Colonists React

This lesson is designed to be taught after students have studied several of the acts implemented by Parliament as a result of the large debt that King George was left in after the French and Indian War. In the three-day lesson, students analyze primary sources to show the different reactions colonists had to these new taxes and laws. To build a reference for students, first on day one, in whole group, review the acts passed by Parliament. Next, review historical thinking skills with a provided checklist. Before students work in small groups and then independently, together conduct a close reading of a primary source that retells the events of the Boston Tea Party. On day two, in groups, students will then work together to complete a close reading of three other primary sources from the time period that each portray a different colonial reaction to a pokies online change Parliament implemented in the colonies. After discussing assigned primary sources in groups, students will respond independently with a written assignment on day three to assess their understanding of colonial reactions. Then for closure to the lesson, groups will share their primary sources, and we further discuss how the colonists began to divide into two cultural groups, Patriots and Loyalists.

Lesson Objective

Identify colonial reactions to King George III’s changes in the colonies by analyzing primary sources and responding through written response.



  1. Day 1 Review Background Knowledge (5 minutes)
  2. Have students get out their A Turning Point in History Timeline.
  3. Students should have this labeled with events they have already learned about: the Proclamation of 1763, Quartering Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Acts, Boston Massacre, Tea Act, and Boston Tea Party.
  4. Use the timeline to lead a discussion on the changes Parliament created in the colonies in response to the French and Indian War. Prompts:
    • Who can tell me about the Proclamation of 1763?
    • On our timeline, we previously added the Stamp Act and the Quartering Act on 1765.
    • What were these laws? How did some of the colonists feel about these new laws?
    • What about the Boston Massacre? What happened during that event?
    • And the Tea Act. What did we learn about that?
  5. Review Close Reading of a Primary Source (5 minutes)
  6. Tell students that today they are going to focus on what colonists were thinking about these new changes. Explain that they will infer the colonists’ thoughts and feelings by looking at primary sources from the time period.
  7. Pass out the Historical Thinking Skills Toolbox to students. Use it to review how to read a primary source by first considering the source, then conducting a close reading, and finally putting the source in context and corroborating it with other documents (if available).
  8. Whole Group – Model Close Reading (20 minutes)
  9. Using the Historical Thinking Toolbox Checklist, use a think aloud to model a close reading of The Boston Gazette Country Journal from December 20, 1773.
  10. Go through the questions for sourcing, close reading, contextualizing, and corroborating on the Historical Thinking Skills Toolbox.
    • Sourcing
    • What type of document is this? – It says Boston Gazette at the top. It must be a newspaper.
    • Who wrote it? – a newspaper reporter
    • When did they write it? – December 20, 1773
    • Why did they write it? Why do people write for newspapers? -so people know what’s going on; to tell what has happened
    • Close Reading
    • As you read, stop often to think about the text, summarize sections, and ask questions to clarify important parts.
    • What did they do? – had a town meeting
    • What for? – to discuss why the tea from the East India Company had not been sent back yet
    • What did they want to do with the tea? – send it back to England
    • Any ideas why? – assess background knowledge of the Tea Act
    • Did they send it back? – no, the ship was delayed
    • Why were the people frustrated? – many colonists dislike the Tea Act
    • Here it says, ‘But, BEHOLD what happened’. Any guesses what happened? – take student responses to assess prior knowledge of Boston Tea Party
    • What happened to the tea? – they threw it overboard
    • Who? – it says ‘a number of brave and resolute men”
    • Any guesses who these ‘brave’ men were? – see if anyone can identify the Sons of Liberty
    • What is this event documented here called? – Boston Tea Party
    • What is the overall tone or message of the document? – agreed with events, supported Sons of Liberty in Boston Tea Party
    • How did the author portray this tone? What words did he use in the document to clearly express his viewpoint? – several exclamation points, ‘brave’ men, ‘happy event’
    • Contextualizing
    • When was the document written? – December 20, 1773
    • What important events came before or after? – Boston Tea Party in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773
    • Why did the author write this? – to tell people what happened
    • Who is the audience? – readers of the newspaper, citizens of Boston
  11. After using the Historical Thinking Skills Toolbox to source, close read, and contextualize the primary source as a think aloud, model how to fill in the Analysis of Primary Source Document graphic organizer.
  12. Wrap up the lesson by reviewing the reaction this primary source depicts.
  13. Tell students that tomorrow they will spend time in groups analyzing three more primary source documents to determine more reactions colonists had to changes implemented by Parliament from 1763-1773.
  14. Day 2 Primary Source Analysis in Groups (30 minutes)
  15. Direct students to get out their A Turning Point in History Timeline and their Historical Thinking Skills Toolbox worksheet.
  16. Remind students that yesterday they used the Historical Thinking Skills Toolbox to learn how to source, close read, and contextualize a primary source about the Boston Tea Party.
  17. Tell students that today together in groups, they are going to go through the questions for sourcing, close reading, and contextualizing just as was modeled to have a group discussion about their primary source.
  18. Remind them to use their timeline to help contextualize their source.
  19. Divide students into three groups (one for each primary source): Massachusetts Gazette – notes about Marshfield town meeting (small group)l The Boston Gazette Country Journal – letter to tea commissioners (small group); John Rowe diary 5, March 4, 1768 (small group)
  20. As students are discussing their primary source in response to the Historical Thinking Skills Toolbox questions, bounce from group to group to help point out important ideas, answer questions, clear confusion, and focus attention to key points in the document.
  21. When groups demonstrate a solid understanding of their primary source, pass out the Analysis of Primary Source Document graphic organizer.
  22. Together students should identify the type of document, date, author, intended audience, and important points. There is also room for additional notes, if needed.
  23. If groups finish their group discussion about their primary source and their graphic organizer, they can work on the extension activity – an analysis of “The Liberty Song”.
  24. Day 3
  25. Assessment (10 minutes): On the back of the Analysis of Primary Source Document graphic organizer, there are two questions for students to respond to:
    • Why was this document written? Was the document written to inform or persuade others? How do you know? Use evidence from the primary source to support your thinking.
    • Write a question to the creator of the document that is left unanswered.
  26. Independently, students are to respond to these two questions. They may use their primary source and the Analysis of Primary Source Document graphic organizer.
  27. Sharing of Primary Sources (20 minutes): Pass out the Colonists React Capture Sheet.
  28. Model how to correctly fill in the chart by again sharing the source from day 1.
  29. Together fill in the date, author, purpose, and viewpoint or opinion.
  30. Direct students to get organized for presenting by filling in the required information about their primary source.
  31. Have the first group present the key parts of their primary source to the class.
  32. As each group presents, students take notes on their capture sheet. For each primary source, they need the date, author, purpose, and viewpoint or opinion.
  33. Conclude the lesson by reviewing the four different reactions to changes in the colonies showed in the four primary sources. Discuss the idea of Patriots and Loyalists and ask students to share which documents fit each group.


Informally assess students understanding of the primary sources by observing group discussions. Then on day 3, students respond independently in writing for a formal assessment.


Nelson-Burns, Lesley. “The Liberty Song”

The Coming of the American Revolution, 1776. The Massachusetts Historical Society.

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