American Revolution

Teacher Guide By Richard Cleggett

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American Revolution Lesson Plans

Student Activities for American Revolution Include:

The American Revolution was a turning point in the United States' history. Throughout the Revolution, countless key figures influenced the colonies as British forces pressed on. Starting with the infamous Shot Heard Round The World, American colonists defended the country and ultimately helped the United States become independent from England. Although many American colonists lost their lives defending their country, the American Revolution brought true freedom to the United States.

American Revolution Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Battle of Lexington and Concord Comparison Activity

For this activity, students will create a storyboard detailing the events leading up to, and the events of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. To do so, students will create a T-Chart or a grid storyboard that details both the British and American actions of what will mark the beginning of America’s fight for independence. By looking at both the British and American actions, students will gain a holistic perspective as to how events unfolded and what ultimately resulted in the battle. This will also provide a side-by-side, visual narrative of these events to better understand both sides of the story.

Example Comparison of British and American Actions

British Actions American Actions
Initial Call to
Lexington and Concord
The British received word that there were weapons and ammunition being held by colonial militia forces in Concord. They decided to march on Concord in the hopes of capturing John Hancock and Samuel Adams, now rebels. The colonial militia had prepared to fight and defend themselves from British forces. Weeks in advance, colonial forces had learned of the British intelligence on their supply hold and prepared for their arrival. Also aiding their intelligence were revolutionary leaders Paul Revere and William Dawes, who warned much of the countryside.
Preparation and Forces The British marched on Concord and Lexington with a force of 700, leaving Boston under the leadership of General John Pitcairn. They arrived at Lexington and Concord on the morning of April 19th, 1775 to find opposing colonial forces. The colonial forces gathered and prepared to defend the supply stock at Concord with a force of 400. They were armed and ready, having had word that the British were indeed arriving.
Actions in Battle The British arrived and had a small skirmish with colonial forces in Lexington. Upon arriving in Concord, they were met with a much greater force. The shot heard round the world took place, as the British battle colonial forces into retreat. However, they would be continuously attacked on their march back to Boston, resulting in further losses. Colonial forces met British forces in both Lexington and Concord. Despite conflicting testimonies after the battle, colonists insisted the British had provoked the fighting, and soon the colonial militia fought back. Using their knowledge of the terrain and geography, colonial forces continued to fire upon the British on their march back to Boston.
Effects of Battle The British lost 73 men with over 150 wounded. Furthermore, they were surprised by the tenacity and courage of the colonial forces, which would serve as an underlying theme of the revolution. For colonial forces, the fighting at Lexington and Concord marked the beginning of their fight for independence. Although they will lost 49 men and more than 50 were injured, colonists gained confidence in their fight against British forces.

Extended Activity

Have students research and complete a T-Chart storyboard from another early American Revolutionary battle. This will further allow students to see strategies, effects, and significance of other battles. Furthermore, it can also serve as a comparative to both British and American actions from the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

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The Battle of Bunker Hill 5 Ws

Battle of Bunker Hill summary: This battle serves as a great connector to the Battle of Lexington/Concord, exemplifying the strength of the British as well as the growing confidence and abilities of the Americans, despite their defeat.

Here, students will create a spider map to visualize the significance of the Battle of Bunker Hill. By defining and explaining the five Ws of the battle, students will be able to analyze key strategies, figures, and effects of the battle for both the British and American colonists. Additionally, this will also expose students to key figures for both forces and what their roles were in the early years of the revolution.

Who was Leading the Forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill?

For the British, General Thomas Gage and General Clinton solidified themselves as tough, tactful leaders. For the colonial forces, William Prescott and Dr. Joseph Warren emerged as heroes, although Dr. Warren would lose his life.

What was the Battle of Bunker Hill?

The Battle of Bunker Hill was an early decisive battle in the war. Colonial forces fortified themselves atop Bunker Hill, where they unsuccessfully defended themselves from constant British attack in their attempt to siege Boston.

When did the Battle of Bunker Hill Take Place?

The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17th, 1775, just months after the fighting at Lexington and Concord. The battle itself lasted approximately one day.

Where did the Battle of Bunker Hill Take Place?

The battle took place on Bunker Hill, although most fighting also occurred on Breed's Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts. It was seen as an integral geographic position in defending and controlling the city of Boston, Massachusetts.

Why did the Battle of Bunker Hill Take Place?

The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought for tactical position in defending and controlling Boston. As the British besieged Boston, colonial forces inflicted heavy damage and instilled in themselves a new air of confidence.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of British and American Forces

Both sides of the American Revolution had their advantages and disadvantages. What served as an advantage to the American forces in the war consequently often served as a disadvantage to the British and vice versa.

Students will make a T-Chart or a grid storyboard to explain and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of both American and British forces during the revolution. By creating a grid to display a contextual and visual comparative of both forces, students will better gain an understanding as to the manner of how the war was fought and, eventually, won.

British Forces American Forces
Forces and Men For the British military, their sheer numbers served as a great advantage. With a well-fed, well-supplied, and well-taken-care-of fighting force, Britain hoped to retain the dominance of their military superiority over the world. The American forces were at a severe disadvantage. One in five colonists were still loyal to the crown with another half wanting to avoid the conflict altogether, creating much difficulty for recruitment. The Americans were also under-supplied and under-paid.
Military Technology and Superiority The British enjoyed a tremendous advantage in terms of military technologies and superiority. Their navy was the best in the world, and as a wealthy nation, arms and weaponry were easy to supply. For the Americans, military technology and superiority was nearly non-existent. Arms and supplies were raised through communal efforts, and any navy or technological advantages would not be available until the arrival of French forces later in the war.
Geography and Landscape The British lacked knowledge about the geography and landscape of the northeast. Newly arrived soldiers and generals were often misguided and became vulnerable due to their new surroundings. The vastly different climates of the colonies also served as a disadvantage. The Americans very much enjoyed their abilities to navigate their homeland. By possessing knowledge of paths, roads, and major geographical landscapes, the Americans were able to outmaneuver and outsmart many British attacks and defenses.
The Will and Drive to Fight One of the largest disadvantages for the British was their lack of will and drive to fight the war. Miles from home, waiting on orders from the mother country, and general lack of motivation served as a crucial ideological disadvantage. The Americans' will to fight was immense. Ideas of freedom, protecting what they had built, and the thought of a future country of their own provided the colonial forces with determination.

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Key Figures of the American Revolution

To provide better context of bigger thematic ideas like patriotism, nationalism, and the Americans’ belief in the preservation of civil liberties and human rights, look at the people who made it happen. A great way to track key influential people of the American Revolution is through the use of a traditional storyboard that details and explains the major figures that took part in the war.

Students will explain and analyze who they were, their roles, and the significance of their actions. This activity will also enable students to research initial American founding fathers and expand on ones they may have already seen in the events leading up to the American Revolution itself.

George Washington George Washington was by far the most instrumental military leader of the Revolution. Taking command as General of the colonial forces, Washington's military experience, intelligence, and influence helped carry the Americans to victory.
Thomas Paine Thomas Paine's pamphlet, Common Sense, proved to be vital in influencing the colonists' drive to fight for independence. In it, he describes our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property - an ideology that defined the will of the colonists to fight.
Nathanael Greene One of Washington's most trusted generals, Greene proved his courage and loyalty through his toughness and dedication. By helping secure victories in the southern campaign, Greene was vital in eventually forcing General Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown.
Benedict Arnold Winning crucial battles at Saratoga, Arnold helped instill confidence within the colonial forces. However, his legacy was cemented in the fact that he became a traitor, switching loyalties to the British side.
Horatio Gates Also a successful general, Gates proved vital to the campaign in Virginia and the North. He, too, was a veteran of the French and Indian War, and also helped secure victory at Saratoga. It was rumored that he wanted Washington's position as commander.
Marquis de Lafayette Marquis de Lafayette was immensely important to the Americans' victory in the war. Lafayette not only helped secure French aid to the Americans, but also crucial military training and tactics.

Extended Activity

Students can research present-day leaders, including military leaders, the President of the United States, and other leaders in the government. Students should try to look for connections between actions, beliefs, and how current American leaders embody (or do not embody) ideas and ideologies such as independence, patriotism, and the founding ideas of democracy. Make another traditional storyboard, or use a character map.

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The Battle of Yorktown and Ending of the War

The signing of the Treaty of Paris finally ended the war between Britain and the United States. After declaring independence from Britain and then fighting for several years, the end of the war was very welcome. Timelines are a great way to detail the important Battle of Yorktown (1781) to the eventual signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. By plotting events, starting with the Battle of Yorktown, students will continue to explain and analyze key strategies, events, and figures of the revolution. Check out the example timeline below.


Hope Still in Sight

Despite enduring losses throughout the year of 1780, arrival of French aid and resources greatly improved morale. Washington was stationed in New York, hoping to move soon.

July 1781

France Makes a Move

Commanders Lafayette and Rochambeau mobilized troops to march towards Yorktown and Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. French Admiral De Grasse mobilized French naval ships from the West Indies to help disrupt and fight British General Cornwallis.

September 1781

Americans Head to Yorktown

General Washington mobilizes his army from New York City. Along the way, he made fake military maneuvers to outsmart the British on his way to Yorktown. Their goal: stop General Cornwallis from receiving fresh supplies and men at Yorktown.

October 19, 1781

The Battle Rages On

The Siege of Yorktown soon became a full-scale battle. However, General Cornwallis and his 8,000 men were on their heels. Allied attacks from the British and Americans eventually caused them all to surrender. It was the largest British defeat in the war.


British Support Faltered

After the crushing defeat, the British soon realized that the war was not popular with the public. The British clamored for peaceful negotiations after the expensive, long, and deadly war.

September 3, 1783

A Treaty is Signed

Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams were received in Britain and, along with the British leaders, they sign the Treaty of Paris. The Treaty called for peace as well as the transfer of all British lands in North America east of the Mississippi to the colonies.

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Major American Revolution Battles Timeline

Battles are where wars are won or lost. It is important that students understand what was important about each battle and where it took place in the greater timeline of the American Revolution battles. Students should select from an array of battles (or defined list if preferable) to create a timeline of events and battles that occurred throughout the revolution. This storyboard is meant to serve as a holistic narrative to the fighting that occurred throughout the revolution.

Students should select battles, place them in chronological order, and then explain the following:

  • Who was the winner/loser of this battle?
  • Where did the battle take place?
  • How many casualties, injured, captured, etc. were there as a result of this battle?
  • How did it effect the American Revolution overall, or, more specifically, America’s victory?

April 19, 1775

Lexington and Concord

This was the first battle of the Revolution. The American colonists proved themselves through guerrilla war tactics, attacking the British at Lexington, Concord, and on their march back to Boston.
June 17, 1775

Battle of Bunker Hill

During one of the first major battles of the Revolution, the colonists held their own against General Gage and his forces at Breed’s (Bunker) Hill in Charlestown, MA. Despite losing, the colonial militia's confidence was greatly boosted.
September 19, 1777

Battle of Saratoga

General Burgoyne of Great Britain clashed with Generals Arnold and Gates of the American forces. With 9,000 men, the Americans killed over 200 British and captured another 260 in a decisive American victory.
December 29, 1778

Capture of Savannah

The Capture of Savannah proved a major blow to American forces. Under the command of General Howe, the American leader lost over half of his army as well as the city.
October 19, 1781

Battle of Yorktown

The Battle of Yorktown was a major blow to British forces. With aid from the French, the American colonial army cornered General Cornwallis into surrender, ultimately ending their quest to defend their American colonies.
September 3, 1783

Treaty of Paris

The signing of the Treaty of Paris marked the official end of the American Revolution. Americans gained recognition by the British Empire as a sovereign nation, and also gained all British claims East of the Mississippi River.

Extended Activity

Students can create a chronological timeline of American wars since the revolution. This will help serve as a connective timeline to what America has experienced in terms of warfare since our very beginnings. Include a list of wars (or a defined list) for them to put in order, and utilize the same summative explanatory points in the aforementioned activity.

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American Revolution

Before the United States of America existed as a country, the people who lived in the area were colonists from Great Britain. Great Britain commanded the largest empire that the world had ever known, and the American Colonies were just a part of it. As colonists, the American people were not given the same treatment and consideration as “true” British citizens. The colonists did not have representation in Parliament, they had to pay different taxes, they were prohibited from expanding into new territory, and they were forced to house and feed British soldiers after the Quartering Act of 1765. The American people eventually fought to be free from oppression.

The war began with what many call “The Shot Heard Round the World”, which may indeed be true since the British Empire controlled vast land across the entire world. American colonists began their fight for self-control and independence at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and from there, history was forever changed. To grasp the holistic perspective of how the war was fought as well as its significance in history, one must understand pivotal battles, the men that led each nation’s forces, and what ultimately brought on the demise of the British forces and the welcoming of an entirely new nation: The United States of America.

Tactics, advantages, defeats, deaths, and victories all in one way or another defined how and why the war was won. The British Empire, the most powerful military in the world, and American colonists, veterans of years of fighting and oppression from the British, were soon pitted against each other in battle after battle. Despite mounting victories, military superiority, and confidence, the tide of the war shifted from the British to favor the colonists. With French aid and will power, and fueled by the ideas of liberty, the Americans proved victorious at pivotal battles, such as Yorktown, effectively triggering full British surrender. The eventual signing of the Treaty of Paris did not only help punctuate a victory in war for the Americans, but also the birth of their new nation.

Essential Questions for the American Revolution

  1. What is the significance of major, pivotal battles, including Lexington/Concord, Bunker (Breed’s) Hill, and Yorktown?
  2. What were the major advantages and disadvantages of both the British and American forces during the war?
  3. How did each side perform in pivotal battles?
  4. Who were the major key figures and leaders of the revolution?
  5. What roles did the key figures play and how did their actions affect the outcome of the war?
  6. How did the American colonists eventually achieve victory?
  7. How did ideas of independence, nationalism, patriotism, and civil liberties serve as driving forces for the Americans during the revolution?
  8. What is the significance of the Treaty of Paris?
  9. How did Americans initially handle their new-found independence?

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