Three Revolutionary War Teaching Ideas for Middle School Students

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The study of the American Revolution is obviously a key component in the U.S. history curriculum, involving not only the war for Independence, but also the dramatic paradigm shift in political philosophy. Use this lesson to help students better understand the results of decades of conflict between Great Britain and her North American colonies.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will recognize arguments for and against declaring independence, and that not all colonists supported the idea.
  • Students will identify key battles of the Revolutionary War and explain their significance.
  • Students will practice map skills

Learning Activities

1. Divide students into groups of 3 to 5 to explore the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence by creating a Liberty Tree display. Groups may use leaves or other shapes as symbols on the tree.

  • The group should look at each grievance listed and provide an example of a British action that matches such as the Sugar Act, sending troops, or other responses.

  • Students create a graphic for each grievance.

  • The group traces leaves for the Liberty Tree. On each, they add a paraphrased grievance, the matching event or legislation, and their graphic symbol.

  • Students construct a “tree” from paper towel to construction paper the completed leaves are attached to the tree. Alternately, set small branches in milk cartons and plaster of Paris for the tree base.

2. Reenact the debate over independence.

  • Divide students into small groups. Assign each group one of the following roles:
  1. Member of the Sons/Daughters of Liberty

  2. Small farm owner in Georgia

  3. Philadelphia Quaker merchant

  4. Virginia plantation owner

  5. Boston dockworker

  6. Williamsburg shopkeeper

  7. Colonial governor

  • Each group should research the position of the assigned role and develop arguments for or against breaking from England. If the individual would oppose the independence movement, the group should also develop suggestions for compromise resolution to the conflict.

  • Reassign students to new groups, so that each contains one member of each of the original groups.

  • The new groups should debate the decision for or against declaring independence and create a plan of action based on the group’s decision.

3. Review special-purpose maps with students. In pairs, students create maps on poster sized sheets of butcher paper that include dates, battle commanders of both the US and British armies, outcome, and significance of each of the following battles:

  • Lexington and Concord
  • Bunker/Breed’s Hill
  • Saratoga
  • Yorktown

Independent Practice/Assessment

Students should write a well-crafted essay on the following prompt:

  • Was the Revolutionary war inevitable, or could it have been avoided? If you believe it was inevitable, explain why. If it could have been avoided, explain how.

These ideas will add just that little bit more fun and interest to your unit.