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Teacher Resources

Entire Unit | Music | Art | Battles | The Patriot | Declaring Independence | Slavery | Additional Resources

Entire Unit

The National Archives has developed a set of analysis worksheets for documents as well as visual media such as cartoons, maps, motion pictures, photographs and sound recordings. They are reproduced here on Digital History.

One way to introduce this unit would be to use a variety of media such as:

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The destruction of tea at Boston Harbor. Lithograph by Sarony and Major, 1846.
National Archives.
The able doctor, or America swallowing the bitter draught. Cartoon in line engraving by Paul Revere for the Royal American Magazine, June 1774. National Archives.
Crossing the Delaware. Painting by Emanuel Leutze. National Archives.
Infantry: Continental Army, 1779-1783, c1897. Color lithograph by Henry Alexander Ogden.
Library of Congress.
Detail from Afro-American Monument. Color lithograph. Goes Lithograph, Co., Chicago. c1897. Library of Congress.
Political Cartoon
Color lithograph
Color lithograph

Possible questions include:

  • What constitutes a primary source?
  • What can images tell us about the event?
  • How are events depicted at a later time different from those created at the time the event occurred?

For more information, use the Primary Source Tools such as

Information for students about Primary and Secondary Sources from the National Park Service
reproduced on Digital History.

Information about Using Primary Sources in the Classroom from the Library of Congress, reproduced on Digital History.

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Music and the American Revolution

For more information, use the Primary Source Tools such as the worksheet developed by the Library of Congress, Thinking About Songs as Historical Artifacts and Thinking About Poems as Historical Artifacts.

Using Music in your Classroom:

These suggestions are from the Library of Congress' resources for teachers.

  • Preparation
    • Choose a poem or song.
    • Familiarize yourself with the historical background of the piece.
    • Duplicate copies of the graphic organizer for each student.
    • Download and duplicate one copy per student of the printed primary source version of the chosen piece.
    • Or, arrange for the class to view the document on screen.
    • Decide how students will hear the song or poem. Poems or song lyrics may be read aloud, and recordings of songs may be played from the Web or from the accompanying CD. A song can also be sung or played from the sheet music.
  • Initial Response
    • Give students a few minutes to look at and read the printed document silently.
    • Read or play the piece aloud for the whole class to hear.
    • Have students respond to the piece. Possible responses include paraphrasing the message, free-writing a response, and drawing a picture.
  • Analytical Response
    • Give each student a copy of the graphic organizer for individual note taking.
    • Have students work in small groups to discuss and analyze the piece as a historical artifact, writing down their individual responses on the organizers.
  • Discussion
    • Have a spokesperson from each group share the group’s findings with the class.
    • Hold a class discussion based on some of the following questions:
      • Who was the piece written for?
      • What was the purpose of the piece?
      • What topic or concern of the era does the piece represent?
      • What does the piece reveal about the artist and the artist’s viewpoint? Do you agree with this viewpoint?
      • What does the piece say about what life was like in the past?
      • What questions does this piece raise? How can you find answers?

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Art as Propaganda

Political cartoons are another way of extending art into history lessons. Click on each image below to view in depth information about each of these political cartoons about events in the American Revolution.

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The Colonies Reduced
The Repeal or the Funeral of Miss Americ-Stamp
Wise Men of Gotham and Their Goose
Join or Die.
Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Consider the following student inquiry questions:

  • What is the central image in the cartoon?
  • Do you think the image is effective in conveying the political message? Why or why not?
  • What clues can you find in each cartoon that help viewers understand its meaning?
  • Do you find some cartoons more effective than others? Why or why not?
  • How effective do you think these cartoons were in influencing political opinion of the time?
  • Do you think these cartoons conveyed the relationship between Britain and her colonies more effectively than could have been done with words?
  • Are political cartoons are useful communication tools today?

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The Battles of Lexington and Concord

The National Park Service has several excellent resources on the battles from Minute Man Historical Park.

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Mel Gibson's "The Patriot" as History

The Patriot Resource website has some good resources on distinguishing fact and fiction in the movie, (CAUTION:This website does have advertising.)

Main website:

Fact or Fiction page:

There is information on the battles in the movie (Camden, Charleston, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and Yorktown), the people in the movie (Colonel Harry Burwell, General Charles Cornwallis, General Nathanael Greene, Benjamin Martin, General Charles O'Hara, Colonel William Tavington, and Major Jean Villeneuve). There is also commentary about individual events depicted in the movie such as "The "Betsy Ross" flag used as a battle flag," "Escaped slave colonies (Gullah camps) existed during the war," and "Colonel Tavington burns down a church with the townspeople inside."


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Declaring Independence

NOTE: These ideas are from the Library of Congress lesson plan on the Declaration of Independence

Interactive Activity: Students can also take a close-up look at Thomas Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence, and then try their hand at crafting an alternate version of the nation’s founding document.

1. Discuss students’ understanding of a document. Ask the following questions to frame the discussion:

    • What is a document? (e.g., a record of information)
    • What are examples of common documents? (e.g., letter, diploma, passport, driver’s license)

2. Explain that in this lesson students will take a close look at an important historical document. Distribute copies and engage students with the first page of Thomas Jefferson’s original Rough draught of the Declaration of Independence. (Note: Do not identify the document).

  • Ask students to examine the document. Possible questions include:
    • Where does your eye go first?
    • How would you describe what you’re seeing? What do you notice about the physical condition?
    • Which words or phrases can you read? Has the document been altered in any way?
  • Encourage students to speculate about the document, its creator, and its context. Possible questions include:
    • Are there any indications (e.g., names, dates) of ownership or time period?
    • Who do you think wrote this?
    • What do you think this document is about? What words or phrases give clues?
    • What about language, its tone and style? Writing style?
    • Do you think this is a public or private document? What might have been the author’s purpose in writing this?
    • Who might have been the intended readers?
    • Do you think this is the complete document or are pages missing?
  • Help students to think about their personal responses to the document. Possible questions include:
    • What surprises you about what you’re seeing?
    • What do you want to know about this document?

3. Ask students to draw conclusions about what this document was for, who created it, and why. Reveal (or confirm) its identity as the first page of Thomas Jefferson’s original Rough draught of the Declaration of Independence. Pass out copies of the first printed version of the Declaration of Independence while reviewing students’ prior knowledge.

  • Ask students to summarize what they know about the Declaration of Independence. Possible questions include:
    • What was happening during this time period?
    • What importance does this document have?
  • Encourage students to think about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Possible questions include:
    • Who might have made the changes to the original draft?
    • Where and how might debates and compromises have taken place regarding such changes?
  • Ask students how they could determine changes made to this document during the drafting process. Most students will quickly understand that comparing the two documents will reveal the changes.

4. Model the comparative analysis process using the Declaration of Independence: Making Comparisons handout. Use as an example the changes on page one. (See step five below for the process.)

5. Assign students (working in pairs or groups) specific pages from (or the entire set of) Declaration of Independence: Making Comparisons handout for analysis and comparison.

  • Ask students to first identify unfamiliar vocabulary.
  • Encourage students to analyze and compare the wording of the two versions by marking and making notes directly on the Declaration of Independence: Making Comparisons handout.
  • Ask students to record their responses to the following questions on a separate piece of paper:
    • What do you think is the most significant difference(s) in wording between Jefferson’s draft and the adopted Declaration of Independence?
    • Why do you think this change(s) was made?
    • How does this difference(s) in wording change your understanding of the text’s meaning, if at all?

6. Group Conclusions: Working with the entire class, discuss their responses, page by page, to the questions above. Conclude by emphasizing that those who created (and signed) the Declaration of Independence understood the potential significance of every word in the document to their own lives, the new Nation, and the world.


  • Debate the changes made to the Declaration of Independence and how the “original Rough draught” versus the new wording might have set a course for future events and/or continues to impact our lives today.
  • Use the online activity "The Declaration of Independence: Rewriting the Rough Draft" to experiment with different versions of the first two paragraphs of the Declaration. Discuss how each version might have changed the nation's future.

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Slavery, Revolution, and the Constitution

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Additional Resources

Honored Places: The National Park Service Teacher’s Guide to the American Revolution

The National Park System has been called “America’s greatest university without walls.” It contains magnificent landscapes, the finest examples of American culture, and historic objects and places that reflect the most important events in American history. Parks are powerful places which contain information that does not exist anywhere else.

These powerful resources offer unique learning opportunities. Honored Places invites teachers to visit National Park sites and discover firsthand the rich resources that help connect your learners with our nation’s stories of independence and freedom.

Please use the following links to download (PDF) sections of the Teacher's Guide.

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