We are in the midst of one of my favorite seasons. Of course it’s the holidays, but it’s also time to teach one of my favorite topics in American History-the Road to Revolution. I love this era so much not only for its excitement and concentration of iconic historic figures and events, but also because it offers such a dynamic opportunity to demonstrate cause and effect, and perspectives in history. In this post I will share some activities and resources for teaching about the events leading to the Declaration of Independence. These and other activities will be included in the teacher’s guide for my next book in the History Quester’s series. For more information about my first novel, HISTORY QUESTERS Colonies Trek and the teaching activities for the colonial period click here.
Road to Revolution Chain of Events
We want our students to understand that there are often many causes of a historical event. The American Revolution is a prime example of the complexity of inter-related forces coming together to change history. Here is an activity that not only teaches how events are inter-related, but can also be very seasonal for the holidays. Students can make a chain of events depicting the events of the Revolution in cause and effect order that can also decorate the classroom.
Using their text book or following a lecture, have students match the cause events (events in red on the sample below) with the effect events (in blue on the sample below) and place them in order. This works well as a cooperative learning activity in which you cut the events into strips and give a set to each group to match. After they are checked you could let the students loop the strips and glue them into chains at this point or you can expand the activity before making the actual chains as suggested in the next paragraph. You may also decide to jigsaw the activity by giving different events to each group and then have them join their events with other groups as a whole class activity, or have each group put all of the events in order.
To expand the activity you can give each event to a different student to research, label and illustrate on their own strip of construction paper. After they have completed their event strip, have the student who illustrated the first event in the chain (The French and Indian War) show and tell about his event. The student who thinks he has the next event in the chain should then stand and show and tell about his. This becomes similar to the “I have…Who has…” game. You will have to correct them if they get out of order, of course. As each student shares, they must explain how their event led to the next. They can then loop it together with the previous event and staple. When you are finished you have a chain of events garland to decorate your room. You could even do it in seaqsonal colors.
Road to Revolution Cause and Effects
1754: French & Indian War starts in Ohio Valley
Ø Benjamin Franklin proposes Albany Plan of Union, the first attempt at uniting colonies (join or die cartoon)
Ø Colonial militia resent inferior treatment by British (Yankee Doodle)
Ø Colonists gain confidence
1763: Treaty of Paris ends French and Indian War
Ø Daniel Boone and other colonists move into territory won from French
Ø Native tribes united in Pontiac’s Rebellion to drive settlers out of Great Lakes Region
1763: Proclamation of 1763 prohibits settlers west of line set at Appalachian Mountains because it is expensive to protect them
Ø Colonists resent not being allowed the land they had fought for and many disregarded the proclamation.
1764: British pass the Sugar Act insisting that colonists must help pay for the war.
Ø James Otis declared, “Taxation without representation is tyranny”
Ø Britain repealed the tax on sugar
1765: The Stamp Act requires colonists to buy stamps for all official documents and publications
Ø The Sons of Liberty start protests and riots against this tax calling it an internal tax that could only be levied by the colonies themselves
Ø The Stamp Act Congress is formed by Colonial leaders and formally petitions the King
Ø Colonists boycott British goods
Ø Britain repeals the Stamp Act but passes the Declaratory Act asserting its right to tax Colonies
1767: Townshend Acts taxed imports such as glass, paper, paint, lead, and tea and provided for stricter enforcement of trade laws and create vice-admirality courts to crack down on smuggling.
Ø John Dickinson writes, Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer asserting that an external tax was just as bad as an internal one if its purpose was to raise revenue
Ø Sam Adams sent a circular Letter to raise protest throughout the colonies
Ø Non-importation Agreements were signed by colonies to boycott the taxed British imports
Ø All of the import duties were repealed except the tax on tea
1765: The Quartering Act required Colonies to house British soldiers who have been sent to insure tax collection and protect the colonies
Ø Colonists resented a standing army in peace time and having to pay for it.
1770: In the Boston Massacre British soldiers killed 5 colonists during a riot at the Massachusetts Customs House.
Ø Paul Revere’s engraving of the scene is used as propaganda against the British
Ø Committees of Correspondence were formed to unite Colonies in efforts against Britain
1773: Tea Tax gave a monopoly to the British East India Company to sell taxed tea in the colonies.
Ø In the Boston Tea Party, colonists disguised as Indians, dumped the taxed tea into Boston Harbor
1774: The Intolerable Acts punished Boston for the Tea Party by closing Boston’s Port, limiting their representative government, and sending more soldiers.
Ø Colonists called for a Continental Congress to meet in Philadelphia
Ø Colonists agreed to a colony-wide boycott and pledged to support Massachusetts if it were attacked
1775: Massachusetts militia began storing weapons for war.
Ø British marched on Concord to capture weapons
Ø Paul Revere and others warned that the British were coming
Ø First shot of the American Revolution was fired at Lexington
1776: 13 Colonies signed the Declaration of Independence becoming the United States of America
Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party Role Play
The events leading to the Revolution offer some terrific opportunities for role play activities. Kids love the high action events. You could do this by assigning an event to each group to research, write a script and perform. If you chose this approach you would probably want to add some additional events. Paul Revere’s ride, Battle of Concord, Stamp Act riots would be other events that work well.
Another option is to role play in a less formal way by choosing kids to illustrate the events during a discussion or interactive lecture while you direct them and narrate in a seemingly impromptu manner. Kids love the snow ball throwing and “lobsterback” name calling of the Boston Massacre, the Indian whoops and tea dumping of the Boston Tea Party and the bright red coat target practice from behind stone walls of the Battle of Concord.
Patriot vs Loyalists Debate over Independence
The Revolution also offers such a wonderful opportunity to discuss historical perspectives. John Adams estimated that only about a third of Colonists supported Independence, while another 3rd were Loyalists and a third were undecided. What better way to look at their points of view than a debate?
To prepare for the classroom debate divide the class into Patriots and Loyalists. Give the patriots a copy of an abbreviated text of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (click here) to use to prepare their pro-independence position and the Loyalists a copy of Charles Inglis’ The True Interest of America Impartially Stated (click here) to prepare their con-independence position. Ask each team to make a list of points to support their side. This could be done individually or in smaller groups if you wish.
Rules for the Debate
Begin the debate by asking a specific student to give an argument in support of their teams’ position. Then choose a student from the opposing team for a rebuttal. If you choose the students to initially speak you can insure that all participate. After one student on each team has been chosen to speak you may allow others who volunteer to make additional comments on the topic to back up the original arguement. I usually limit them to two additional comments per side. Make sure they stay on the initial topic. After the debate of the first topic is complete, choose a student from the other side to make an argument for their position and continue as before. Continue until all arguments have been exhausted or time is up.
The debate can be graded based on individual participation, but I like to use it as extra credit points for the team that wins. I score each individual response based on the strength and logic of the argument on a scale of 1 to 5 points for the initial argument or rebuttal and 1 to 3 points for the follow ups. Add up all of the points of each side to determine the winner.
For the debate on Independence, you will want to address such topics as trade, defense, best form of government, previous compromise attempts, allegiance to mother country, Britain’s past treatment of colonies and the cost of war.
HOTS Bell Ringers
1A. What do you think the snake represents?
B. What evidence gives support to your answer?
2A. What do you think the N.E. on the snakes head stands for?
B. Why do you think it is on the head?
3.What does the message in the cartoon mean?
4. What was Ben Franklin’s purpose for creating the cartoon?
5. To what extent do you think the cartoon was effective? Explain your answer.
Excerpts from Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer by John Dickenson
What justice is there in making us pay for “defending, protecting and securing” THESE PLACES? What benefit can WE, or have WE ever derived from them? None of them was conquered for US; nor will “be defended, protected or secured” for US. Let these truths be indelibly impressed on our minds–that we cannot be happy without being free–that we cannot be free, without being secure in our property–that we cannot be secure in our property, if, without our consent, others may, as by right, take itaway–that taxes imposed on us by parliament, do thus take it away–that duties laid for thesole purpose of raising money, are taxes–that attempts to lay such duties should beInstantly and firmly opposed
- What do you think the colonies were being asked to pay for?
- Why did they object?
- How was British Parliament taking away colonists property according to Dickenson?
- What is the definition of a “duty” in this context?
- How do you think Dickenson wanted the colonists to oppose the taxes?
Paul Revere’s Engraving of The Boston Massacre
1. Describe the scene in the engraving above.
2. What historic event does it depict?
3. List at least 3 elements in the picture that make it look like a massacre?
4. Does the picture look like an accurate depiction of the event it represents? Explain why or why not.
5. What do you think was Paul Revere’s purpose for creating this engraving?
6. What effect do you think it had on the colonists?