Posts Tagged ‘American Revolution’

Declarers of Independence: Who were those guys?

February 3, 2010

The  Declaration of Independence contains extremely important American ideals and helped create the modern world we live in today, but the words did not write themselves.  Who were the folks who wrote it and what do we need to know about them?

This lesson had two parts:

Part 1: The Signers – Small groups/pairs of students will use a table of information about the signers to answer questions & discuss.  They should discover that the signers were all men, mostly wealthy, mostly of English/European descent and mostly older.   Are all men created equal?

Part 2: Deleted Scenes– Students/pairs will read a paragraph that was in Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration that was cut out of the final document.  Students will grapple with the fact that Jefferson owned slaves, yet condemned it in this draft of the Declaration.  My 9th grade students’ responses to the homework questions were sophisticated and enlightening.

Positives: It is a good way to promote critical thinking and get students to think about the ambiguity of history.  The Declaration of Independence isn’t perfect, nor were the people who wrote it, but it doesn’t mean we should discount it completely.  Exploring this gray area is an important part of growing up and understanding the world.

Negatives: For some, this might seem like an attack on the Founding Fathers.  I don’t mean it to be.  I do believe it is important for students to think about authorship and feel comfortable digging deeper into history.

The worksheets I used can be found below.



French & Indian War: Causes & Effects

November 17, 2009

The French & Indian War is complex and fascinating to some, but a waste of time and unfortunate necessity before covering the American Revolution to others.  One can spend weeks and weeks on it (such in a course on the relationship between Europe & the US I took at the University of Erlangen in Germany) but realistically US history teachers need to cover it in a matter of days.

Here is my attempt to cover it in two days, focusing mainly on causes & effects, both intended and unintended.  My students did a fabulous job predicting and making decisions remarkably similar to the actual historical events– with a few key exceptions (notably the Proclamation of 1763).

Positives: These two lessons went very well, even with my more difficult classes.   Students have a fair amount of independence and get to be “experts” on their topic.

Negatives: Not everyone did the homework, but it’s not impossible to do the day 2 lesson without completed homework– just go over it with the class.  Some students also had trouble seeing how little things– like the stories– connected to the big picture.  Explicit explanation helped, as did the graphic organizers.

Please don’t email me for the lesson plan.  I don’t have time to handle the requests in a timely manner.  Please use the GoogleFolder below to download whatever you need.


Review Activity: Memory Jogger

November 17, 2009

This format is borrowed from a colleague of mine, Michelle Ryan.  She used this format to review for a psychology class.  At her urging, I used the same format to review history material for a test about causes of the American Revolution.

Positives: Students had a degree of independence.  If they finished early, it was easy to say “Why don’t you start on the next row?  It’ll help you get ready for the test a little more.”  It also allowed students to practice the same types of questions (short answer, “connections”) that they would see on the test.  This same format could be revamped to accommodate any material.

Negatives: It took a fair amount of time, especially in chattier classes.  In 45 minute periods, only one class was able to “finish” the jigsaw.  Even if they’re not done, however, everyone still got work done.



November 16, 2009

Life stopped for a week in Mr. Carol’s 8th grade history class when we watched “1776,” a musical-turned-movie made a decade before any of us were born, about a bunch of frumpy old white guys in wigs talking about politics.  Somehow we loved it.  We tromped around the halls for weeks singing those songs.  When I see those friends, we can STILL sing those songs.  I have been trying for two years to communicate some of that joy to my students, with some successes and some failures.  Even if they don’t love it the way we did, it is still a useful way to teach about colonial America and address media literacy.

Positives: Covers many useful topics including reasons for and against independence, the personalities of key figures in the Revolution and the dismal state of the Continental Army at the onset of the conflict with Britain.  Much of the dialogue is based on writing from the historical individuals, and while a lot of it is dramatized, it includes some good history.

Negatives: It’s a bunch of ’70s guys wearing wigs and tights who sing.  Some students find this hilarious in the good way, while others find it hilarious in the bad way.


Library Scavenger Hunt: Revolutionary War

November 16, 2009

As a new teacher in an unfamiliar school, I thought having lunch in the staff room would give me an opportunity to get to know my colleagues. Through these lunches I met one of the librarians who was also new to the school. Inspired by her and with her assistance, I created an assignment to help my freshmen get to know the library and become experts on one aspect of the unit we were studying: the Revolutionary War.