Colonial Life in New Jersey Lesson creators

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Colonial Life in New Jersey

Lesson creators: Beth Raff, Patricia Sellar and Ann Cartmell, Auten Road Intermediate School,

Hillsborough New Jersey

Grade level: 3-5
Students will demonstrate an understanding of what life was like for European colonists in New Jersey in the 1600 and 1700s.
Correlations with NJ Core Content Social Studies Standards
6.1.4.A.15 Explain how and why it is important that people from diverse cultures collaborate to find

solutions to community…challenges.

6.1.4.B.7 Explain why some locations in NJ and the US are more suited for settlement than others.

6.1.4.B.8 Compare ways people choose to use and divide natural resources.

6.1.4.C.1 Apply opportunity cost to evaluate individual’s decisions, including ones made in their


6.1.4.C.2 Distinguish between needs and wants and explain how scarcity and choice influence decisions made by individuals, communities, and nations.

6.1.4.D.2 Summarize reasons why various groups voluntarily and involuntarily immigrated to new Jersey and American and describe the challenges they encountered.

6.1.4.D.3 Evaluate the impact of voluntary and involuntary immigration on America’s growth as a nation, historically and today.

6.1.4.D.13 Describe how culture is expressed through and influenced by the behavior of people.

6.1.4.D.14 Trace how the American identity evolved over time. American culture, based on specific traditions and values, has been influenced by the behaviors of different cultural groups living in the United States

6.1.4.D.15 Explain how various cultural groups have dealt with the conflict between maintaining traditional beliefs and practices and adopting new beliefs and practices.

Common Core ELA Standards:
RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

RI.4.3 Explain…ideas or concepts in a historical…text

RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text

RI.4.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

RI.4.10 Read and comprehend informational texts…

W.4.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly

W.4.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose and audience

W.4.7 Conduct short research project that builds knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic

W.4.9 Draw evidence from …informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research

SL.4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one…)

SL.4.2 Paraphrase …information presented in diverse media,…including orally

Focus Questions:
Why do people move to other places?

  • Who were the settlers, where did they come from and where did they settle?

  • Why did Europeans leave their homes to settle in America in the 1600-1700s?

  • What were the opportunity costs?

  • Why did the colonists choose to settle where they did?

Where did European settlers build their farms, homes and towns? (Maps)

  • Dutch in Bergen along west bank of Hudson River, 1660

  • Swedes in South Jersey

  • English Quakers along the Delaware River

  • Compare settlement in NJ with that in New England and Virginia

What were the British colonies in America like in the 1770s?

  • What is a colony?

  • Why were colonies beneficial to the mother country?

  • How do you start a new life?

  • What was colonial life like in the North American colonies?

  • How did life in the North American colonies differ from life in Europe?

  • Who didn’t have freedom?

  • What does self-sufficient mean?

  • What was in indentured servant?

  • Why did we have slaves in colonial America?

  • Compare the lives of slaves, indentured servants, and apprentices in British colonial North America

How did life in colonial times differ from life today?

Supplementary Resources:

w:\staff\nj 350\completed elementary lessons\picture1.jpg

  • If you lived in Colonial Times (Ann McGovern)

  • Voices of Colonial New Jersey (National Geographic)

  • Colonial Life (Children’s Press)

  • Colonial America (Capstone Press)(Students can choose several endings.)

  • Outrageous Women of Colonial America (Furbee--(Jossey-Bass)

  • We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, Lesson 1 (Center for Civic Education, 2011)


  1. Students create a map of colonial New Jersey. Students locate some of the early settlements on the map (handout 1) and color code approximate regions where different European settlers lived (Swedes, Dutch, French, British Protestants, Quakers, French Protestants (Huguenots)). For information on New Sweden go to

  1. Students divide into groups and use graphic charts (handout 2) to explain the economic, religious, or other reasons for Europeans immigrating to New Jersey and America in the 1600-1700s, and describe the challenges they encountered.

  • Many early colonists came to America primarily to earn money by trading with the Native Americans for their furs. Later, when word spread of the bounty of the wide expanse and natural resources in America, many came to earn their living by farming. Land in Europe by limited and owned only by wealthy people. America was a very large place compared to most countries in Europe.

  • Economic reasons. There was space in America for people to settle and own land. In Europe only the rich could afford to buy land. Land in America was cheap.

  • Other European colonists settled in America because they were not allowed to practice their religious beliefs in Holland, France, Britain or other European countries.

  1. Research life in colonial New Jersey for children, Native Americans, women, slaves, indentured servants and prepare a comparison chart (handout 3) about the level of freedom, and the ability to earn income, travel, and to own property.

  • Most settlers were self-sufficient farmers. They meant that they grew and made everything that they needed: food, clothing, tools, household goods. Some had indentured servants to help them. In the southern colonies some people had large plantations with hundreds of slaves. African people had been brought to work as slaves. By 1775 there were half a million African slaves in North America (20% of the total population of 2.5 million).

  • An indentured servant was a colonist who didn’t have the money to pay for his voyage to America had someone else pay those costs and then he had to work for that person for a period of years, usually 5-7, and then was free to do as he pleased.

  • A slave was a colonist who was brought here against his or her will to work on a plantation, small farm or in a city, without wages but with room and board. According to the 1790 census, there were 11,423 slaves in New Jersey, out of a population of 184,139 people. Slaves were 6.2% of the colonial population in New Jersey,

  1. Celebrate Colonial Day—after reading about colonial times, have students dress and act as colonists in New Jersey. Each student can be given a different role: e.g., blacksmith, barber, tanner, hunter, farmer, etc. Students will take a walk in the footsteps of a colonial person and be exposed to various aspects of colonial life. Some suggestions include:

Colonial Tavern

● Colonial Games

● Quill & Ink

● Native American Wampum Bracelets

● Colonial Dancing

● Colonial Music
Attached are Handout 4: Costume Ideas for Colonial Times; Handout 5: Colonial Day Sample Schedule; Handout 6: Planning Schedule for Colonial Day; and Handout 7: Colonial Day Vendors.


  1. Write a letter from a colonist to the family or a friend back in Europe, describing what life was like in colonial New Jersey, and whether it was better or worse than the country they left.

  2. Group Wordle/Tagul

  3. Illustration

  4. Storyboard That (website for creating cartoon-like storyboards)

  5. Thank you notes

  6. Poll of Likes/Dislikes

  7. Acrostic Poems

  8. Top Ten List

  9. Class Discussion

There are many houses, churches and other buildings from the colonial period still standing in New Jersey. Visit or research information about East Jersey Olde Town Village, a reconstructed colonial village in Piscataway (, or an historic building in your town or elsewhere in New Jersey from the 1630s-1770s. Go to for information about many colonial buildings in New Jersey. Have students prepare a short presentation about the colonial buildings to the class.

Handout 1: where did early colonists settle in New Jersey?

Handout 2: Why did people come to the North American colonies in the 1600and 1700s?






English Protestants


French Protestants

Handout 3: Comparing freedoms


Ability to earn income

Ability to travel

Ability to own property

White Men

White Women

Indentured Servants




Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Below you will find some suggestions for costumes to wear on Colonial Day. Please note that costumes are optional, but they do add to the fun!

Pants for men:

● roll up your pants to the knee

● wear baseball or sweat pants with bottom elastic that can be pulled up to your knees


● tall baseball or soccer socks

● knee socks for girls


● plain button down/oxford shirt

shirts with a ruffle


● long skirt from a parent or sibling

● wear a white apron over the skirt

Wig/Hair for men:

● cotton ball wig ­ You can Google this! (­wig­cotton­balls.html)

● a ponytail tied with a black or dark ribbon

● baby powder in your hair for the white wig effect

Additional items for men:

● vest from a suit

● ascot/scarf around the neck

Additional items for women:

● shawl


● rounded, wire framed glasses


● Tri­corner hat for men ­ will be made in social studies class

● Bonnet for women ­ will be made in social studies class




Name of Activity

9:30 ­


Opening Assembly (whole fifth grade)

● Town Crier

● Reading of Proclamation

● Musical Performance ­ singalong

● Recognition of Program Cover Contest Winners

10:00 ­


Colonial Activities in Fifth Grade Homerooms & Off­team

Locations ­ 30 minutes each

● Colonial Tavern

● Colonial Games

● Quill & Ink

● Native American Wampum Bracelets

● Colonial Dancing

● Colonial Music

● Quilting

● Cross­Stitching

● Colonial Artifacts

● Tin Punching

● Marble Making

12:20 ­


Colonial Buffet Lunch & Colonial Outdoor Games (40 minutes each)

● Game of Graces

● Trap Ball

● Hopscotch

● Quoits

● Rolling the Hoop

● Tag



Old Barracks Fife & Drum Corps (whole fifth grade)

3:00 ­


Reflection Activities in homerooms

● Written response

● Wordle

● Illustrations




1. Make list of vendors and presenters to contact for Colonial Day

2. Reach out to off team activity teachers who may lead activities.

3. Contact Milan Rose Photography

4. Contact District Media Person

5. Set Release Day for Colonial Committee to meet in May to organize materials for distribution for Colonial Day.


1. Contact vendors

2. Order supplies


1. Colonial Ambassador Visits to fifth grade homerooms­ put on calendar



1. Reach out to Home and School for parent volunteers

2. Talk to Sodexo about special lunch


1. E­vites to special guests


1. Contact Mayor’s office regarding Township Committee Meeting in May and Proclamation

2. Print Contest Flyers


1. Recruit 6th grade Colonial Day Ambassadors

2. Notify 5th grade teachers about Colonial Day Ambassadors coming during Advisory.

3. Colonial Day Cover contest ­ announce

4. Scheduling

5. Reach out to Mayor ­ Proclamation

6. Generate enthusiasm for the day by creating a bulletin board/display of past Colonial Day activities.


1. Distribute materials

2. Create Colonial Day hats in Social Studies

3. Select & train 6th grade Colonial Day Ambassadors

4. Notify 6th grade HR teachers and lunch aides

5. Send instant alert to parent volunteers

6. Extended HR dedicated to Colonial Day (run by 6th grade Colonial

Day Ambassadors)

7. Attend Township Committee Meeting / Proclamation

8. Print and copy Colonial Day programs

9. Release Day for Planning Committee

10. Discuss Colonial Day lunch with lunch aides

11. Scheduling

12. Easels for signs for outdoor games


1. Set date for next year.

2. Meet as a committee to reflect on the day to discuss what worked, what didn’t work

3. Talk about assigning committee members specific jobs to complete

4. Supplies returned and organized into boxes and into closet

5. Make list of items that need to be replaced and not replaced

6. Thank yous ­ to parent volunteers, staff, etc.

7. Google Doc to staff for feedback

American Woodcrafters Supply Co. 1­800­245­5116 (

  • wooden circles for whirligigs

Cooperman Company 1­802­463­9750 (

  • colonial games

John Neal Bookseller 1­800­369­9598 (

  • containers for ink

Kress Design 2 1­814­954­7640 (

  • poster of Rules of Civility

Museum of Early Trades & Crafts 1­973­377­2982 (

  • craft presenters

Nancy’s Notions 1­800­833­0690 (

  • fabric for quilting

Nasco 1­800­558­9595 (

  • general art supplies

Old Barracks Museum 1­609­396­1776 (

  • Fife & Drum Corps

R.E. Davis Company 1­419­833­1200 (

  • colonial toys & games

Sax Arts & Crafts 1­800­558­6696 (

School Specialty 1­888­388­3224 (
ShopRite 1­800­746­7748 or local vendor
Staples 1­866­508­3656 (

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 1­888­965­7254 (

  • music cds & colonial games

Tom & Marianne Tucker 1­215­885­7073 (

  • colonial music performers

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