What does it mean to be free in colonial America?
This is an inquiry-based unit on colonial America for an 8th grade US history class, and my maiden voyage using the Smithsonian Learning Lab, the #C3Framework and #TeachingInquiry , and the guiding encouragement of my summer cohort, "Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects."
For this entire unit, my students will be “in character" as American colonists -- from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland -- starting around the year 1763. In general, I hope to challenge my 8th graders to perceive a shifting constellation of connections, relationships, and identities that drive people's self-understanding as they decide whether to side with Loyalist or rebel colonists.
Our summative performance task will be a multi-day debate between rebel and Loyalist colonists, with "fence-sitter" journalists evaluating arguments.
Supportive Question 1: “How might physical geography influence your colonial life in 1763?"
I hope this helps my students begin to grasp how the daily lives and world views of American colonists varied greatly, both within a particular colony and between colonies. They will hopefully uncover this for themselves as they plant their colonial identity in a specific colony, and begin finding their physical bearings in a coastal port city or a more rural area. Our research should help us perceive how geographical location might have affected an American colonist's early experience and opinion of British rule.
Supportive Question 2: “How might British taxes and news of the Boston "Massacre" affect your colonial life in the early 1770s?"
Once planted in a particular “neighborhood", I hope my students will really begin developing their colonial character (complete with colonial name and occupation) as they begin researching and exploring the web of economic connections they might share within their colony, and between their colony and England. We will evaluate the cultural points of view behind British and colonial opinions about taxes in the colonies, as well as contrasting newspaper accounts of the Boston "Massacre" as it is reported in colonial and London newspapers.
Supportive Question 3: “Is it time to fight for freedom from Britain?"
By 1774, I hope students are enjoying walking around in their colonial shoes (and, perhaps, identify which of their classmates might have made those shoes). Hopefully, some will perceive points of creative tension within their colonial identity, where they find themselves feeling more “British" than they do elsewhere. The formative task here, however, will be to make those opinions plain. Students will compare and contrast excerpts of Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Charles Ingliss' Loyalist response -- and begin to divide themselves (with some teacher intervention!) into rebel and Loyalist camps.Read More »