The American Revolution – the birth of a new nation. As teachers, we know the importance of these historic events. Helping our students learn about these monumental events is our duty. But in this day and age of 21st century special effects, it is often difficult to engage students in the past. These American Revolution activities will engage your students in learning from the past so they can change the future.
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1. Make it Real
One of the hardest hurdles to overcome in teaching history is making it real. Our students live in a world where they are bombarded with stories. Stories in books, on the TV, at the movies and even on the internet. It is so easy for things they learn in history to feel like just another story.
But history is more than a story – it’s real life. One of the best ways to bring history to life is to help students connect to it in reality. If you happen to live within field trip distance to a battle site or major event from the Revolutionary War then you are very blessed. You have the absolute best way to bring history into reality. But, for the vast majority of teachers that can’t take field trips to these places, all hope is not lost.
Virtual Field Trips to the Rescue
Virtual field trips are an amazing alternative to a real field trip. Using the technology available to us we can bring these events to life. Through video, photographs and access to historical documents, students can literally see pieces of history. Here’s a few sites that will help you bring the American Revolution to life for your students:
- Beyond the Battlefield – A virtual field trip partnership with the Museum of the American Revolution and Scholastic
- Museum of the American Revolution – their website is filled with virtual exhibits, videos and tours
- American Battlefield Trust – This website has 360 degree virtual tours of battlefields, history of battles from American history, high quality videos and timelines
And don’t forget the access you have to amazing videos on sites like You Tube. This two part video from George Washington’s Mount Vernon gives lots of great information about the life of the troops during the Revolutionary War and part 2 also includes a re-enactment from their annual Revolutionary Weekend. Here’s Part 1 to get you started:
2. Hands-On Learning Opportunities
Another great way to help our students learn and understand the events of the American Revolution is to provide them with hands-on learning opportunities. These American Revolution activities are a great way to engage them while learning and reviewing these important historical events.
A timeline is a wonderful way to help students see the history in order. As students learn about multiple events it is so easy to confuse their order. But sometimes, especially in history, order is important! By giving students the opportunity to build their own timeline they are creating a learning tool they can continue to reference.
This Road to the Revolutionary War Timeline Activity will walk students through all of the main events that led up to the start of the war. It’s not just enough for students to know that the United States fought for its independence. It’s much more important for them to understand what led to that decision.
Students can create this timeline by adding one event at a time as you learn about them, or use it as a review and have them put the entire timeline together at one time. It’s also a great way to help students work on the skill of chronology and putting things in order by date. Similar to this, you can also find a Revolutionary War Timeline that covers the events of the war.
Another wonderful activity for helping students learn about the causes of the Revolutionary War is this interactive notebook activity. Don’t worry if you don’t use a notebook, you can use a sheet of construction paper as the base and have the same great learning activity!
Here, students will write a short summary of each event under the flap. If students are able to put these events into their own words, then you know they are well on their way to understanding them.
Once completed, students can then add in arrows to track the events in order. This activity not only helps students learn about these important events, but also teaches students the causal relationship between the events. They see how the effects of one event cause another. And how a series of effects can lead to major decision like war.
Both of these hands-on activities are included in the Road to the Revolutionary War Resource Packet. It also includes everything you need to create a bulletin board that mirrors student learning. You can find out more about this pack in this blog post.
In addition to the events leading up to the American Revolution, students need to know about the war itself. Help them understand the numerous events that led to the independence of the United States. This Revolutionary War Activities Packet is filled with lots of hands-on learning opportunities. Similar to the previous pack, this Revolutionary War resource includes a time-line and interactive notebook activities for students. But this resource has more activities that will help to engage your students.
Students love creating their own mini-book that teaches them about the harsh winter the soldiers endured while at Valley Forge. Not only does this help students learn about all the hardships the troops faced, but it is a great way to connect social studies and reading standards.
By giving students the opportunity to create their own mini-book, they take a sense of ownership in the activity. And when this happens they are more likely to read and re-read the book. Additionally, their engagement while reading is increased. I don’t know about you, but any time students will read about a specific event multiples times, that’s a win!
Additionally, this Revolutionary War Resource also includes a related writing activity. Students are challenged to apply their learning as they take on the role of a soldier at Valley Forge. This point of view writing activity has them writing a letter to their family at home. Students love stepping back into time and really relating to the events, the emotions and the thoughts of a real soldier.
There’s nothing like a simulation experience to make you connect at a deeper level with history. While we can’t take our students back [where’s Miss Frizzle when you need her] we can challenge them to use their imagination and life experiences to try to step into that place.
You can find both of these Revolutionary War resources in my Appletastic Learning shop.
3. Connecting History with Literature
Another wonderful way to engage students in history is to connect it with good literature. A good book can really help students experience life from that time period. These amazing authors have filled their books with the sights, sounds and tastes of the era, as well as taken us into the thoughts and emotions of the characters. That’s about as close to experiencing a historical life as we can get. These are some great books for the Revolutionary War time period that will help you students better understand life in this era.
- I Survived the American Revolution by Lauren Tarshis
- Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
- Sophia’s War by Avi
- Rush Revere and the American Revolution by Rush Limbaugh
- Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes
While all of these are excellent books to recommend to your students, consider reading them together through a read aloud or a class book study. Even big kids really love listening to a good read-aloud. This makes it a great time to connect to history, but also model and reinforce reading skills and strategies too!
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