reflection sheet. You also may need to pause the video every so often for student discussion and to record their answers. 

Step 4: Primary Source Corroboration

Invite students to read the newspaper articles (edited for length and readability). Do these sources agree with the events as you’ve learned them so far in the lesson? Students should annotate the texts as they read and list at least two corroborating facts from each article.

Step 5: One Pager

Now that students have learned many facts about the Pig War, including the sequence of events, invite them to complete a “one pager” that shows the following:

  • ONE illustration generated by you (the student).
  • FIVE important facts that someone MUST know about the Pig War.
  • TWO lines (one from each primary source) that demonstrate an important fact about the Pig War. Each line must corroborate a fact learned from the map, image, and/or video.
  • ONE statement explaining why Britain thought San Juan Island belonged to them.
  • ONE statement explaining why the United States thought San Juan Island belonged to them.
  • ONE CONCLUSION: How do nations resolve disputes without violence?


Have students use the information they got from the background texts and the primary source texts to answer the compelling question: How do nations resolve disputes without violence? Student responses should include a clear claim, specific evidence, and a well-thought-out reason.

Taking Informed Action:

Invite students to research a conflict and provide a recommendation as to how it might be resolved without violence. Students will use the information learned in this inquiry to guide their thinking.
WSL_How do nations resolve disputes without violence.pdf