by Tim Bailey

Unit Objective

This unit is part of Gilder Lehrman’s series of Common Core State Standards–based teaching resources. These units were developed to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance. Through a step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze any primary or secondary source material.

Overview

Over the course of five lessons the students will compare and contrast some of the events and people that had a major impact on the beginning of the American Revolution. The comparisons will be made between the historical novel My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James and Christopher Collier, and the actual events as presented in primary source documents of the period. Students will use textual evidence to draw their conclusions and present arguments as directed in each lesson.

Lesson 1

Objective

The students will compare and contrast the events surrounding the Battle of Lexington as presented in both the novel My Brother Sam Is Dead and one of two primary source documents written by participants in the actual battle. Student understanding of the text will be determined during classroom discussion and by examining the graphic organizer completed by the students.

Introduction

The historical novel My Brother Sam Is Dead is set at the very beginning of the American Revolution in the colony of Connecticut in April 1775; the story concludes in 1779, several years before the war ended. The authors of this book were careful to use actual historical events in order to portray the people of the time as realistically as possible. Some of the characters are fictional but many really existed. In the first chapter of the book the protagonist of the story, Tim Meeker, is listening to his brother Sam tell of the Battle of Lexington. In this lesson we will be comparing Sam’s account of the battle with one primary source document written by a British officer who was at the battle.

Materials

Procedures

At the teacher’s discretion you may choose to have the students do the lessons individually, as partners, or in small groups of no more than three or four students.

  1. Discuss the information in the introduction.
  2. The students should have read chapter one prior to this lesson. Now direct them to reread pages 1–5. This section recounts what Sam has heard about the Battle of Lexington.
  3. The teacher hands out the abridged report from Lt. Col. Francis Smith to Governor Thomas Gage, April 22, 1775. Make certain that students understand that the original text has been edited for this lesson. Explain the purpose and use of ellipses.
  4. The teacher then “share reads” this document with the students. This is done by having the students follow along silently while the teacher begins reading aloud. The teacher models prosody, inflection, and punctuation. The teacher then asks the class to join in with the reading after a few sentences while the teacher continues to read along with the students, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English language learners (ELL).
  5. The teacher hands out Summary Organizer: Lt. Col. Francis Smith Document.
  6. Students will look at the selections from the document and determine which words or phrases are the most important in each selection. They will copy those important words into the box on the right. After they have determined what is most important in the author’s words, they will summarize the text selection in their own words.
  7. Students can brainstorm with partners or small groups but must complete their own organizer for this assignment.
  8. Class discussion: Groups or individual students will share their summaries and compare with other groups. The teacher should  emphasize that they are to first use the author’s words to express what is important in the text and then summarize the meaning in their own words.

Lesson 2

Objective

The students will compare and contrast the events surrounding the Battle of Lexington as presented in both the novel My Brother Sam Is Dead and one of two primary source documents written by participants in the actual battle. Student understanding of the text will be determined by examining their completed graphic organizers and short argumentative essays.

Introduction

The historical novel My Brother Sam Is Dead is set at the very beginning of the American Revolution in the colony of Connecticut in April 1775; the story concludes in 1779, several years before the war ended. The authors of this book were careful to use actual historical events in order to portray the people of the time as realistically as possible. Some of the characters are fictional but many really existed. In the first chapter of the book the protagonist of the story, Tim Meeker, is listening to his brother Sam tell of the Battle of Lexington. In this lesson we will be comparing Sam’s account of the battle with a primary source document written by a patriot who was at the battle and then investigating which side might have fired the first shot at the Battle of Lexington that started the American Revolution.

Materials

Procedures

At the teacher’s discretion you may choose to have the students do the lessons individually, as partners, or in small groups of no more than three or four students.

  1. The teacher and students will discuss the information in the introduction.
  2. The students should review what Sam has heard about the Battle of Lexington.
  3. The teacher hands out the abridged Sylvanus Wood primary source document. Make certain that students understand that the original text has been edited for this lesson. Explain the purpose and use of ellipses.
  4. The teacher then “share reads” this document with the students.
  5. The teacher hands out Summary Organizer: Sylvanus Wood Affidavit.
  6. Students will look at the selections from the document and determine which words or phrases are the most important in each selection. They will copy those important words into the box on the right. After they have determined what is most important, they will summarize the text selection, first using the author’s words to express what is most important in the text and then restating the meaning in their own words.
  7. Students can brainstom with partners or small groups but must complete their own organizer for this assignment.
  8. Class discussion: Groups or individual students will share their summaries and compare with other groups.
  9. The teacher hands out Compare and Contrast: The Battle of Lexington.
  10. The teacher explains to the students that they will be writing a short essay in which they will be making an argument that it was either the British or the patriots who fired the first shot at Lexington. They must use direct wording and quotes from the two texts by Lt. Col. Smith and Sylvanus Wood to back up or refute any conclusions that they make. Students need to become accustomed to backing up their written statements with textual evidence. These essays may be assigned as out-of-class work once students understand what is expected in the essay.

Lesson 3

Objective

Over the next three lessons the students will compare and contrast some of the issues that divided the colonists prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. They will be analyzing those issues as presented in the novel My Brother Sam Is Dead as well as two primary source documents. Student understanding of the text will be determined through the presentation of a student-developed faux debate. In this lesson the students, working in critical thinking groups, will be closely reading the first primary source document.

Introduction

The students will analyze the arguments that separated American colonists—those who supported the king of England, known as loyalists or Tories, and those who supported separation from England and the establishment of a new country, known as patriots. The first document the students will closely read is the Petition from the General Congress in America to the King, October 26, 1774. This petition was sent by the First Continental Congress to protest the Intolerable or Coercive Acts, a series of punishing decrees that had been issued by England in response to the Boston Tea Party. King George disregarded the petition and declared the American colonies in rebellion.

Materials

Procedure

The class should be organized into critical thinking groups (CTG) with three to five students per group.

  1. The teacher and the students iscuss the information in the introduction.
  2. The students should have read chapter three of My Brother Sam Is Dead before this lesson. Now direct them to reread pages 38–40. This section demonstrates some of the tensions that existed between loyalists and patriots.
  3. The teacher hands out the abridged Petition from the General Congress in America to the King, October 26, 1774. Make certain that students understand that the original text has been edited for this lesson. Explain the purpose and use of ellipses.
  4. The teacher then “share reads” this document with the students.
  5. The teacher hands out Summary Organizer: Petition to the King.
  6. Students will look at the selections from the document and determine which words or phrases are the most important in that text. They will copy those words into the box on the right. After they have determined what is most important, they will summarize the selection in their own words. Students should brainstorm in their groups to decide what the most important information is and how to summarize it on the organizer. Remember to emphasize that they are to first use the author’s words to express what is important in the text and then restate the meaning in their own words.
  7. Class discussion: Groups or individual students will share their summaries and compare with other groups.

Lesson 4

Objective

In lessons 3–5 the students will compare and contrast some of the issues that divided the colonists prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. They will be analyzing those issues as presented in the novel My Brother Sam Is Dead as well as two primary source documents. Student understanding of the text will be determined through the presentation of a student-developed faux debate. In this lesson the students in their Critical Thinking Groups will be closely reading the second primary source document.

Introduction

The students will analyze the arguments that separated American colonists—those who supported the king of England, known as loyalists or Tories, and those who supported separation from England and the establishment of a new country, known as patriots. The second document they will closely read is Daniel Leonard’s letter of January 9, 1775. Daniel Leonard published letters under the pen name of “Massachusettensis” in the Massachusetts Gazette, in which he argued the case for submission to the Crown and warned his fellow colonists of the dangers of rebellion. These letters provide some of the most convincing presentations of the loyalist cause by an American.

Materials

Procedure

Students should be in the same critical thinking groups as in the last lesson.

  1. The teacher and students will discuss the information in the introduction.
  2. The students should have read chapter three of My Brother Sam Is Dead before this lesson. Review the information as presented in the novel regarding the differences between the loyalists and the patriots.
  3. The teacher hands out the abridged primary source document. Make certain that students understand that the original text has been edited for this lesson. Explain the purpose and use of ellipses.
  4. The teacher then “share reads” this document with the students.
  5. The teacher hands out Summary Organizer: Daniel Leonard’s Letter.
  6. Students will look at the selections from the document and then determine which words or phrases are the most important in that text. They will copy those words into the box on the right. After they have determined what is most important they will summarize the text selection in their own words. Students should brainstorm in their groups to decide what the most important information is and how to summarize it on the organizer. Remember to emphasize that they are to first use the author’s words to express what is important in the text and then restate its meaning in their own words.
  7. Class discussion: Groups or individual students will share their summaries and compare with other groups.

Lesson 5

Objective

The students will compare and contrast some of the issues that divided the colonists prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution as presented in the novel My Brother Sam Is Dead and two primary source documents. Student understanding of the text will be determined through the presentation of a student-developed faux debate.

Introduction

The students will analyze the arguments that separated American colonists—those who supported the king of England, known as loyalists or Tories, and those who supported separation from England and the establishment of a new country, known as patriots. The students within each critical thinking group will take the roles of loyalists, patriots, and a debate moderator. As a group they will write questions based on the issues presented in the primary documents and the novel. They will script responses from both sides based solely on what is written in those documents. This is not an actual debate but rather a scripted presentation in which the students will make the arguments that the authors of these documents would have made in a debate format. During the next class period the groups will present their debates.

Materials

Procedure

The class should be organized into critical thinking groups of three to five students.

  1. The teacher and students discuss the information in the introduction.
  2. The students should have read chapter three in My Brother Same Is Dead before this lesson. They should reread the first three pages of that chapter. This section demonstrates some of the tensions between loyalists and patriots.
  3. The students should have abridged copies of the two primary source documents, Petition from teh General Congress and Daniel Leonard’s letter.
  4. Each Critical Thinking Group should select a debate moderator and split the rest of their group evenly into loyalists and patriots.
  5. The students that they will be writing a script for a debate based on the issues raised in the primary documents and the novel that they have been studying. This script is to be written as a team effort, and everyone in the group will have a copy of the final script.
  6. The teacher will provide three questions that all groups must address during their debate. However, the students should add another one to three relevant questions as long as the answers can be taken directly from the primary source material.
  7. It is important that the students use actual text from the documents to make their arguments.
  8. The students will incorporate the following questions into their script. The moderator will ask the questions and each will be addressed by both loyalists and patriots:
    1. Was Mr. Meeker justified in throwing out of his tavern a man who said, “The only good Lobsterback is a dead Lobsterback” and “King George is a great hairy fool”?
    2. Can you explain the customer’s reaction to Mr. Meeker when the customer said, “I thought I was among free men, not slaveys”?
    3. What would be the consequences of America becoming a separate nation and independent of England?
  9. Students can then construct one to three questions of their own to be answered by either side with the opportunity for rebuttal. Everyone needs to work on the script, not just one side or the other, and the responses need to be taken directly from what the authors of the documents wrote.
  10. After students have written their scripts, they will perform their faux debate for the class.

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Discussion

These lessons are fabulous. They are well-paced, researched, and the directions are well-written enough for even the newest teacher to follow. Great work. Thank you for these. I appreciate them.


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