The American Revolution...some ideas and pictures

The American Revolution has to be my number one, most favorite, can't wait until we get there unit.  It is fascinating to me how our country began and the events that lead up to it.  I always find that my students are interested in the same things (probably because I am so into it!)   During the unit, we read quite a bit of informational text, fictional accounts of the war, poems, and songs, all of which help to make this unit come alive.  Below are a few of the activities that really stand out in my head as being successful and worthwhile.

First and foremost, here is a picture of my room.  I know how lucky I am to 1) have such a big space and 2) have such a beautiful building.  The wood floors were amazing and the high ceilings to die for.   (I say "were" because I have moved schools this year and no longer have the luxury of this wonderful room....though my school is amazing nonetheless ;) )

Research abounds in my class during this unit.  To kick it all off (working on the computer, finding information in research books, etc...) the students work in groups to find information about some important battles of the war.  I give them this criteria chart (that I DID NOT create...another teacher posted it online. I did change it to fit my needs, but when I find her, I will credit it), which basically outlines everything I want them to find for their map, and they are off. In their groups, the students discover some basic information about the battle, and create a chart with it all.   There is a lot of discussion and teamwork during this project.  One website that was particularly helpful was  The American Revolution.  I also really liked these three books:
American Revolution (DK Eyewitness Books) and The American Revolution (Landmark Books) and American Revolution from A to Z, The(all above are affiliate links)

Click here to access the chart document.
Click here to access the criteria chart.

Of course we needed to write the "My Side of the Story" pieces.  The students decided if they were a Patriot or Loyalist and why, after reading both If You Lived At The Time Of The American Revolution (affiliate link)
and The Night the Revolution Began (which is about the Boston Tea Party).  We used tea to age the papers...which the students LOVED!

I have this great book called Heroes of the Revolutionary War, which has about 15 biographies of influential Americans during the war.  The students were each assigned one of the people, looked up additional information in the library, and wrote a biography of that person.  We worked together on the prewrite (setting up the categories they needed to find out) and then they were off and writing.  To display it, the students created these "Hanger People".  Using an old wire hanger, the arms and shoulders of the person was formed.  They then added a head, torso, and legs.  Using any art materials we had, they created the people.  The students were SO creative!  They used yarn to create the wigs that men of that time wore, fashioned buttons out of brads, and generally went above and beyond to make their hanger person resemble the hero as much as possible.  Here is a link to the organizers and exact directions if you would like them.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE how this project turns out each year.

For math, I have the students research the various battles of the war.  They need to find out the numbers of people on both sides (American and British) who fought in the battle and were either unharmed, or a casualty.  Then, for the casualties, they had to further research and discover the people who were killed, hurt, and captured.  Now, I know people could fall in more than one category, but for the purposes of this activity, we just went with the theory that everyone fell into only one category.

This picture is from a different years' display.  Same idea, just a different way to show it off!
The students then had to crunch the numbers (which was VERY hard for my kiddos last year).  They had to first subtract the total amount of people who were casualties (killed, hurt, and captured) from the amount of actual soldiers. This gave them the number of people who were unharmed.  All of the above numbers then went on to a bar graph.  The next step was the doozy.  They had to find the fraction and percentage of each data set.  Once they found the percentages, they created a pie graph of the information.  I had them color code it all, just to make it a bit easier to read (blue for the Americans, red for the British), and then I put it all up with this big, giant map.  Phew...that was a long winded explanation!

Here is the document I created for the students to house their graphs and the information.  They did end up needing extra paper to do all of the math work involved, but this at least made the final products look nice for the bulletin board.

Here are the websites my students used to research:

The American Revolution Battles
War Stats -- This was THE best for the above activity

We wrote a cause and effect essay about the laws King George had placed on the colonies, which eventually lead to the war.  The students made Multi-Flow maps, and wrote all of the causes for the taxes, and then all of the effects of those same taxes.

After we read Betsy Ross, the students created their own flags of the new United States.  They decided upon the colors and design, and then painted flags (on both sides, so we could hang them!)  A written explanation of why every.single.thing they put on the flag accompanied each finished product.

This document from Enchanted Learning was great for helping them decide upon colors.

We also made this AWESOME quilt using fractions.  The basic idea is that the kids had a 20cm by 20cm square of graph paper.  They drew classic designs of the time period and then figured out the fraction of each color they used on the quilt.  Gosh, it came out GREAT! 
Want even more ideas?  Click the picture to the right to take you to some more activities that you can use in your classroom.

OK...that about covers it.  I told you, I LOVE this unit.  :) 

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  1. What fabulous ideas!!! We are starting the 13 Colonies now and I will definitely be using some of these. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What fun! Your students must learn a ton! We are working on American Symbols....a little more basic for us 2nd graders:-)

    Chickadee Jubilee

  3. What a great unit! Makes me wish I'd been in your 5th grade class :)


    1. What a very sweet thing to say. Thank you Kara!

  4. I am pinning this post! We are starting the American Revolution right now and I will be using many of your resources!

    Thanks for sharing.


    Fun in Room 4B

  5. This is great! We just started the Rev. War too.

  6. What a great post! I taught SS last year and I totally would have stolen every single one of your ideas :)
    To The Square Inch

  7. Thank you for this peek into your room! I can definitely tell that you love this unit and have done a wonderful job on it!!
    Conversations in Literacy

  8. Welcome to Blogland! I'm your newest follower. Great unit!!! Come by for a visit when you get the chance!

    Chatterbox Blessings,

  9. What an amazing unit you have put together! It is so generous of you to provided everything to help others out. I love it. Thanks for the look in your room (and the ideas)!

  10. What are you doing with the U.S. Constitution and American Government?

  11. I was curious how your american revolution quilt was different than the one that was made in your colonial time unit?

  12. Your social studies ideas are incredibly inspiring... keep posting them!

  13. I love all of your ideas!! I'm in the process of creating an American Revolution interdisciplinary unit and I was having 'lesson planning block' until I looked here!

  14. I just want you to know that I consult your blog now each time I plan my lessons for social studies (I, too, teach 5th grade in CA.) We are just getting into the colonies after Winter Break, and I know that my students will be more interested in social studies because of the lessons you have planned and shared with us. I am very thankful for your TPT store, as well. It is a valuable resource. You are truly an inspiration!

  15. I love your ideas. We are going to be working on the colonies and then I will be borrowing some of your ideas. Do you have any printables you would be willing to share?

  16. Hi there! I'm new to 5th this year after many, many years in kinder. :) I was wondering how many weeks you spend on the Revolution?

    Thank you for sharing all of your amazing ideas. My students are thankful too!

  17. Are you able to give the author of the american revolution biography book you use... I can't find one that would work. Thanks.

  18. I loved this great unit that you are doing and I am just starting it with my fifth grade students! I wish I could see the pics a little better.
    Fantastic ideas! I can't wait to implement them! Thanks so much for all of them! Love the links to Amazon too. Soo helpful!
    What are think maps? Is that webbing?

  19. Just curious?? When you did this unit how long did it take you? How long did you spend on it each day?

  20. Can you upload the map outline you use for the thirteen colonies? I have been looking online and in our SS curriculum and cannot find a clear guide for students to label. Thank you!

  21. I tried to find the Heroes of the American Revolution online and haven't had any luck. Do you know the author?

  22. Thank you for all of this! Combined with the new Broadway show "Hamilton," I'm having a blast with this unit!


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