The Olive Branch Petition: War or peace?

Students need to understand that not all colonists were ready to declare independence. There was still division, even in the Continental Congress, as to whether the colonies should fight for independence or try to make amends with Britain. Students will think about different points of view and perspectives regarding independence.

Lesson Objective

SWBAT find, apply, and organize information specific to social studies disciplines by reading, asking questions about, observing, and summarizing in their own word assigned parts from the Olive Branch Petition.



  1. Have students work in groups of 4-5.
  2. Pass out copies of the Olive Branch Petition to each group. Pass out overhead markers. Have students examine the Olive Branch Petition to see any signatures they recognize, words they recognize, etc. If you laminate your copies, the students can write on them with the overhead markers.
  3. Explain to students that they will be working in groups to summarize different parts of the Olive Branch Petition in their own 5th grade words. Have each student choose a job so that all students are on task. Sample jobs could be reader, note taker, group summarizer, task manager, time keeper, vocabulary master, etc. Every student should have a job in their group.
  4. Hand out portions of the Olive Branch Petition to each group. Have students read it, discuss it, understand it, identify vocabulary words, and come up with a summary of their portion in their own words.
  5. Once all groups have finished, have students read original portion and then read their summarized portion to the class.


Students will be assessed on the accuracy and thoroughness of their summaries; and how well they worked together in groups.


“The Olive Branch Petition: The humble petition of Congress, 1775”. Karpeles Manuscript Library. (accessed August 28, 2011).

“The Olive Branch Petition (background).” Primary Sources: Workshops in American History. (accessed August 28, 2011).

“The Olive Branch Petition.” Kids Past: The Past Belongs to Kids. (accessed August 28, 2011).

“American War of Independence (Olive Branch Petition).” The National Archives (UK). (accessed August 28, 2011).