|Lesson Plan on the Boston Massacre (1/21/06)
How we think we want to do lessons: We want to hear from you about what you want. But there are a lot of canned lessons out there, ready to present to 5th graders. Some of them are really good. But they’re also written for 10-year olds. We want you to have materials to take to your classes. But we also want to give you a chance to get excited about the history that you teach (which, I want to remind you, IS exciting despite whatever experiences of history many of us had in our own childhood). And we want to work with you on how to take material that you find exciting and transform it into materials for your classroom. All of this is to say that what we are about to do is, already: attentive to the 5th grade social studies standards, employs strategies you could use in your classroom, is interactive so (I hope) you won’t go to sleep, and is NOT written for 10 year olds. I’d like to do this lesson with you first. Then we’ll talk about how it might look in your classroom.
The Boston Massacre (5.5.1: Students understand how political, religious, and economic ideas and interests brought about the Revolution resistance to imperial policy). (Also meets Language Arts Standard Reading 2.5, expository critique: distinguish facts, supported inferences, and opinions in text.) This also connects to book 5.3 of the Houghton Mifflin language arts materials, which looks at the American Revolution.
-What do you know about the Boston Massacre?—5 men killed, lead up to the Revolution, 1770, Crispus Attucks
-A little background:
In the few years prior to 1770, when the Boston Massacre took place, Boston had been increasingly filled with unrest. In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which prompted a storm of protests, some of them violent. Men such as Samual Adams had encouraged Bostonians to be even bolder in their protests. In response, in 1768, the British government sent two regiments of soldiers to Boston to restore order and enforce British law. But the presence of soldiers brought more unrest. “Incidents between Bostonians and [British soldiers] were common on the streets, in taverns, and at the places of employment of British soldiers who sought part-time jobs to supplement” their pay.
On February 22, 1770, a British sympathizer named Ebenezer Richardson tried to tear down an anti-British sign. A crowd followed him home and threw rocks at his house, striking Richardson’s wife. He grabbed a musket and fired into the crowd, killing eleven-year-old Christopher Seider. Richardson was thrown in jail, and 2000 mourners (1/7 of the city population) participated in Seider’s funeral, including children who carried his casket through the streets.
Through the next week, gangs of men and boys roamed the streets of Boston, harassing soldiers. Soldiers too prowled the streets, looking for a fight.
On the night of March 5, a clash took place between the soldiers and a crowd of men and boys that again ended in bloodshed. British soldiers fired their muskets, killing 5 colonists and wounding 6 others. The soldiers and their Captain, Thomas Preston, were sent to jail and tried for murder. Preston’s trial took place in October. We have two tasks today. 1) To try to understand the events of that evening, particularly whether Thomas Preston gave the order to fire or not. 2) To try to understand how colonists hostile to the British used this event to fuel the protests.
I. Begin with Preston’s deposition. Read it aloud (or have it read). Do a quick analysis. See questions below. Put Preston on the map. What do we need to know from witnesses to decide if we believe Preston’s story or not?
II. Give each person a statement or set of statements. [make the whole packet available separately]
Read the statement or statements you have been given. Analyze as follows [put up the questions on the board]:
a. Who is the witness? Why was he or she there? Where did he or she stand? How close to the captain and the shooting?
b. Why were the colonists on the scene? When did they arrive? How many?
c. What were they doing? What kind of interactions did they have with the soldiers before the shooting took place?
d. When did Preston arrive? Where did he stand? What did he do?
e. Why, according to the witness, did the shooting start? Was an order given to fire? By whom?
f. What evidence is there that this witness is reliable? Not reliable?
Draw a quick picture of the scene as described by your witness. Be sure to put in Preston and your witness.
III. Come together in two groups. Taking turns at the map, each group should:
Use different colors/shapes to indicate who was where and where each witness said Preston was.
2. Drawing on the different witnesses you read, discuss:
a. What events happened that night to lead up to the shooting?
b. Do you think Preston gave the order to fire? Why or why not?
c. Which witnesses do you find the most, or least, reliable? Why?
IV. As a class, report out:
What do we get from the map? [confusion; any clarification? Which witnesses are reliable? Does this help clarify where Preston was? Does this help support or challenge his story?]
What do you think happened that night? (free for all discussion) Did Preston give the order to fire? Should he be found guilty or not? Did someone else give the order? Was it all an accident?
[Could draw another picture here—a class composite, sort of, but we won’t have time, I’m afraid. Maybe ask them what it would look like. OR give them 2 minutes—a sketch, not an art project.]
V. The shooting becomes propaganda
1. Look at the engraving by Paul Revere. How does the engraving conform to what actually happened? How does it conflict with what we decided as a group really happened? If there are major discrepancies, why do you think this is so?
Look at the excerpt from the broadside. Have someone read this aloud. What does the message of this broadside seem to be? How does Thomas portray the March 5 shooting? How does he convey his message? How does he connect the events of March 5 to the larger question of the behavior of the British rulers?
How might these two documents help us understand why Americans ultimately decided to rebel against England?
Karen: Talk about how they would use this in class.