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The American Revolution: It Takes Two to Tangle, but Three to Decide a War!

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Keywords: research, documentary film making, creating quality presentations
Subject(s): Information Skills, Art, Video, Social Skills, Technology, Journalism, Writing, Drama, History, English/Language Arts
Grades 5 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Salado Intermediate School, San Antonio, TX
Planned By: Jananne Healey
Original Author: Jananne Healey, San Antonio
Students will learn that war is the ultimate manifestation of differing points of view, unwilling to bend and incapable of reaching compromise. Students will examine the issues that compel countries to choose sides in a war. By conducting an in depth internet study of the varying viewpoints of the three countries who participated in the American Revolution, students will gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of war.

The unit incorporates different forms of technology to assist student research and final presentations and documentaries. This study requires students to assume the roles of history detectives, writers, editors, public speakers, team specialists, art designers, actors, project managers, and directors.

Technology required: student laptops with internet access, digital video camera with software for production and editing of student videos, or windows movie maker, document scanner. (see wish list)
A few of the numerous Websites that will be accessed: library of congress (loc.gov), the americanrevolutioncenter.org, britishbattles.com/americanrevolution, history.com, prezi.com, icreate, edu tube.

Timeline: 3 weeks

Subject areas and skills to be addressed: Core Standards Grade 5: Reading Informational Texts 1-7, Writing 2a-e, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9a-b, 10, Speaking and Listening 1a-d, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and Writing Standards for Literacy in History grade 6.

Building a Foundation:
To stir student interest and develop background knowledge, students will listen to Michael Franti’s We Don’t Stop, a contemporary commentary on wars. I will guide the ensuing discussion to how fights erupt on the playground or in their neighborhoods. This will lead to our discussion of the events leading up to the American Revolution. By this time students will have studied the colonies and their importance to England’s economy. We will also watch excerpts from HBO’s John Adams, episodes 2, 3, 4, and literature circle groups (reading) will have been reading assorted Revolutionary War fiction.

Students will be divided into 3 teams to research the American Revolution from the viewpoint of the country assigned to their team. Each student will be provided a handout with the following information to serve as a jumping off point for their research:

The Three Sides: America, England, and France

The Key Players: George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin, King George, Louis XVI (Do you think anyone else belongs in this elite group? Perhaps you would trade someone out?)

Supporting Cast: Sam Adams, Benedict Arnold, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Burgoyne, Charles Cornwallis, William Howe, Marquis de LaFayette, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Jean Baptiste Rochambeau... (Feel free to add to this list).

A War of Issues:

England and France were the superpowers of the 18th century, in competition for land, riches and supreme power/control of Europe and the North American continent.

French and Indian war - Essentially a war between France and England with minimum involvement by the Colonists.
War is expensive! England passes on the cost of the seven year war to the American Colonists.
Colonists cry FOUL!!!
Sons of Liberty stir up public emotions.
Trouble leads to more trouble.
One tax followed by another and another and another...
The name calling goes too far and ends in massacre.
Shot heard around the world...what does this mean?
Southern Colonies disagree with the Northern Colonies...Where did this play out?
At last, Independence declared.
France joins the Colonists

Each team will use the internet to research background information about their country and its relationship with the other two. Your focus is on the following:

Background: What major events led to bitter resentment towards the opposing side? Many details must be amassed to complete this section. The primary focus of this section will be on the years 1756 to 1775.
The Key Players : Their strengths and their weaknesses. Their specific involvement in the war, how they helped or hurt the war effort?
The War Years: starting with “the shot heard around the world” to the end of the war and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Key battles and turning points where power changed from one side to the other should be included. How did the end of the war bring about an unexpected “secret” alliance that left one of the three sides out in the cold.

Each Group will create a prezi of their research to present to their parents and class. It is hoped that their research can also receive a wider audience by uploading it to ‘voice thread.’

Teams will also create a mini documentary film interviewing the key players* from their country discussing sentiments leading to the war and “personal” feelings about the war itself. They will include images and direct quotes, downloaded from the internet, to highlight in their documentary. Teams are encouraged to be as creative as possible regarding their documentaries. (Consider animation or possibly a music video to demonstrate your country's viewpoint).

*The key players will be the students dressed in costume.
Items necessary for the successful completion of this unit have been included in my wish list.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Math connection: How does an embargo affect the cost of goods and services?
Reading connection: Literature Circle groups to be reading historical fiction about this time period.
Materials: Mobile Labs, Hard Drives, Tripods, Batteries, Memory Cards, Cables, Art Tools, Podcasting, Animation