The stamp act: How did they react?

The purpose of this lesson is to demonstrate the difference in reactions to the Stamp Act between the colonists and the British. The students will be analyzing various primary sources in order to analyze how differently the colonists and British reacted. The colonists had an extremely negative view of the taxes, which was represented by the skull and crossbones and symbolic “death” of the newspaper. On the other hand, the British felt justified in taxing the colonists, and depicted the colonists as bullies as they tarred and feathered the tax collector, who in their mind was just doing his job. This directly relates to the curriculum, as the students analyze the events leading up to the Revolution, and how colonists worked within and outside the political system to create change.

Lesson Objective

Students will be able to explain how the reactions of the colonists and British to the Stamp Act by either designing a political cartoon or writing a newspaper article expressing their feelings towards the Stamp Act.



  1. Activate prior knowledge by reviewing what they already know about the Stamp Act, based on their reading of the History Alive textbook. Ask for several student volunteers to share what they remember from previous lessons regarding the act.
  2. Next, explain the objective for the day is to be working together to analyze primary sources to see how both the colonists and the British reacted to the Stamp Act.
  3. Review the definition of a primary source, examples of a primary source, and how to tell whether or not it is reliable. Then review the three main historical thinking skills that will be used during today’s lesson: sourcing, close reading, and contextualization.
  4. Distribute a copy of the actual Stamp Act stamp to each student. Display a copy of these stamps on the projector. Explain that there were various stamps used during that time that looked slightly different. Give the students a few minutes to discuss with their table group what they notice about each of the stamps, in order to pinpoint some things that they all have in common.
  5. Model the process of sourcing, close reading, and contextualizing using the graphic organizer on the overhead. Work as a class to answer each of the questions based on their observations and previous knowledge. Discuss what we can be learned by looking at the revenue stamp.
  6. Next, distribute copies of the skull and crossbones representation of the stamp. Display a copy of these representations. Allow students a few minutes to work with their table to complete the second part of the graphic organizer as was previously modeled. Record their ideas on the overhead. Then discuss what looking at this stamp could learn and what it tells us about the difference in opinion between the colonists and the British.
  7. After modeling the process using the first two sources, provide students with the next two sources. Allow appropriate time for the students to work in their table groups to do a close reading of the Bradford newspaper and British cartoon. They will use their observations to complete the graphic organizer comparing the two sources. As they are working, circulate to answer questions and guide their discussions.
  8. Once all groups have finished analyzing the two additional sources, discuss their observations as a class and record them on the overhead. Discuss as a whole group what can be learned about the difference in mindset between the colonists and the British regarding the Stamp Act by analyzing these primary sources.
  9. Once they have identified the various mindsets, follow up with the following questions in order for them to summarize the impact of the Stamp Act.
    • What group of people was most affected by the Stamp Act?
    • Do you think it was a smart idea for Britain to tax that group?
    • Do you think it was a smart idea for Britain to repeal the Stamp Act a year later?
    • Finally, relate the difference in mindset during the Revolution to our current conflict with Afghanistan. Explain how for the colonists the Stamp Act was a major focus, and the only topic on their minds, much like the conflict with the U.S. is the main focus for the citizens of Afghanistan currently. However, for the British, the conflict with the colonies started out as only a minor problem, and it was overshadowed by the conflicts they were having with other territories at the time. This relates to how the US currently has other issues that overshadow our conflict in Afghanistan. Display a current copy of a newspaper from Afghanistan and one from the U.S. to demonstrate how this difference in mindset is also portrayed in the media, as it was in the 1760s. Allow students who may have background knowledge on these issues to contribute any other ideas or similarities they may think of.
    • Closure/Assessment: Students will have the choice to either design a political cartoon or write a newspaper article expressing their feelings towards the Stamp Act.


Students will pretend they are colonists living in the 1760s in order to create either a political cartoon or a newspaper article that expresses their opinion towards the Stamp Act.


“Liberty, Property, and No Stamp!” (accessed July 27, 2012).

Public Broadcast Station (PBS). “This is the place to affix the stamp.” Freedom: A History of US. (accessed July 27, 2012).

“The Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, 1765.” Smithsonian Source: Resources for Teaching American History. (accessed July 27, 2012).

“British cartoon depicting the fate of Boston customs officer John Malcomb, who was tarred and feathered and forced to drink tea, 1774.” Smithsonian American History Museum. (accessed July 27, 2012).