Lesson Plan

Examining the American War for Independence (Primary Source Analysis and Social Media)

Through analysis of primary and secondary sources, students gain a better understanding of the events leading to the American War for Independence, culminating in a "Fakebook" project in which they take the perspective of a historical figure.
Joshua S.
Classroom teacher
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My Subjects Social Studies

Students will be able to...

  • anaylze a timeline of various legislative and political actions imposed upon the colonies by the British government, and additional supporting primary source documents
  • analyze the political, social, and economic factors that led the once loyal and obedient American colonists to declare independence from (and take up arms against) their former nation
  • understand the major events preceding the founding of the nation and relate their significance to the development of American constitutional democracy
  • understand cause, effect, sequence, and correlation in historical events, including the long- and short-term causal relations
  • use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently
  • gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation
  • produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience

Social Studies
Grades 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Prior Steps

Activity: Conversing

The main activity will follow a discussion on colonial America (in which we will examine the mutually beneficial relationship which existed between the colonists and England) prior to the Revolutionary War.

2 Primary Source Analysis

Explain to the students that we will be examining documents related to this time period.

Each student will be given a copy of the “Declaration of Independence” primary source document to analyze.

Using the “Primary Sources Analysis” document (available on the Library of Congress website), students will record observations, reflections, and questions.

First individually, students will examine the document and record their observations, reflections, and questions on their Primary Sources Analysis document. Next, they will share within their small groups and add any additional items that came up in the discussions that they want to record. Finally, students will have the opportunity to share their thoughts as a whole class.  Questions that will be particularly emphasized by the teacher include:

  • What is the purpose of this text?
  • Who created it?
  • Who do you think was its audience?
  • What was going on at the time this was created?
  • What questions do you have after examining this document?

Next, students will be asked do another reading of this document using the “Reading Like a Historian” framework (specifically the “Contextualizing” and “Close Reading” steps of the process) using the following questions:

  • What is the author’s point of view?
  • What claims does the author make?
  • What evidence does the author use to support those claims?

3 Informal Assessment - Tweet

Activity: Assessing

As an informal assessment, students will create a 140-character or less summary (Tweet) of the main idea of the Declaration of Independence that would be helpful and descriptive enough to help a classmate in another teacher’s history class to do well on his or her own exam on the topic.

Student Example #1

Student Example #2

Student Example #3

4 Chain of Events - Primary and Secondary Source Analysis

Students will next be given a number of supporting primary and secondary sources related to this time period (timeline, letters, images) in which to gain more context of the events surrounding the decision to declare independence and go to war with the British Empire. As they analyze these documents in their groups, they will be discussing possible answers to the following questions:

  • Why did the American colonists rebel against England?
  • What (if anything) could have prevented the colonists from declaring independence and going to war with the British Empire?

5 Culminating Activity - Fakebook Project

Activity: Creating

Using Classtools.net's "Fakebook" website, each student will represent a revolutionary figure. They will create a “Facebook” page from the perspective of that revolutionary figure, including biographical information, and interactions between other historic figures of this period. “Status Updates” will serve to reflect major events that occurred during the years leading to the American War for Independence (1763-1776) and reactions to them. In addition, students will be responsible for communicating with the facilitator (Mr. Senge) as they answer overarching questions about the political, economic, geographic and social issues during the years of 1763-1776.

Many of today’s revolutions are being coordinated using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools. By examining a historic revolution (the American Revolution), students will gain a greater understanding of not only the people, battles, and events of this time period, but also make connections to how social media and interconnectedness of the modern world has forever changed how people and nations seek change to real (or perceived) political and social oppression.

Students will also use the EARS note-taking system to gather information for their historical figure. This system allows students to demonstrate their understanding and analysis of research materials through Evidence, Analysis, Relevance, and Source.

Link to "American Revolution Fakebook Project" instructions

Student Example #1

Student Example #2