4 Exciting Ways to Introduce Your Revolutionary War Unit
In 1776, a group of British colonists gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to sign the Declaration of Independence, declaring the colonies an independent nation and separating themselves from Great Britain. Although this was an important step in the American Revolution, it was only one small part of the Revolutionary War and America’s fight for independence.
Are you teaching about the Revolutionary War? Sometimes the trickiest part about teaching something new is knowing how to start.
It can often be difficult to get students excited to learn about important historical periods such as the Revolutionary War. That’s why I’m compiling lists of engaging ways to introduce your history units.
Here are my top 4 exciting ways to introduce your Revolutionary War Unit. Happy teaching!
Introduce the Unit with a Primary Source
The Horse America, throwing his Master (1779)
Teaching with primary sources may feel daunting, but it can be easier than you think! Primary sources are first-hand accounts of a topic from people who had a direct connection with it. They’re a great classroom tool because they encourage student questions and discussions.
“The Horse America, throwing his Master” is a British cartoon poking fun at American independence by comparing the colonies to a horse throwing his master. The master, of course, is King George III. He is holding an unusual whip that has weapons attached to it (sword, bayonet, axe, etc.). In the background is a French soldier holding a large fleur-de-lys flag.
How it Works:
- Students study the cartoon for a few minutes.
- Next, ask students the following questions. Students may share their answers verbally or write their answers down on a guided worksheet like this one.
- What do you see?
- Notice the caption at the bottom, what does it tell you?
- Look at the people and animals in the cartoon, what are they doing?
- What are the objects used for in the cartoon?
- What do the symbols stand for?
- When and why do you think the cartoon was drawn?
- Who is portrayed more favorably: America or King George III?
- Then students reflect on what this cartoon tells them about the Revolutionary War.
This is such an easy, low prep way to introduce your Revolutionary War unit. Check out more powerful Revolutionary War primary sources here.
Using a Great Introductory Video
Paul Revere and the American Revolution by History Channel
One of my favorite tools for student engagement is videos. A great video can teach concepts in a concise and engaging way. Plus, students love them!
Learning about Paul Revere could be the perfect hook for your Revolutionary War unit. Many students have probably heard about him and may be interested to learn more. This History Channel video gives a quick biography of Paul Revere and discusses his role in the American Revolution.
How it Works:
- First, ask students what they know about Paul Revere. You can read more about the facts of his famous ride here.
- Next, before watching the video, ask students to look for ways Paul Revere was influential during the Revolutionary War. Why is he an important person to know about?
- After watching, discuss what students learned about Paul Revere and the Revolutionary War.
Check out more engaging Revolutionary War videos here.
Introduce the Unit with a Historical Picture Book
Let it Begin Here: Lexington and Concord: First Battles of the American Revolution by Dennis Brindell Fradin
Disclosure: The book link is an Amazon affiliate link. This means that I may earn commissions for purchases made by clicking the link.
Do you use picture books when teaching about the Revolutionary War? Picture books are a great way to teach difficult concepts in an easy-to-understand way.
This book covers the battles of Lexington and Concord which were the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Let it Begin Here is chock-full of facts and details, as well as realistic illustrations, that will give your students an accurate portrayal of these early Revolutionary War events.
How it Works:
- First, review that during the Revolutionary War, the American Colonies fought for independence from Great Britain.
- Next, provide students with a blank timeline or ask them to draw their own. Label the timeline “Battles of Lexington and Concord”. The battles in the book only span two days, so remind students that they will need to use the date and time of day when making their timeline.
- While reading, encourage students to choose important events from the battles to include in their timeline.
- Finally, students share their events. Review what happened at the battles of Lexington and Concord and why they were important to the Revolutionary War. Encourage students to make predictions about what they think happened next in the war.
Click here to check out more of my Revolutionary War picture books for kids!
Introduce the Unit with a Song
The Liberty Song
Songs are a wonderful resource to use in your history classroom. They can help students make connections to history and learn more about historical time periods like the Revolutionary War.
This song was written by Founding Father John Dickinson. It was published in July 1768 in the Boston Gazette. The lyrics were set to the anthem of the British Royal Navy (way to rub it in, John).
This song was written in reaction to the Townshend Acts, and was one of the first songs to express American patriotism. The most famous lyrics from the song are “by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall”.
How it Works:
- Before you listen to the song, ask students to share their favorite song and why they like it with a partner.
- Discuss that songs can be enjoyable to listen to, but they can also teach us about historical time periods and situations. Tell students they will be listening to a song that was written by a patriot during the American Revolution.
- Use this sound recording analysis worksheet to analyze the song. Pause throughout the video to discuss lyrics and their meanings.
- After analyzing the song, ask students what the song teaches them about the Revolutionary War. How were colonists feeling at this time? How did they feel about Britain’s taxation?
More Resources for Teaching about the Revolutionary War
I hope these ideas will help you introduce your Revolutionary War unit in an engaging way!
If you need more than a lesson, check out my interactive 3-week Revolutionary War Unit. My favorite part is the week-long simulation where students act as spies, officers, and soldiers in the Continental Army. The kids love it!