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Revolution: The Call To BattleRevolution-The-Call-To-Battle

  • Subject: World History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: One or two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • work as a class to develop a definition of the term revolution that characterizes how it is different from a war;
  • review and classify one of four historical conflicts-the Seven Years' War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the military campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte; and
  • report their findings to the class.


  • Paper and pencils
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Revolution: The Call to Battle video and VCR (optional)


  1. Begin the lesson by asking students what they think a revolution is and how it is different from a war. Write their responses on a sheet of newsprint. Help students draft a definition of revolution that includes these conclusions about what distinguishes a revolution from a war:


    • A revolution is a battle fought for principles and ideals.
    • A revolution may be fought by volunteers, not professional soldiers, who are committed to the principles of the war.
    • Wars are fought by professional soldiers who focus on military tactics and strategies.
    • Wars often are the result of territorial conflicts.


  2. Divide the class into four groups, assigning each group one of these conflicts:


    • Seven Years' War
    • American Revolution
    • French Revolution
    • Military Campaigns of Napoleon


  3. Tell the groups that they will research their conflict and then prepare and deliver a class presentation that answers these questions:


    • What were the reasons for this conflict?
    • In your opinion, was it a war or a revolution?
    • What factors did you use to arrive at your conclusion?
    • Is it sometimes difficult to tell whether a conflict is a war or a revolution? Why?


  4. Give the groups the following Web sites to guide their research. To get students started, you may want to show a few minutes of the Revolution: The Call to Battle video.

    The Seven Years' War

    The American Revolution

    The French Revolution

    The Military Campaigns of Napoleon

  5. Give students time in class to complete their research and prepare their presentations. Each group should pick a presenter or presenters.
  6. After all the presentations have been given, discuss the groups' research results and any differences of opinion. Ask students: Which conflicts, in your opinion, were wars? Which were revolutions? Why is it difficult to tell sometimes?
  7. Conclude the lesson by revisiting the definition of revolution that the class created at the beginning of the lesson. Based on what students know now, how would they revise the definition?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students actively participated in class discussions; completed their research carefully and thoroughly; made a thoughtful, accurate, and complete presentation to the class.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions; completed their research; made an accurate and complete presentation to the class.
  • One point: Students did not participate in class discussions; had difficulty completing their research; made an incomplete presentation to the class.

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  • Ask students to select a conflict of the 20th century, such as World War II, and decide whether it was a war or a revolution. Then have them write a short essay that explains their opinion and includes supporting facts.
  • Using the Web sites in Step 4, have students create a scrapbook for one of the lesson's four conflicts. Encourage students to include pictures and original documents, and to write captions that explain each item they've included.

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American Revolution
Definition: Conflict between the thirteen Colonies and Great Britain that took place between 1775 and 1783; this conflict resulted in the birth of a new nation, the United States of America.
Context: Because the American Revolution was fought for principles that resulted in the formation of a nation based on democratic ideals, most scholars consider the conflict a revolution rather than a war.

French Revolution
Definition: Conflict that took place in France between 1789 and 1799 that changed the structure of the French government and introduced democratic ideals to the country
Context: While the French Revolution did not result in a democratic government, it did end the autocratic rule of the monarchy and strengthen the standing of the French middle class.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Definition: French military leader who lived between 1769 and 1821 and ruled France as its emperor from 1804 to 1814
Context: Napoleon Bonaparte was not content ruling France; he wanted to conquer Europe, which proved to be his downfall.

Definition: Conflict fought for ideals and beliefs valued strongly, often by civilian soldiers willing to die for their principles; many times it ends with the existing government being overthrown and replaced by another.
Context: People fighting in a revolution find courage and strength in their cause that allows them to engage in struggles they would otherwise avoid.

Seven Years' War
Definition: Territorial conflict that took place between 1756 and 1763 that involved nearly every country in Europe as well as America and India; did not result in any substantial territory changes in Europe
Context: The Seven Years' War — also known as the French and Indian Wars — was a territorial dispute over North American land, in which Britain was victorious over France.

Definition: Conflict between states or nations, often a battle over territory
Context: In addition to the Seven Years' War, the British and the French fought territorial wars in India and Africa.

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This lesson plan addresses the following curriculum standards created by the National Council for the Social Studies:
  • Culture
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Global Connections

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Marilyn Fenichel, education writer and editor

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