Knowledge of the American Revolution is vital to understanding how the United States of America was formed. The basics of the Revolutionary War are generally taught during the fifth grade in most public schools in the United States. There are numerous ways to make the subject both interesting and interactive for students, ranging from written exercises to classroom re-enactments.
Numerous books written about the Revolutionary War are appropriate for fifth-graders, among them "My Brother Sam Is Dead," by James and Chris Collier; "George Washington's Socks," by Elvira Woodruff; "Winter of the Red Snow," by Kristiana Gregory; and "Johnny Tremain," by Esther Forbes. A good way to teach a book on the Revolutionary War is to introduce the book, have students write down questions, then read the book, and finally discuss the book with the class, answering all of the students' questions. Questions can be turned in individually by students, written on the board or displayed with a projector for the entire class to view.
Many students learn visually. Photographs of Revolutionary War paintings or artifacts can be brought into class and passed around. Movies can also be shown in class as long as they are appropriate for 10- or 11-year-olds. If you read a book based on the Revolutionary War that was later made into a movie, that might be a good choice. A field trip to a museum that has Revolutionary War-era displays may also get students more interested in the subject. Discuss the photographs, movies or field trip with the students, answering any questions they might have.
Written activities can concern famous figures of the Revolutionary War or the war in general. Students can choose a famous person and write a biography of him or a letter to the person. For a more general approach, students could create a time line of the Revolutionary War or a cause-and-effect chart listing the causes of the Revolutionary War and how they affected the development of the nation.
An artistic activity might be a good way to finish up a segment on the Revolutionary War or simply reward students at the end of the week. Students could create political cartoons, propaganda posters or even a comic strip depicting the events of the Revolutionary War. A creative group activity that generally gets students of all learning styles interested is creating a newspaper. It can contain illustrations, articles, advertisements, obituaries, letters to the editor, cartoons and even horoscopes, so long as everything relates to the Revolutionary War. More challenging artistic activities include creating dioramas, mobiles or Revolutionary War-era costumes.
Asking groups of students to write a short play and then act it out is generally a great way to get students enthused. You might even bring in a box of props that can be used for the play. A debate is another good way to get students involved. Assign students to be rebels, loyalists and British Parliament members and let them role-play a debate. A Sons of Liberty meeting is also a lot of fun. Students can re-enact the meeting that led to the Boston Tea Party.
Classroom Stamp Act Re-Enactment
An eye-opening activity is to impose the Stamp Act in your classroom to teach the kids about taxation without representation. You will need tokens; plastic poker chips work well. Students should be given different numbers of tokens to create poor and wealthy groups. Provide rewards they can buy with the tokens, such as extended free time, treats, stickers or other bonuses. Tax them for simple things such as using a chair, speaking during class or even having their homework graded. They'll complain about the unfairness of the system and will begin to separate themselves into rebels and loyalists. You might even throw in the option of creating petitions.