The American Revolutionary War begin with an anonymous shot. Soon after the first shots were fired, a larger war broke out. General George Washington faced a lot of trials with his untrained group of soldiers. But with courage to stand up for themselves and determination, the American Patriots eventually were able to end the war with the British surrender at Yorktown.
Lexington and Concord
Lesson Objective: Paul Revere warned that the British were coming. Local militia, called minutemen, gathered to protect their towns. When the British troops arrived, someone fired a shot ran out and a battle began. (Copywork sentence: The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” began the American Revolutionary War.)
The Revolutionary War began when colonists in the local militia learned that British troops planned to take their arsenal of weapons in Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode horses from Boston to the countryside, warning of the coming of the troops. (Somehow, William Dawes didn’t get into the tradition, probably due to Longfellow’s famous poem. When British troops arrived in Lexington, the militia (called minutemen) were gathered on Lexington Green. Someone fired a shot. That was enough for both sides. The war had begun.
“The Shot Heard Round the World” is the colloquial name given to the first (anonymous) shot of the American Revolution. The whole world would be impacted by the outcome of the war. Two great books for elementary kids are Sam the Minuteman and George the Drummer Boy, both by by Nathaniel Benchley. I’ve made book studies for both of them (Sam Book Study | George Book Study), and I love to compare and contrast the perspective of the two boys. Because the stories are told from the boys’ perspectives, they really resonate with kids.
In addition to the books and activities below, a great place to turn for learning about all of the American Revolution is Liberty’s Kids, an animated series with 42 episodes of American Revolutionary history. You can also review the digital/online interactive American Revolution timeline!
- Let it Begin Here by Dennis Brindell Fradin*
- Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand*
- Re-enact the Battles of Lexington and Concord with toy soldiers
- Practice being minutemen
- See how far away you can see the “whites of someone’s eyes”
One reason I love the picture book Ben’s Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick is because he captures the continuance of time from the first shots of Lexington and Concord to the battle of Bunker Hill. This was all happening and the citizens of Boston had little break. For the battle of Bunker’s Hill, the command was to not fire “until we see the white’s of their eyes.” And yet, even then, while the British lost many soldiers, the colonists still had to flee. They had run out of ammunition. Things looked bleak for the rebels. Without a strong army, with disconnected colonies and no central government, there was no order to the local militia and the small colonial army. They had no resources.
Henry and the Cannons by Don Brown is a picture book that the provides a little bit of hope for the progress of the war. Despite the poor conditions of General Washington’s army, when Henry Knox appeared with the cannons from the easily conquered Fort Ticonderoga (200 miles away!), the future of the American Revolution is once again a bit more hopeful.
Signing the Declaration of Independence
Lesson Objective: Signing the Declaration of Independence took a lot of courage and faith for the Founding Fathers. Signing it was a sign of treason against the King. (Copywork sentence: Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. AND/OR The Declaration of Independence was officially signed on July 4, 1776.)
A key part of the American Revolutionary War is the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It had not been written before the first shots, nor was the war won when it was signed. Those who chose to sign the Declaration did so at the risk of being hung as a traitor. If the war had not been won by the colonists, this surely would have happened to all the signers.
Here are some fun books and activities to reinforce the details of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
- John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith
- The 4th of July Story by Alice Dagleish*
- The Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia Pingry
- Declaration of Independence kids writing activity
- Ideas for celebrating Independence Day
- Learning about Courage in context of Declaration of Independence
- Examine the John Trumball painting to learn about the signers
- Learn the “numbers” of the Declaration of Independence with an infographic poster
Lesson Objective: The American troops were untrained and poor. Nevertheless, General Washington’s strong leadership and the training from Baron Von Steuben helped get the army into shape. After six long years of fighting, the British surrendered at Yorktown. (Copywork sentence: George Washington crossed the Delaware at Christmas. And/Or The British surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown. The war was over).
In addition to the other subjects on this post, I’d suggest that key issues of the American Revolutionary War would be the Battle of Trenton, struggles at Valley Forge, and the ultimate British surrender at Yorktown.
Learn details about the Battle of Trenton (with videos and maps) from MountVernon.com. When Washington Crossed the Delaware by Lynne Cheney is a great book to go along with any learning. Also, examine the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River. What details were probably not accurate? Read George Washington’s own account. You could also re-enact the crossing of the Delaware with a big box and an oar to “paddle.”
The struggles that the soldiers faced at Valley Forge and elsewhere during the war showed the character that the patriot soldiers needed in order to survive. Learn about the challenges soldier’s faced during the American Revolution. Stand in snow or put your feet on ice for a few moments to see what it would have been like without shoes in freezing weather. (Obviously, don’t do this for long!) With help, George Washington was able to get his rag-tag group into shape as an army. Pretend one of you is Baron Von Stuben and practice drilling as if you were soldiers.
Compare points of view: as you read George Versus George (and here’s a George Vs George freebie). How were King George III and George Washington similar? How were they different during the course of the war?
If you want to learn more details about the battles, check out this interactive map and timeline by Teaching American History.
Learning about spying techniques is also quite fun. Spying was essential because this is how General George Washington was able to plan and strategically defeat the much more powerful British army over the 6 years of fighting.
- Redcoats and Petticoats by Katherine Kirkpatrick
- Buttons for General Washington by Peter Roop
- Write in secret codes like spies
- Spies activities during the American Revolution
Finally, learn about the heroes of the revolution. Some of them were the young citizens living through it all!
- Samuel’s Choice by Richard Burleth
- The 18 Penny Goose by Sally Walker
- Saving the Liberty Bell by Meghan McDonald
- They Called Her Molly Pitcher by Anne Rockwell
- Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride by Marsha Amstel
- Nathan Hale: Patriot Spy by Shannon Zemlicka
I’ve made a number of products related to the American Revolution! Here they are.
Book Study: Sam and George Compare/Contrast Guided Writing$1.00 Add to cart
Book Study: Sam and George BUNDLE (2 American Revolution Stories) I Can Read$5.50 Add to cart
Book Study: George the Drummer Boy (An American Revolution Story) I Can Read$3.00 Add to cart
Book Study: Buttons for General Washington by Roop (Differentiated)$3.00 Add to cart
Book Study: Benjamin Franklin by Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)$3.00 Add to cart
Stay tuned for the next chapter in American history tomorrow!