Examining the “Boston Massacre” Through Primary Sources
A Lesson with Support for English Learners
By Amy Culler
Alta Loma School District

History Social Science Content Standards Grade 5:
5.5.1 Students explain the causes of the American Revolution.
Understand how political, religious, and economic ideas and interests brought about the Revolution.
5.6.1 Students understand the course and consequences of the American Revolution.
Identify and map the major military battles, campaigns and turning points of the Revolutionary War.

Analysis Skills:
Historical Research, Evidence, and Point of View
1. Students differentiate between primary and secondary sources.
2. Students pose relevant questions about events they encounter in historical documents, eyewitness accounts, oral histories, letters,diaries, artifacts, photographs, maps, artworks, and architecture.
3. Students distinguish fact from fiction by comparing documentary
sources on historical figures and events with fictionalized characters
and events.

Lesson Objective:
Student will compare the point of view of the British and Colonist in reference to the Boston Massacre.

Primary Sources:
Adapted for Classroom
British View – Thomas Preston
American View - Anonymous
Venn Diagram
Guided Reading Questions
Reading Questions Answer Key

Original Primary Sources

Vocabulary – British Point of View
Bayonets – the knife at the end of a long rifle
Bludgeon – a weapon used for striking usually made of wood
Commotion – busyness, hurrying around
Custom house – a building where taxes were collected on goods coming into the country
Endeavouring (British spelling) – trying
Expired – died
Imminent – threatened
Intention – plan or determination
Lest – for fear that
Melancholy – sad
Parleying – discuss terms with an enemy
Provocations – causing someone to become angry with you
Scoundrels – people who were dishonest
Sentry – a guard or soldier watching over something
Vengeance – pay back for injury

Vocabulary – American Point of View
Aforesaid – mentioned earlier
Agitate – to cause someone to become angry
Bayonet – the knife at the end of a long rifle
Catastrophe – very bad experience
Depositions – reports or stories told
Deliberation – determined to do something
Detachment – a small group of soldiers
Haste – to hurry
Horrid – ugly, very bad
Perpetrated – said to have happened
Quartered – soldiers living with citizens with or without their permission
Sentry – a guard or soldier watching over something

Vocabulary Activity:
1. Using the primary source pictures, students find five items from the vocabulary list on the pictures. (bayonet, bludgeon, custom house, scoundrel, detachment, sentry)
2. Students choose five of the vocabulary words and illustrate their meanings.
3. Students organize the vocabulary into parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives).

Comprehension Activities:
1. In partners, students examine the pictures of the “Boston Massacre” and describe what appears to be happening in each picture. They record their observations on the Venn Diagram. Student groups report out to the class and the teacher records their observations on an overhead projection copy of the Venn Diagram projected on the screen.
2. Students read the primary source documents in groups or as a whole class. Students answer the Guided Reading Questions.
3. As a class, students discuss the answers to the questions using the teacher answer sheet as a resource.
4. As a class evaluate the event’s name “Boston Massacre” Which side do you think came up with that title for the event? Why?
5. Develop another title:
a. From the American point of view
b. From the British point of view

Teacher Resources:
Reading Questions Answer Key