Who fired the shot heard ’round the world’?

Since this battle officially began the war part of the American Revolution, it is important for students to understand the events that took place there and leading up to it. They should also gain perspective from both sides so that they can form their own opinion of what happened with “the shot hear ‘round the world”. In addition, this task allows for students to use historical thinking skills to try and form their own opinions of what happened and try to answer a question to which nobody really knows the answer.

Lesson Objective

Students will discuss conflicting points of view regarding the events of April 19, 1775 and explain the significance of the Battles of Lexington and Concord by writing a letter to a friend.



  1. Students will have reviewed the events that led up to the battles of Lexington and Concord. Read to them the order given to Lt. Colonel Francis Smith from Thomas Gage (primary source). Then read Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (secondary source). Explain that these events preceded what happened at Lexington and Concord and officially began the Revolutionary War.
  2. After reading both letter and book, review terms- loyalist, neutralist, and patriot as well as differences between primary and secondary sources.
  3. Explain the objective of using primary sources to understand what happened at the battles of Lexington and Concord from the point of view of the colonists (minutemen) and British soldiers to answer the focus question: Who fired the first shot at the Battle of Lexington and Concord? (Students will complete the Says Who? Graphic Organizer as they analyze various primary source documents)
  4. Display the Amos Doolittle print The Battle of Lexington. Guide students to complete the See, Think, Wonder Artful Thinking routine to analyze the source. Discuss what point of view the engraving shows and why. Model historical reading through sourcing, close reading, and contextualizing by completing the Says Who? Graphic Organizer.
  5. Read and display the primary source of Lt. John Barker, British Soldier, 4th Regiment Diary Account on the beginning of the march to Lexington. Again, model historical reading through sourcing, close reading, and contextualizing by completing the Says Who? Graphic Organizer.
  6. After modeling the process using the first two sources, provide students with the next three sources: #3. Official Statement of John Robbins, Lexington Militia, April 24, 1775, on Lexington Green, #4. Narrative of Ensign Jeremy Lister of His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot, on the Fighting in Lexington, and #5. Statement of James Barrett, Colonel of Concord Militia, on the Battle at North Bridge. Have students work in groups to complete the graphic organizer for these three sources.
  7. Discuss their findings as a whole group and record their answers to clarify any misconceptions.
  8. Closure/Assessment: Have students write a letter with the following prompt: Imagine that you are a British soldier, colonial minute man, or a citizen of Lexington or Concord in 1775. In a letter, a friend asks, “Who fired the first shot at Lexington and Concord?” Answer your friend in letter form using information from primary sources to support your answer.