From Revolution to Democracy: The Complex Fight for Freedom.

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From Revolution to Democracy: The Complex Fight for Freedom. (Expeditionary Learning/Student Achievement Partners)

Unit 1: Building Historical Background Knowledge: The Road to Revolution 1754- 1776

From Revolution to Democracy: The Complex Fight for Freedom

Grades 9-10 Social Studies Module

A CCSS-Aligned Curricular Module for High School Social Studies Teachers

Developed by Expeditionary Learning in Collaboration with Student Achievement Partners


This module was developed by Expeditionary Learning (EL) as an exemplar of Common Core aligned instruction. The module was produced to address key questions related to powerful implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS):

  • What could it look like to implement the CCSS in a social studies classroom?

  • How do we build the disciplinary literacy skills students need in order to read, write, and think like historians?

  • How do we engage and support all learners in meeting the CCSS through careful practice and supportive materials?

The module is NOT meant as a “cookbook” for teachers to follow; we honor teachers as professionals, and expect teachers would modify and refine the lessons to meet the needs of their students and context. This is offered as one concrete example, an invitation, and an inspiration to others to extend this and to do their own work.

Purpose: The module was designed with two specific purposes:
As a professional development resource: The module serves as a model for teachers, to breathe life into the CCSS so teachers have a clear vision of what this type of instruction can look like, and better understand the powerful role the CCSS can play in building students’ content knowledge.

Teaching notes signal the kind of planning and thinking such instruction requires. Key teaching moves, in particular close reading with complex text, are described in enough detail to make it very clear what is required of students, and how to support students in doing this rigorous work. Specific instructional strategies or protocols are described that support students’ reading and writing with evidence. There is a major effort made to demonstrate ways to select and work with academic language (vocabulary and syntax) in order to make complex text and its wealth of ideas and knowledge accessible to all students. The goal of using the modules as models is for educators to transfer components of this exemplar to apply to other curricular units they are designing.

As curriculum to use, adapt, or build from as you see fit: This also can be the curriculum that lets you take the CCSS for a test drive within your school or classroom.

The module will help teachers achieve two goals:

    • build students’ content understanding (of the module topic) and

    • help student develop the content literacy skills needed for College and Career Readiness.

Materials include summative assessments, central texts, key resources - the “story” of the student learning has been fully flushed out. The modules also include lesson level agendas with sufficient detail to show key instructional moves: suggestions of activities, text-dependent questions, and daily assessment give teachers clear guidance on the particulars, while still leaving room for teachers to adapt and make the lessons your own. Note that in some cases, the modules could also be adapted for other grade levels, if the rigor of the text-dependent questions were ratcheted either up or down or alternate materials of greater or lesser complexity were folded in with new questions and tasks developed.

The goals of using the modules as curriculum are to help students master content literacy standards while gaining content knowledge and to build teachers’ capacity to apply CCSS-aligned practices in instruction and assessment.

A Note on Structure:

The module is focused on the examination of a single topic, in this case, the Civil Rights era, and could last as long as one quarter of a school year. The materials were created to be one coherent arc of instruction focused on one topic. But we recognize teachers and schools have their own curricular imperatives, so each module is built of 1-3 shorter “units” that could be modified into a smaller set of lessons.

The lessons are designed for a 90-minute block periods, but can be easily divided into 45-minute periods or modified further to fit any school schedule.

Unit 1: Building Historical Background Knowledge: The Road to Revolution 1754- 1776

This unit is comprised of eleven 90-minute sessions.

Module Overview: This historical module, aligned with the Common Core Literacy in History Standards, is the second of two units that serve as “bookends” to the study of the American Revolution. Unit 1, The Road to Revolution, spans the pre-Revolutionary period (1754-1776) and emphasizes the close reading of primary and secondary sources to understand the conditions leading to the American Revolution. It is assumed that teachers will follow Unit 1 with their own materials for teaching the American Revolution in the interim. Unit 2 is intended to immediately follow teacher-generated curriculum on the American Revolution. Unit 2, Post-Revolution: The Critical Period (1781 – 1787), focuses on the post-war period and on various stakeholders unhappy with early attempts to build a new federal government.
Module Big Ideas

  • In many historical eras, people facing oppressive conditions have chosen to revolt in order to change society.

  • A variety of political and economic forces contributed to the American Revolution.

Unit Overview: Throughout history, people who face oppressive conditions have been compelled to consider when enough is enough and to decide if they should revolt. Individuals and groups from different places and time periods have faced conditions that have led to revolt. In the first unit of this module, students will build background knowledge on the conditions that lead to revolutions by focusing on the Arab Spring and the American Revolution. They will use Historical Thinking Concepts1 to learn to “read like a historian.” They will discover multiple perspectives, analyzing how individuals and groups respond to oppression, and they will investigate causal chains that lead people to choose to rebel. This unit is intended as an example of CCSS-aligned historical curriculum, and as such, students will focus on reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence. They will implement strategies to tackle complex primary and secondary sources. Students will begin to build a visual timeline that describes the causal chain of events and conditions in colonial America that escalated to war. Students will complete two summative assessments. One is a test on the Declaration of Independence in order to assess students’ understanding of the document and its historical significance. The second assessment is a writing prompt based on the Guiding Questions.
Unit 1 Guiding Questions:

  • What were the conditions that led to the American Revolution?

  • What are the conditions that lead to revolution in other times and places?

  • What connections can we make between the conditions that led people to rebel in the early American colonies and current revolutions in the Middle East?

Summative Assessment Writing Prompt (based on Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) Writing Task 18)2:

After reading texts about the Arab Spring and pre-Revolution America, students write an evidence-based essay that explains the differences and similarities between the conditions leading to the Arab Spring with those leading to the American Revolution, drawing conclusions and implications from the evidence. (WHST.9-10.2)

Unit 1 Lessons

This unit is comprised of eleven lessons about the conditions leading to revolution in general, and the conditions leading to the American Revolution in particular. The agendas for Lessons 1-7, in which students read a wide variety of historical texts, have been built out with explicit directions, explanations, and timing protocols for teachers. The agendas for Lessons 8-11, regarding writing instruction, are more summative in nature and contain fewer directives for teachers; however, they still provide an outline of activities and timing protocols.

  • Lesson 1: Building Background Knowledge: Revolutions across Time and Place

  • Lessons 2 and 3: Building Background Knowledge: Beginning of the Pre-Revolutionary Period

  • Lesson 4: Examining Multiple Perspectives on the Boston Massacre

  • Lesson 5: The Words of Patrick Henry: “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

  • Lessons 6 and 7: The Declaration of Independence

  • Lesson 8: Planning for Writing an Evidenced-Based Essay: Fishbowl Discussion on Evidence

  • Lesson 9: Planning for Writing an Evidence-Based Essay: Examining a Model

  • Lesson 10: Drafting the Essay

  • Lesson 11: Revising the Essay


This unit addresses the following grades 9-10 Common Core English Language Arts and Literacy standards in History/Social Studies and specific content standards drawn from the Massachusetts History and Social Studies Curriculum Frameworks (MCF). The historical themes are drawn from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).

Common Core State Standards

Historical Thinking and Literacy Skills:

Disciplinary Core Ideas and Standards

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information. (RH.9-10.1)

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text. (RH.9-10.2)
Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them. (RH.9-10.3)
Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis. (RH.9-10.5)
Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts. (RH.9-10.6)
RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources. (RH.9-10.9)
Write informative/explanatory texts, including narration of historical events… (WHST.9-10.2)

Summarizing the characteristics of revolutions.

Determining the central idea of a primary or secondary source.
Citing specific evidence from primary and secondary sources to support analysis (attending to such features as the date and origin of the information).
Identifying controversial British policies and practices in Colonial America and how the Colonists responded to them.
Summarizing the conditions and events surrounding the Boston Massacre.
Applying the close-reading practices of a historian to primary source documents.
Comparing and contrasting perspectives and arguments for who is to blame for the Boston Massacre.
Using reading strategies and steps to read and comprehend complex text with increasing independence.
Analyzing differences between the pre-revolution values of the Patriots and those of the British.
Using close reading strategies and steps to read and comprehend complex text with increasing independence
Using quotes and specific details to support claims about the American Revolution in discussion and writing.
Engaging in a discussion with my peers.
Using close reading strategies and steps to read and comprehend complex text with increasing independence
Using quotes and specific details to support claims about the American Revolution in discussion and writing.
Listening carefully and selecting relevant information from discussion.

HSS Standard (MCF): USI.1 Explain the political and economic factors that contributed to the American Revolution.

HSS Standard (MCF): USI.4 Analyze how Americans resisted British policies before 1775 …

Unit 1 Central Texts

  • Expert texts on Arab Spring

    • Tunisia:



  • Egypt:



  • Libya:


  • “Causes of the Libyan Revolution and the Arab Spring”


  • All countries: “The Reasons for the Arab Spring”


    • “Arab Spring Uprising: Country by Country – Saudi Arabia”


  • Primary Source Excerpts:

    • Letter from Dr. Cyrus Baldwin to his brother


    • “A Fair Account of the Unhappy Disturbance in Boston”

    • Benjamin Frizzell deposition

    • Samuel Drowne deposition

    • The Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770: The Event and Aftermath

    • Boston Massacre: Pamphlets and Propaganda

    • Excerpts from “A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre,” by James Bowdoin - 1770

    • “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” by Patrick Henry (March, 1775)

  • Declaration of Independence

  • Excerpts from Howard Zinn’s The People’s History, pp. 80-84

Unit 1 Routines

  • Reading: Close reading of complex text

  • Writing: Written response to Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) tasks (summative assessment)

  • Writing: Use of textual evidence in writing

  • Speaking and Listening: Students frequently work in pairs. While the lesson agendas provide some suggestions for specific protocols to use to pair students, consider frequently using this pair work as an opportunity for movement and variation. This will increase engagement and provide a necessary movement break to students as they engage in the demanding close reading tasks in this module.

  • Speaking and Listening: In several lessons, students participate in a “Fishbowl” protocol (see appendix), which is a basic discussion structure in which an inner circle of students have a text-based discussion while an outer circle of students listen, observe, and take notes. The two groups then switch.

  • Language: Vocabulary routines that encourage students to practice using context and word parts to make meaning of those words and to develop the habit of annotating their texts to indicate the meaning of those words. Students work with a Vocabulary Terms Organizer throughout the unit (see appendix)

Unit 1 Central Vocabulary: Students work with a Vocabulary Terms Organizer throughout this unit (see appendix)

  • Domain-Specific: revolution (revolutionary, revolutionize, revolt), rebel, stakeholders, Patriots, Sons of Liberty, Loyalists, Tories, quartered, boycott, causation, commerce, massacre, authority, culpable (culpability), effigy (effigies), economic (economy, economical), self-evident, unalienable, abolish, usurp (usurpation), tyranny

  • Academic: analyze, central, characteristics, controversial, convey, determine, escalate, evaluate, perspective, relevant, sound (sensible)

Lesson 1: Building Background Knowledge: Revolutions across Time and Place (one 90-minute lesson)
Rationale: In order to analyze the pre-Revolution period, students first build knowledge on revolutions in general, identifying their characteristics and analyzing their similarities and differences. This lesson also helps students begin to build the skills in reading complex informational text and primary historical documents: they build toward independence with identifying the central ideas and begin to work with identifying and analyzing evidence.
These lessons address the following skills and activities to develop facility with the targeted standards:

  • Summarizing the characteristics of revolutions.

  • Determining the central idea of a primary or secondary source.

  • Citing specific evidence from primary and secondary sources to support analysis (attending to such features as the date and origin of the information).

Informal Assessment Options

Formal Student Assessment Options

Students’ more formal, individual written assessments that teachers may collect

to more formally assess based on mastery of learning objectives above.

Entry task as regular instructional practice

Capturing the Gist organizer

Conditions Recording Form on Arab Spring country

Checking for understanding techniques

Group Frayer Model: revolution

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