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The Revolutionary WarThe-Revolutionary-War

  • Subject: U.S. History
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: One class period

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will understand the following:
1. One way to learn about the past is to read historical novels.
2. Some people take one side or another in a war or other conflict; some people find themselves caught in the middle.

Materials


For this lesson, you will need:
Copies of the young adult novel My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Optional: audiotaping and videotaping equipment

Procedures


1. This project is designed to help students see that in every war there are many viewpoints to consider; the issues involved are seldom cut and dried. Tell students they are going to read a novel that underscores the preceding statement.
2. Introduce the young adult historical novel My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier. It tells the story of young Tim Meeker, the brother of a Revolutionary War soldier. Tim is caught between his sibling's rebel beliefs and his father's attempts to stay neutral in a Tory town.
3. While they are reading the novel, suggest that students keep lists of reasons that both men, the brother and the father, give for the positions they take.
4. After reading and discussing the novel, ask your students to imagine themselves in Tim's place or as someone else who has a good vantage point for assessing the conflict—for example, a soldier's spouse or parent, a doctor or nurse, or a munitions maker's apprentice. Would they feel and act as Tim does—or differently?
5. Challenge your students to write a monologue in the persona of the colonist they have imagined. In the monologue, each student must explain his or her unique perspective on the complex events unfolding. Each monologue should show that the sibling, spouse, parent, or other observer is noticing the details about a war that those caught up in the fighting or in supporting the king might overlook or not see objectively.
6. Give your students several options for presenting their monologues, each of which should begin with the speaker's statement of who he or she is pretending to be. Options include the following:
  • A live performance before the class
  • An audiotape recording
  • A videotape recording
  • A reader's theater presentation (with simple props and sound effects)
7. Involve the audience in critiquing each presentation.

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Adaptations


Students can read more sophisticated historical novels or short stories set in the Revolutionary War period.

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Discussion Questions


1. Consider the role of communication in determining the progression and outcome of a war. Compare the means of communication available in the 1700s to the technology available today. Then discuss how the outcome of the Revolutionary War might have been different with today's communication tools.
2. Strong individuals are usually a key factor in determining the strategies of a war. Compare the leadership qualities of a Revolutionary War figure such as George Washington with those of figures in some prominent conflicts today, such as Slobodan Milosevic and Yasser Arafat. What similarities can you find in their strategies and leadership qualities, if any? What differences do you notice?
3. Landownership in England differed from landownership in the colonies. Land was more available in the colonies, so more colonists were landowners—in England, only 1 in 10 people owned land, but in New England, 9 out of 10 people were landowners. In what ways might this difference have contributed to rebellious sentiments on the part of the colonists?
4. What are some of the reasons that countries and colonies seek independence? Are any of these reasons more important than others? Think about some of the "hot spots" around the world where people are currently seeking independence from a controlling government. What issues underlie these conflicts? Are they similar to the issues that led the American colonists to revolt against the English government? How?
5. The Stamp Act of 1765 required that every piece of paper sold in the colonies—from pamphlets to playing cards—have a revenue stamp on it. This revenue stamp could only be obtained by paying tax on the paper item. The colonists found this system unfair since the stamps were expensive, so they sought to have the Stamp Act repealed. More than two centuries after the passage of the Stamp Act, however, taxes are still a major preoccupation (and frustration) for many people in the United States. Evaluate the following kinds of taxes, balancing their fairness with the degree of revenue they bring in: income, import/export, gasoline, cigarette, sales, property, school, entertainment, and hospitality.
6. We use the word revolution in many contexts—think of the Industrial Revolution, for example, or the technological revolution. In reality, though, what makes a revolution a revolution? What distinguishes a revolution from mere widespread change? Brainstorm and list the criteria for a revolution, and define it in political, economic, and social terms.

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Evaluation


You can evaluate your students' presentations using the following three-point rubric:
 
Three points: coherent and unified monologue with clear thesis statement; excellent speaking and nonverbal techniques (gesturing, eye contact, and so on)
 
Two points: mostly coherent and unified monologue with adequate thesis statement; good speaking and nonverbal techniques (gesturing, eye contact, and so on)
 
One point: monologue weak in coherence, unity, and thesis statement; poor speaking and nonverbal techniques (gesturing, eye contact, and so on)
 
You can ask students to contribute to the assessment rubric by identifying nonverbal techniques.

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Extensions


A Second Declaration of Independence
If your students have had a chance to study the Declaration of Independence, now give them an opportunity to read or reread Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in light of the declaration. Ask students to comment on how the later document reflects the earlier one. What does Garry Wills, the historian and writer, mean when he says the address marks a refounding of America?

Historical Marker
Ask students to choose a battle between the British and the Americans. Direct them to create a historical marker for the battle site so that others may learn about what happened there. The minimum information that students should include on the plaque is name of the place, number of dead, names of leaders, and results of the battle.

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Suggested Readings


If You Were There In 1776
by Barbara Brenner, Bradbury, 1994.
ISBN 0-02-712322-7; LC 93-24060

The American Revolution: Opposing Viewpoints
William Dudley, editor, Greenhaven, 1992.
Explores the causes, conduct and participants of the American Revolution.

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Links


George Washington's Mount Vernon
The home of George Washington includes some great lesson material dealing with Washington, as well as a brief online tour of Mount Vernon.

From Revolution to Reconstruction
This is a well-done hypertext book on American History. Select the "War for Independence." You can go directly to a copy of "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine, compare copies of Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration of Independence with the final copy and explore a host of other hyperlinked topics of the Revolutionary War.

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Vocabulary


Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    tyrannical
Definition: The arbitrary use of power by a ruler with absolute power.
Context: They would not adhere to the tyrannical system their forefathers fled.

speaker    stifle
Definition: To keep or hold back.
Context: They did not want to stifle their economic development.

speaker    debt
Definition: Something owed, such as money, goods or services.
Context: They have an enormous war debt.

speaker    boycott
Definition: To stop from using, buying, or dealing with as an act of protest.
Context: The colonists boycotted British goods.

speaker    allies
Definition: A union or confederation between governments in a common cause.
Context: They were allies.

speaker    chaos
Definition: A condition of total disorder or confusion.
Context: In the chaos, the British charged forward blindly thrusting their bayonets and ignoring their officers shouts to fall in.

speaker    siege
Definition: The surrounding of a town or fortress by an army trying to capture it.
Context: The winds of war first stirred in the Boston area during the siege of Boston and the Battle of Breed's Hills.

speaker    rebellion
Definition: An uprising intended to change or overthrow an existing form of government.
Context: General Gage had asked parliament for 20,000 more troops to suppress the rebellion.

speaker    redoubt
Definition: A small, usually temporary defensive work.
Context: The Rebels waited while the enemy neared the redoubt.

speaker    alliances
Definition: A formal union or confederation between governments in a common cause.
Context: The colonies could negotiate alliances and receive aid.

speaker    resolution
Definition: A formal statement of a decision.
Context: After nine hours the Congress passed the resolution for independence.

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Standards


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
 
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: United States History
Standard:
Understands the causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in shaping the revolutionary movement, and reasons for the American victory.
Benchmarks:
Understands how political and religious ideas joined economic interests to bring about the "shot heard round the world" (e.g., interests and positions of Loyalists, Patriots, and other groups; resistance to imperial policy; the English tax on the colonists to help pay for the Seven Years War).

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: United States History
Standard:
Understands the causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in shaping the revolutionary movement, and reasons for the American victory.
Benchmarks:
Understands the creation of the Declaration of Independence (e.g., major principles set forth, historical antecedents that contributed to the document, individuals who struggled for independence).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: United States History
Standard:
Understands the causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in shaping the revolutionary movement, and reasons for the American victory.
Benchmarks:
Understands the social, political, and religious aspects of the American Revolution (e.g., opponents and defenders of England's new imperial policy; decisions leading to crisis of revolution; efforts by Parliament and colonies to prevent revolution; ideas of different religions; economic and social differences of Loyalists, Patriots, and neutrals).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: United States History
Standard:
Understands the causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in shaping the revolutionary movement, and reasons for the American victory.
Benchmarks:
Understands how other writings influenced the ideas of the Declaration of Independence and how other government documents compare to it (e.g., influence of John Locke's Two Treatises on Government and how it compares to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen).

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Credit


Wendy Buchberg, instructional technology support specialist, Corning?Painted Post Area School District, Corning, New York, and Schuyler Chemung Tioga BOCES, Elmira, New York.

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