Teachers use their usual textbook and materials. Why America Is Free lesson plans apply the skills and knowledge they are learning in this subject to discover things they want to know relating to what they are learning in Social Studies and other subjects.
Students are riveted by an historical Indian tale that sheds light on the character of a Patriot leader ~ see the world through the writings of children from that time ~ discover the words that moved the hearts of an army ~ and devise the best solutions they can for issues that faced 18th century Americans. These examples describe just a few of the lesson plans available in Language Arts. All engage students fully, using skills and knowledge taught in Language Arts to deepen and expand their immersion experience. Because student requests to school librarians for period books increase, an annotated list of age-appropriate books about people and events of the Revolutionary Period is also included.
Lesson Plan Examples
Lesson Plan ~ Discerning Slant
Among the lesson plans that develop higher-level thinking is one that introduces students to the skill of discerning slant in written or spoken articles, a skill that intrigues them. First they hear a brief article about Salem Poor and discuss their understanding of it and their conclusions about Mr. Poor. They then read a second version of the same article, one which brings them to very different perceptions of this Patriot, though the basic facts remain the same. They analyze the subtleties that colored their conclusions. Extensions include analyzing other examples and creating articles with and without slant.
The Truth ~ Salem Poor's heroic actions at the Battle of Bunker Hill garnered him the highest praise from Colonel William Prescott and thirteen other officers at the General Court of Massachusetts.
The Subscribers beg leave to Report to your Honorable House (Which We do in justice to the Character of so Brave a man) that under Our Own observation, we declare A Negro Man Called Salem Poor of Col. Fryes Regiment, Capt. Ames. Company in the late Battle of Charleston, behaved like an Experienced Officer, as Well as an Excellent Soldier, to Set forth Particulars of his Conduct would be Tedious, We Would beg leave to say in the Person of this Negro Centers a Brave & gallant Soldier.
The lesson plan about Phyllis Wheatley's poem, "To His Excellency, General George Washington," and the correspondence between her and General Washington integrates history, character assessment, poetry analysis, race relations, and biography with thought-provoking results.
After learning about the extraordinary Ms. Wheatley, the first African-American in history to have her work published, students learn that she, a freed slave, in 1775 honored Washington, the newly appointed Commander and Chief of the Continental Army, with one of her works, "To His Excellency, General Washington." She sent a letter with the poem to the general:
I have taken the freedom to address your Excellency in the enclosed poem, and entreat your acceptance, though I am not insensible of its inaccuracies. Your being appointed by the Grand Continental Congress to be Generalissimo of the armies of North America, together with the fame of your virtues, excite sensations not easy to suppress. Your generosity, therefore, I presume, will pardon the attempt. Wishing your Excellency all possible success in the great cause you are so generously engaged in. I am,
Your Excellency's most obedient humble servant,
A sampling of her poem ...
To His Excellency, General George Washington
Celestial choir! enthron'd in realms of light,
Columbia's scenes of glorious toils I write.
While freedom's cause her anxious breast alarms,
She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.
See mother earth her offspring's fate bemoan,
And nations gaze at scenes before unknown!
See the bright beams of heaven's revolving light
Involves in sorrows and veil of night!
The goddess comes, she moves divinely fair,
Olive and laurel bind her golden hair:
Wherever shines this native of the skies,
Unnumber'd charms and recent graces rise.
(To read her inspiring poem in full ~ click below)
Phyllis's letter and poem arrived while Washington was working exhaustingly long hours, fighting to create order from utter chaos, in command of the newly formed ragtag and undisciplined army surrounding British-held Boston in 1775-1776. His army lacked everything needed to defend against, let alone attack the British, so before the enemy could launch a decimating attack, he gambled everything on an extraordinarily difficult and complex ruse. In Social Studies the students have learned all about these dramatic events, but now they learn that it was on the very eve of the military performance in March 1776 that would either send the British from Boston or result in Patriot disaster, that the general carved out the time and wrote his reply.
Washington's reply to Phillis Wheatley ...
Cambridge, February 28, 1776
Your favour of the 26th of October did not reach my hands 'till the middle of December. Time enough, you will say, to have given an answer ere this. Granted. But a variety of important occurrence, continually interposing to distract the mind and withdraw the attention, I hope will apologize for the delay, and plead my excuse for the seeming, but not real neglect.
I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant Lines you enclose; and however undeserving I may be of such encomium and panegyrick, the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical Talents. In honour of which, and as a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the Poem, had I not been apprehensive, that, while I only meant to give the World this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the imputation of Vanity. This and nothing else, determined me not to give it place in the public Prints.
If you ever come to Cambridge, or near Head Quarters, I shall be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses, and to whom Nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations.
I am, with great Respect, etc.
He wrote with the same manners he would have extended to leading gentlemen and ladies whom he held in highest respect.
Her character, intelligence and sentiments, the poem itself, his character, the significance of the great respect expressed in both letters are all topics of discussion. Students, already aware of the prevailing beliefs toward slavery at that time, discuss as well the beneficial impact of this well published poet.
Other Lesson Plans
"These are the times that try men's soul...." The American Crisis by Thomas Paine
An Indian Tale
"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"
The Minute Boys of Lexington
Poetry and Poetic License, Paul Revere's Ride
"The American Crisis"
Jefferson on War
James Armistead Lafayette
18th Century Journal Writing
An important component of Reading/Language Arts is the journal that the children will keep. They are both challenged by and enjoy the analysis and creativity that the journal draws from them. While it is certainly designed to hone writing skills, expand vocabulary and develop analytical thinking, the journal is even more important. Keeping this journal and engaging in discussions about the topics upon which they write are the main ways by which students apply what they are learning about life in Revolutionary America, about character traits they admire, and about principles they may use to guide their own behavior. It is also a practice ground for problem solving.
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