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The Russian RevolutionThe-Russian-Revolution

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

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will understand the following:
1. Some of the people involved in the Russian Revolution had strong personalities and lend themselves to a dramatization of the events.
2. Historical drama, like other historical fiction, is rooted in history but contains imaginary elements as well.

Materials


For this lesson, you will need:
History textbooks
Biographies
Reference sources such as encyclopedias

Procedures


1. Tell students that they are going to participate in small-group drama workshops. Each group will write a one-act play based on what they have learned about a figure associated with the Russian Revolution.
2. Discuss with students the people intimately involved with the Russian Revolution. Explain that each group will select one or more of those people on whom to base its drama. The list will probably include the following:
  • Rasputin
  • Nicholas
  • Alexandra
  • One or more of the Romanov children: Alexis, Tatiana, Olga, Marie, and Anatasia
  • Lenin
  • Kerensky
3. Direct each group to review multiple reference sources (primary and secondary) to learn more about the individual or individuals it will focus on. In particular, explain that students can lend authenticity to their dramas by finding passages from their subjects' writings or reported conversations that they may want to include in the dialogue. If necessary, help groups to determine which group member should scour which reference source. All members should then report back to the group, which will, by consensus, pick one event from the person's life (or persons' lives) to dramatize.
4. Go over with the class the following important elements of a one-act play:
  • The script must contain both dialogue and stage directions.
  • A one-act play usually deals with a single conflict and occurs in a single setting.
  • As one or more characters try to solve the conflict, the act builds to a climax. Then the play shows the characters' reactions to the climax and moves on to a final outcome.
  • A play based on a historical event must stick to some historical facts but can also include fictional details—especially dialogue but also actions.
5. In a series of minilessons, as detailed here, review with students how to proceed from prewriting the act, through writing, to revising and editing. Give the groups time to apply each minilesson.
 
PREWRITING
  1. In addition to a main character (one of the individuals previously listed), the act needs at least one other character—a friend or foe of the main character. In this case, the other character may also be from the preceding list or may be another character, even an imaginary character.
  2. The characters need to have a conflict between themselves or with someone else or something else. Ask the characters to recall or imagine conflicts involving their characters—either real-life problems they faced or problems that the group decides the characters might have faced.
  3. Selecting one of those problems, each group should think about and prepare notes on how the characters will respond to the problem and how the problem will be solved.
  4. Each group should imagine how its characters look (including how they dress), sound, and act—and jot down notes for later use.
  5. Each group must also be clear on where and when the act takes place, so the students should jot down their thoughts on background scenery, furniture, and props.
WRITING
  1. When students in each group are ready to move on to the actual drafting stage, let them figure out how multiple authors can work together. Review with them, if necessary, the mechanics of listing characters and of writing stage directions and dialogue.
  2. Advise students to follow their prewriting notes to unfold the scene: introducing characters and the problem, building suspense, and winding up with a historically accurate or believable ending. Students should, however, be free to abandon prewriting notes that may take them to dead ends—and rethink their act.
  3. Rather than let an act simply peter out, remind students that the audience needs to know what each character is doing and feeling—or, at least, what each character's situation is—at the end of the act.
  4. If they have not done so earlier, students should now title their act.
REVISING AND EDITING
  1. Share with students a checklist such as the following, giving them time to revise as necessary so that they can answer yes to all the questions:
  1. Content

  2. Does the dialogue or stage directions clearly show the character(s) facing a conflict, lead up to a conclusion, and always include characters' reactions?
     
  3. Style

  4. Is the dialogue realistic and easy for an actor to say?
     
  5. Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics

  6. Have you checked to make sure capitalization, spelling, and matters such as agreement, comparison, and pronoun references are correct?
6. Ask each group to perform, or at least read, its act for the rest of the class.

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Adaptations


During the prewriting phase, help students warm up by asking them to do freewriting from the point of view of one of the characters.

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Discussion Questions


1. How did Rasputin gain such a strong influence over the czarina? What was his effect on the process of policy making within Russian government? What qualities do you think Rasputin had that made him a powerful character in Russia?
2. What was Rasputin's role in the coming of the Russian Revolution?
3. Discuss the validity of the following statement:

"For the first time in history, a revolution is being engineered not from below but from above, not by people against their government, but by the government against the welfare of the people."

How does this statement reflect the course of events that took place in the life of the czar?

4. What caused the Russian people to revolt against the czar in March 1917?
5. Discuss the reasons Lenin had for killing the Romanov family. Do you think he was right in ordering their death?
6. How did Lenin obtain the power base he needed to overthrow the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky? Why do you think Lenin received support from the Russian citizens? What methods did he use?
7. Describe the results of the Bolshevik ascension to power as the Kerensky government fell in November of 1917.
8. Why do you think Lenin felt it was important to hide the truth about the murder of the czar and his family?

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Evaluation


You can evaluate each group's historical drama using the following three-point rubric:
Three points: inclusion of historically accurate elements; well-formulated story line with conflict and outcome; smooth, realistic dialogue and clear stage directions
 
Two points: some basis in historical fact; inadequately developed story line; some unrealistic dialogue and incomplete stage directions
 
One point: absence of historical accuracy; inadequate outcome to conflict examined in the act; unrealistic dialogue and incomplete stage directions

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Extensions


Leaders Stepping Down
When civil war gripped Russia in 1917, Czar Nicholas II was forced to formally step down from his position as ruler. Historically, other leaders have also left their posts for unusual causes. Have students research the reasons for other leaders' abdications. These might include Edward VIII's abdication from the throne of England in 1936, the abdications of Charles I and Wilhelm II at the end of World War I, the abdication of Michael IV of Romania after Communist takeover in 1947, and the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. As a class, explore the ways in which these leaders conducted themselves and the conditions of the period to the way Nicholas II acted and the conditions in which he found himself. In each case, decide whether the abdication was a proactive or reactive gesture.

The Royal Families of Europe
Many of the royal families of Europe are related. Kings and queens arranged strategic marriages between their children for the well-being of their kingdoms. Have students research the genealogy of the major monarchs of Europe during the second half of the 19th century. Direct students to then develop a graphical guide—a family tree—of the monarchs of Europe. It should show at least three generations of each family and how at least two families are related.

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Suggested Readings


Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra
Peter Kurth. Back Bay Books, 1998.
Rich with illustrations, this book chronicles the lives of Nicholas and Alexandra from romantic beginnings to the tragic end.

Russia and the U.S.S.R. 1905-1991
Philip Ingram. In the Cambridge History Programme . University Press, 1997.
A history of the USSR from the 1905 revolution to the end of the Khrushshev years and beyond to the present day, this book includes questions and activities for students.

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Links


The Romanovs: The Doomed Dynasty
A graphic description of the murder of the czar and his family, this site also contains biographies of each of the Romanov children.

A Tribute to Tsar Nicholas II and his family, 1868-1918
This site contains stunningly colorized photos of the Czar and his family. It is a great resource because of its incredible list of Romanov links.

Anastasia: The Lost Romanov Princess
Graphically beautiful, this site uses images from the animated movie Anastasia as a hook to get the viewer interested in the topic.

Genealogy of the Romanov Family
This Finnish database on the Romanov family has a hypertext guide to the relationships of the family members. Biographies are included.

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Vocabulary


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

speaker    abdicate
Definition: To step down from a high office, such as the throne, and formally relinquish power.
Context: Nicholas had given up; he had inwardly abdicated some six months before the actual abdication.

speaker    abyss
Definition: A huge chasm or gulf in the earth. Also, the dwelling place of evil spirits (hell).
Context: "If the czar does not take steps to rid Russia of this evil man, he will send Russia into an abyss from which there is no way back."

speaker    asylum
Definition: Protection from arrest and extradition given to political refugees from a foreign country.
Context: The provisional government asked Great Britain to give political asylum to the czar.

speaker    autocracy
Definition: Government by a single ruler with unlimited power.
Context: We celebrated when the czar abdicated because we thought autocracy was over, replaced by a democratic republic.

speaker    coup d'etat
Definition: A sudden overthrow of the government, usually by a small group of people in authority or in the military.
Context: The provisional government was swept from power in a coup d'etat staged by the Bolsheviks.

speaker    debauchery
Definition: Extreme indulgence in worldly pleasures such as drinking alcohol.
Context: Rasputin was careful to act respectful in the czarina's presence as though all rumors of debauchery were only rumors.

speaker    depose
Definition: To remove a monarch from the throne, usually by way of revolution.
Context: The czar took on the life of a common citizen after he was deposed by the Revolutionary Guard.

speaker    monarchist
Definition: A political ally of the monarchy. One who supports the existence and policies of the reigning king or queen.
Context: One prominent monarchist in the Duma had the courage to say what others were thinking about Rasputin.

speaker    pariah
Definition: An outcast; someone who has been rejected by society.
Context: With no place to find asylum, the former czar was now an international pariah.

speaker    provisional government
Definition: A temporary government set up as a caretaker until a permanent leadership can be installed by way of democratic elections.
Context: Alexander Kerensky rapidly became the leader of the provisional government after the czar abdicated.

speaker    regime
Definition: A government in power or the period in which a certain government is in power.
Context: The new regime seized power in what was a coup d'etat.

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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: 9-12
Subject area: world history
Standard:
Understands major global trends from 1750 to 1914.
Benchmarks:
Understands the importance of ideas associated with republicanism, liberalism, socialism, and constitutionalism on 19th-century political life in such states as Great Britain, France, the United States, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Argentina, the Ottoman Empire, China, or Japan (e.g., how these movements were tied to new- or old-class interests).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: world history
Standard:
Understands patterns of global change in the era of western military and economic dominance from 1800 to 1914.
Benchmarks:
Understands the advantages and disadvantages of imperialism (e.g., the chief benefits and costs of introducing new political institutions and advances in communication, technology, and medicine to countries under European imperialist rule; how medical advances, steam power, and military technology were used in European imperialism).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: world history
Standard:
Understands reform, revolution, and social change in the world economy of the early 20th century.
Benchmarks:
Understands the diverse events that led to and resulted from the Russian Revolution of 1905 (e.g., the Russo-Japanese War, Bloody Sunday, the October Manifesto, and groups agitating for political reform and those supporting radical changes).

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: world history
Standard:
Understands the causes and global consequences of World War I.
Benchmarks:
Benchmark 1: Understands the extent to which different sources supported the war effort (e.g., how nationalism and propaganda helped mobilize civilian populations to support "total war" ways in which colonial peoples contributed to the war effort of the Allies and the Central Powers by providing military forces and supplies, and what this effort might have meant to colonial subjects; the effectiveness of propaganda to gain support from neutral nations; how and why original support and enthusiasm to support the war deteriorated).

Benchmark 2: Understands Lenin's ideology and policies and their impact on Russia after the Revolution of 1917 (e.g., Lenin's political ideology and how the Bolsheviks adapted Marxist ideas to conditions particular to Russia; why Lenin declined to follow Marxist economic philosophy; the platforms and promises of Kerensky and Lenin in 1917, the impact of war upon Kerensky's program, and the importance of Lenin's promise, "land, bread, peace").

Benchmark 3: Understands the impact of the Russian Revolution on other countries (e.g., the challenge that revolutionary Russia posed to western governments; the impact of the Bolshevik victory on world labor movements; how the Red Russians, White Russians, British, French, and Japanese viewed the Russian Revolution).

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Credit


George Cassutto, social studies teacher, North Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown, Maryland.

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