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Understanding American ValuesUnderstanding-American-Values

  • Subject: U.S. History
  • |
  • Grade(s): K-5
  • |
  • Duration: 2-3 class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • Students will identify events that led to the American Revolution.
  • Students will describe the emotions and sentiment that led to the American Revolution.


  • Understanding American Values program
  • Reference books with information about the causes of the American Revolution
  • Computer with Internet access (optional)
  • Regular writing paper
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Black felt tip markers
  • Heavy white card stock or bond paper, 1 per student (8 ? by 11 in.)
  • Black tea bags soaked in warm water, 1 per student
  • Paper towels


  1. Before the lesson, put the tea bags in a container of warm water to steep.
  2. Discuss colonial America and why the colonies sought independence from Britain.
    • What were the positive things about being ruled by a far-away government? What were the negative things?
    • What did the British government do that angered the colonists?
    • Were the colonists reasonable to want independence from Britain?
  3. Divide the class into groups of  three or four students. Have each group use reference materials and the Internet to research the reasons for the American Revolution. Tell them to list at least four events that led to the war and discuss whether they think the colonists were reasonable to want independence. The following Web sites may prove helpful:

    Causes and Early Troubles
    Historical Document Collection
    Was the American Revolution a Revolution?
    Thomas Paine
  4. Ask each group to share their research and opinions. Discuss the following question:
    • Would you have wanted independence as a colonist? Explain your answer.
  5. Tell students to imagine they are colonists living in Boston in 1770, just after the Boston Massacre occurred. They have received a letter from a relative in Great Britain who is upset that the colonies are no longer loyal to King George III. The relative wants to know why the colonists are behaving ungratefully.
    • What would you say to this relative?
    • How would you convince someone that you and the other colonists are seeking independence from the king for good reasons?
  6. Explain to students that they will write letters to those relatives, persuading them to accept and agree with the American fight for liberty and freedom. Ask students to think about how the Stamp Act or Boston Massacre might have affected their lives and the lives of others in colonial America. Addressing creatively why the policies of King George III are unfair, students? letters should include at least two events that led to the desire for independence. They should also include a definition of liberty and why they want it badly enough to fight. Review the parts of a letter, and tell students that each should include the date (between March 5 and December 31, 1770), greeting, body, closing, and signature.
  7. Before they write, have students take a tea bag sitting in water and rub it over a piece of card stock or bond paper to make it look old. Blot the excess water with paper towels and place the paper between two sheets of fresh paper towel to dry. Put a heavy book on top of the paper and set it aside to dry overnight.
  8. Give students time to work on their letters in class or as a homework assignment. They may refer to the reference books or the Internet for more information about events leading to the Revolutionary War.
  9. After students have finished drafting their letters, have them trade with a peer to edit for spelling, grammar, and correct letter format. Once letters have been edited, give students black felt-tip markers and have them write their final versions on the aged-looking paper. Tell them to write their letters lightly in pencil before tracing over them in black marker.
  10. Display the finished letters in the classroom.

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:  Students clearly and correctly identified four or more events that led to the American Revolution; wrote thoughtful, creative letters that addressed all the necessary criteria and thoroughly explained the sentiment and emotion that led to the American Revolution.
  • Two points:  : Students adequately identified at least three events that led to the American Revolution; wrote somewhat thoughtful, creative letters that addressed most of the necessary criteria and generally explained the sentiment and emotion that led to the American Revolution.
  • One point:  Students identified two or fewer events that led to the American Revolution; wrote incomplete letters that addressed little to none of the necessary criteria and inadequately explained the sentiment and emotion that led to the American Revolution.

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Definition: A region politically controlled by a distant country; a dependency
Context: Many people in the 13 colonies did not like being ruled by Great Britain.

Definition: Political independence
Context: The colonies wanted freedom from unfair government controls, including British taxes.

Definition: Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control
Context: Twenty-five years after the Liberty Bell was hung in Philadelphia, the city would find itself embroiled in a war for the cause of liberty.

Definition: A state ruled or headed by a sole or absolute sovereign such as a king or empress
Context: Great Britain, which was a monarchy, originally controlled the 13 American colonies.

Definition: One that serves as a delegate or agent for another; a member of a governmental body, usually legislative, chosen by popular vote
Context: In the summer of 1776, representatives from the each of the 13 colonies met in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Definition: A contribution for the support of a government required of persons, groups, or businesses within the domain of that government
Context: The British placed high taxes on tea, paper, glass, lead, paint, and other items they sent to the American colonies.

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Academic Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Historical Understanding: Understands the historical perspective.
  • U.S. History - Era 3: Revolution and a New Nation: Understands the causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in shaping the revolutionary movement, and reasons for American victory; Understands the impact of the American Revolution on politics, the economy, and society; Understands the institutes and practices of government created during the Revolution and how these elements were revised between 1787 and 1815 to create the foundation of the American political system based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
  • World History - Era 7: An Age of Revolutions (1750-1914): Understands major global trends from 1750 to 1914.
  • World History - Era 7: An Age of Revolutions (1750-1914): Understands major global trends from 1750 to 1914.
  • Geography - Human Systems: Understands the forces of conflict and cooperation that shape the divisions on Earth?s surface; Understands the pattern of human settlement and their causes.

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online, click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Culture
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Civic Ideals and Practices
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

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