Educational Lesson Plans
Below are four engaging lessons for history and social studies educators that incorporate primary sources of the American Revolution — the original town newspapers and broadsheets. All newspapers featured in the lessons are reproduced in full-color HD in Reporting the Revolutionary War and include historical context (some also include transcripts). For classroom purposes, we have also provided links to printable versions of the newspaper articles, each sized to 8″ x 10.5″ for convenient printing to 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Common Core Standards for Literacy in History and Social Studies were addressed for grades 9-10, but teachers can easily level down to grades 6-7-8 or up to 11-12 with minor modifications. The lessons were generously contributed by Pennsylvania high school teacher Michelle A. Larson.
LESSON PLAN I:
Town Hall Meeting (PDF 562KB)
Sugar Act and Stamp Act
This short lesson is designed to introduce students to the first steps of the American Revolution and to consider the mindset and various viewpoints of Colonial Americans. However, the general focus of the lesson is to consider various perspectives on an issue. Therefore, it could be modified to address any number of passages from Reporting the Revolutionary War.
LESSON PLAN II:
Evaluating Civil Disobedience (PDF 570KB)
Stamp Act Riots
By and large, early protests against the Sugar and Stamp Acts were peaceful and nonviolent. However, as time wore on, pressure built among the restless Americans who saw Parliament as slow to act on their concerns. By September of 1765, tensions were running extremely high. Several malicious acts, ranging from the burning of effigies to the destruction of property, were committed throughout the colonies. The Supplement to the Boston News-Letter on September 5, 1765 reported on a variety of these events. This lesson is designed to evaluate these actions. While this lesson is primarily focused on these specific actions, the lesson could be modified to address a number of other events throughout the Revolutionary War, including the Boston Tea Party.
LESSON PLAN III:
Reconstructing History: Becoming Historian (PDF 578KB)
Battle of Lexington and Concord
It is said that history is written by the victors. This may be especially true of the American Revolution, in which newspapers were used throughout the war to fan the flames of rebellion. In this lesson, students will act as historians and try to reconstruct the Battle of Lexington and Concord from eyewitness accounts and other documents as they are presented in various newspapers. News of this battle appeared in newspapers in bits and pieces, and much of it was selected for its effect on the readership, both here in America and in Britain. As students read, they should also consider what facts and interpretations the account provides, as well as how those accounts may have affected the opinions of it’s readers in support of or opposition to the goals of the rebels.
Eyewitness Accounts from June 1, 1775, London Chronicle (PDF 331 KB)
New-Hampshire Gazette, April 21, 1775 (PDF 1.8MB – JPG 1.4MB)
New-England Chronicle, May 12, 1775 (PDF 2MB – JPG 2MB)
London Chronicle, June 1, 1775 (PAGE ONE: PDF 1.9MB – JPG 1.5MB)
London Chronicle, June 1, 1775 (PAGE TWO: PDF 1.6MB – JPG 1.8MB)
LESSON PLAN IV:
Analyzing Perspective, Bias, Cause & Effect (PDF 540 KB)
Treason of Benedict Arnold
Newspapers during the Revolutionary period did not hire reporters to write about their events. They relied heavily on everyday people or military officers to share their personal correspondence or write letters to the publishers, which were then printed, either in part or in whole. Since the intended audience was often an individual or military superior, their bias is often very clear. It is possible to analyze these documents for only perspective, or only cause and effect, but the two are often inextricably connected. As your students read the letter included in this lesson, or other suggested letters, encourage them to think about the ways in which bias and perspective affect the writer’s reporting of events.