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History Institute

Lesson Materials for Teaching About
18th Century Colonial America

American Centuries
This set of lessons accompanies the virtual museum site from Deerfield Massachusetts called American Centuries. It provides teachers with background essays on how to use technology to teach history. It also offers a wealth of activities and lessons about colonial New England to use with the over 1000 images of primary source artifacts in the virtual collection. Standard 5.4.0

At Home on the French Frontier
Compare life in America's French and English colonies through this series of simple activities based on primary source material. Learn many economics and geography concepts in the process. Standard 5.4.5

Convoy Up the Mississippi
Simulate the activities surrounding the convoy of 1752 and the convoy itself by creating characters based upon people within the community of Kaskaskia. Running between New Orleans and the upper Illinois French communities, the convoy of "bateaux" carrying luxuries and news from Europe was the most important link between people of these rural communities and the outside world. Standard 5.4.5

Trial of Abigail Briggs
Learn about colonial justice under English law in this activity that asks you to review the trial of Abigail Briggs, a Native American woman accused of murdering an enslaved African in colonial Virginia. Standards 5.4.5 and 8.1.1

Travel in the Eighteenth Century
People in the eighteenth century traveled very little compared to today's mobile society. Most travel was for the purpose of attending church, transporting produce, purchasing supplies or perhaps visiting neighbors. Colonists who lived in rural areas went to town once or twice a year, possibly to attend a session at the local county court. Generally speaking only government officials, merchants and planters traveled for business or pleasure. By looking at how people traveled, we can learn more about life in the eighteenth century. Standard 5.4.5

Social Rank in Colonial Society
Using primary sources such as "Advice from Benjamin Franklin," determine the social ranking of various colonial occupations and what these rankings would mean for education, wealth, religion, and level of respect within society. Standards 5.4.0 and 5.5.4 and 8.1.2

The Proper Gentleman: George Washington and "The Rules of Civility"
Read and interpret a portion of the ‘Rules of Civility’ and then describe the significance of these rules in Washington’s time. Discuss how they might be significant in today’s world and write rules of etiquette similar to the ‘Rules of Civility’ that might be appropriate for today. Standard 5.5.4

Who Got Away? 18th Century Runaway Slaves
Using ads from the Runaway Slave Advertisement Digital Archive, identify some characteristics of runaway slaves in the 18th century. Recognize what slaves needed in order to be successful when running away. Generalize about the success of specific runaways in obtaining freedom. Construct a narrative description of how a slave might be successful in running away. Standard 5.4.6

Jefferson vs. Franklin: Renaissance Men
At a dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners from the Western Hemisphere, President John F. Kennedy paid homage to Thomas Jefferson's wide-ranging interests and talents when he remarked, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." Although the term 'Renaissance man' was not coined until the nineteenth century, Jefferson has become, for us, its exemplar. Under different circumstances, President Kennedy could have invoked Benjamin Franklin's name as well. If we compare his achievements with Jefferson, Franklin would equally qualify as a Renaissance man. Who would your students select as the undisputed champion Renaissance man of the Founding Fathers? Standard 5.5.4

Ben and Me
Students will visit the site "Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man" and learn about his long life and varied talents. They will explore links to information about his fame as a scientist, an inventor, a statesman, a printer, a philosopher, a musician and an economist. Students will select four areas of his life to investigate and draw a cluster to record their findings. Standards 3.4.6 and 5.5.4

Famous Virginians at the Colonial Fair
Choose a famous Virginian from the early revolutionary period. Working in pairs, one of you will play the part of the famous Virginian and the other will play the part of a TV reporter. You will use the resources listed here to find information about the famous Virginian and write a list of questions and answers to be used in an interview to be conducted during the Colonial Fair. Others will have the task of introducing a famous Virginian to the people attending the Colonial Fair. You will work in pairs and use the resources listed here to find information about the famous Virginian you choose and create a brochure with information about the person and a poster announcing the event. Standards 5.5.4 and 8.2.4, and 8.4.2

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