Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
Images of the American Revolution

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

Constitutional Connection

This lesson focuses on the American Revolution, which encouraged the founding fathers' desire to create a government that would, as stated in the Preamble, insure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense.

Cross-curricular Connections

Share this exercise with your history, government, and art colleagues.


  1. Direct students to examine the documents. Ask these questions: Are these documents primary or secondary sources? How do you know? How reliable is each document for historical accuracy? What biases can artists bring to their work?

  2. Divide students into 8 groups, and direct each student group to use a Document Analysis Worksheet or a Photograph Analysis Worksheet for one of the documents. Using the jigsaw method, direct students to explain their results.

  3. Distribute paper and colored pencils to students. Assign students to illustrate an event from the Revolutionary War or to illustrate what may have happened some time before or after one of the selected documents. Encourage students to create their illustrations from the perspective of a French or British artist.

  4. Divide the class into two groups. Distribute documents 24, and 8 ( page 1 and the signature page ) to the first group and ask them to discuss international involvement in the American Revolution. Ask them to write their responses to the following questions: How were foreign individuals involved in or inspired by the American Revolution? What motivated other countries to aid the American cause? Distribute documents 15, and 7 to the second group. Ask them to discuss the conduct of the Revolutionary War and write responses to the following questions: Compare and contrast the American and British soldiers. How are they similar? Different? What motivated each? After each student group has had 30 minutes to complete their tasks, ask a representative from each group to report to the class.

  5. Instruct students to study documents 2 and 3 and answer the following questions: What problems are shown facing the soldiers camped at Valley Forge? What other problems might they have faced that are not shown? How do you think the British army's experience in Philadelphia compared with the Americans' experience? For document 3, ask students to compare the style of dress of the congressmen and the soldiers, and ask them to brainstorm what Washington might have been saying to the congressmen.

  6. Assign students to research and write a monologue from the perspective of one of the individuals who played a significant role during the Revolutionary period. In their speeches, they should describe significant events of the period including the Stamp Act, the Declaration of Independence, Valley Forge, and the Articles of Confederation. Some possible individuals include the Marquis de Lafayette, Baron Von Steuben, Benedict Arnold, King George III, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams. 

  7. Ask students to conduct independent research and then answer the following essay question:

    How were the lives of colonists affected by any THREE of the following events of the Revolutionary War? 

The documents included in this project are available online through the following Archival Research Catalog. (ARC) Identifiers: 


ARC replaces its prototype, the NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. ARC's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.

ARC is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use ARC to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.

Currently, about 20% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in ARC. 124,000 digital images can be searched in ARC. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in ARC will grow continually.

This article was written by David Traill, a teacher at South Fork High School in Stuart, FL.