Learning About Research and Writing Using the American Revolution

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 60-minute sessions
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Internet research can add depth to content area study, as can using the information found in various genres. This lesson combines historical research and acrostic poetry. Students begin the lesson by activating background knowledge about the American Revolution. They then conduct research on a historical figure using a variety of resources. When research is complete, students write an acrostic poem informing their classmates about the historical figure's importance to the American Revolution.

From Theory to Practice

  • It is increasingly important for teachers to give their students opportunities to learn using technology, while at the same time helping them to make judgments about the information they find and how it can be used in problem solving.

  • The Internet offers a wealth of information that can enhance content area learning.

  • Students will not automatically know how to use the Internet as a research tool-they will need instruction in how to scan, skim, summarize, and locate information.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore (Scholastic, 1998)

  • Chart paper or transparencies

  • Computer with Internet access

  • LCD projector

  • Overhead projector




1. Obtain and familiarize yourself with If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore. This book contains a great deal of information; depending on the age and ability level of your students, you may choose to read only excerpts, focusing on the pages that deal with the British loyalists and the colonial patriots. Issues to consider include:

  • How could their contemporaries tell what side people were on?

  • Who were the most well known people on each side?

  • How did life change for these two groups after the war?

You will want to make sure you point out the differences between the two sides and what types of people were included in each group.

2. Gather resources for students to use to research the American Revolution; these can include websites, trade books, and encyclopedias. American Revolution Research Project: Suggested Resources is a list of books and websites that might be helpful; your school librarian or media specialist may have additional suggestions. You should have the books available in the classroom and the websites bookmarked on your classroom or computer lab computers.

3. Make sure that students have permission to use the Internet, following your school policy. If you need to, reserve two sessions in your school's computer lab (see Sessions 3 and 4).

4. Use the American Revolution Research Project: Historical Figures list to assign each student a research subject. You may want to assign more prominent figures with shorter last names to lower-level students (so they can find information and write their poems more easily). You can have each student research a different person or put students in pairs or groups to complete their research. Do not assign George Washington to any of your students.

5. Transfer a blank copy of the American Revolution Research Project Organizer onto chart paper or a transparency. You will use this and the American Revolution Research Project Sample Organizer to model note-taking for students. Print the sample organizer, which has the information from one website filled in, as an example. Fill in the second resource using one of the books you have chosen for students to use. Print off the American Revolution Research Project Sample Poem for your own reference as well (see Session 5).

6. If you have access to a computer with an LCD projector, arrange to have them in your classroom for Session 2. If not, print out and make copies of the Biography of George Washington website for each student in your class.

7. Make copies of American Revolution Research Project Organizer, the Peer Editing Checklist, and the Using the American Revolution to Teach Research and Writing Rubric for each student in your class.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Gain knowledge about the American Revolution by researching a specific figure from that time period

  • Learn research skills by observing the teacher model how to find information from a variety of sources

  • Apply the research skills they have learned by accessing historical information from a variety of sources, scanning those sources for the type of information they need, and verifying the information they find using multiple sources

  • Practice analysis by interpreting a historical figure's importance to the American Revolution and writing a poem about him or her that demonstrates this importance

  • Develop presentation skills by reading their acrostic poem to the class

Session 1

1. Write the words American Revolution on the board and give students two minutes to list any associations they have with these words on a piece of paper. Solicit one response from each student and include it in a web around the key words American Revolution. When everyone has offered a response, allow students to respond with any further associations.

2. Next, put students in small groups and give them five minutes to ask questions about the things listed in the web. These inquires are directed toward other students in their groups, not you. Students may ask about definitions, clarifications, or elaborations on any of the items.

3. Bring students back together and give them a few minutes to write about information they learned in their groups.

4. Finally, read all or part of the book If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore aloud to students, taking care to point out the sections that deal with the loyalists and the patriots (see Preparation, Step 1). After reading, have students write about what they now know about the American Revolution. Questions for them to answer in this writing include:

  • What were the differences between the loyalists and the patriots?

  • Who were some famous loyalists and patriots?

  • What did the two sides believe in?

  • How were the lives of the loyalists and patriots different after the war?
5. Discuss the new knowledge students have gained after they have finished writing.

Session 2

1. Discuss the research project with students. Draw their attentions to the web you created in Session 1 and tell them that they will expand their knowledge of the American Revolution. Explain that each student will have a historical figure from the American Revolution to research and then write a poem about, with the aim of sharing the information he or she discovers with the class. Their research will be guided by this question: Who was this person and how did he or she impact the American Revolution? Assign a historical figure to each student (see Preparation, Step 5).

2. Distribute the Using the American Revolution to Teach Research and Writing Rubric to students and review it, explaining that it is what you will use to assess the research project.

3. Distribute the American Revolution Research Project Organizer to students, and explain that they will use this sheet to record information about their historical figures.

4. Show students the blank American Revolution Research Project Organizer on chart paper or a transparency. Tell them that you will show them how they can use the organizer to take notes for their poems.

5. Show the Biography of George Washington website on the LCD or by distributing copies to students. Ask them to follow along as you read it aloud, pausing to ask yourself every few sentences whether a piece of information is important or not. Record key information on the transparency or chart paper, modeling how to abbreviate it and talking about why it relates to the guiding question. You can use the phrases listed on the American Revolution Research Project Sample Organizer, have students volunteer ideas, or do both.

6. When you have finished sharing the website, repeat this process, modeling note-taking using a different resource, such as a book (see Preparation, Step 5).

Sessions 3 and 4

Note: If you do not have access to classroom computers, these sessions should take place in the computer lab.

1. Review the resources you have selected for students to use. Students should then research their historical figures and fill out their American Revolution Research Project Organizers.

2. Give students the rest of this session and one additional one-hour session to complete their research. You may choose to have students work in pairs or small groups. While students are working, circulate among them, helping them identify key pieces of information and answering questions as necessary.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 5): Students who do not complete their organizers by the end of Session 4 should do so for homework.

Session 5

1. Explain to students what an acrostic poem is. An acrostic poem uses the letters in a topic word to begin each line. Tell them that they are going to write an acrostic poem using the last name of the person they have researched. In these acrostic poems, each line should relate back to the guiding question: Who was this person and how did he or she impact the American Revolution?

2. Using the organizer you created together on a transparency or chart paper during Session 2, write an acrostic poem about George Washington. Questions to ask include:

  • Is there a synonym for this word or idea that would work in our poem?

  • Can I rearrange a phrase or abbreviate it so that it will work in the poem?

  • Does the information about Washington refer back to the central question?/li>

If you choose, you may use the American Revolution Research Project Sample Poem as an example for students, or you may prefer to have students help you write a poem using the notes from Session 2. If you are unable to find something immediately for a specified letter, let students know that it is okay to skip it and come back; you may need to do more research.

3. Students should use their American Revolution Research Project Organizers to write an acrostic poem. (As with the research, you may choose to have students do this in pairs or groups.) Circulate while they are working to help them find synonyms and identify when they might need to do additional research.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 6): Students who do not complete their acrostic poems by the end of Session 5 should do so for homework.

Session 6

1. Distribute the Peer Editing Checklist to students and review each of the sections with them.

2. Have students work in pairs to comment on each other's poems. If students have written their poems collaboratively, have pairs or groups of students fill out the checklist for other pairs or groups.

3. Students should use the peer comments to revise their poems.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 7): Students should finish revising their poems, write out a clean copy, and practice reading them aloud.

Session 7

1. Ask students to present their poems by reading them during a poetry cafe in the classroom. After each student reads, give the rest of the class a chance to respond to the poem and ask questions.

2. After everyone has shared their poems, talk about the process of researching and writing them. Questions for discussion include:

  • What did they learn about the American Revolution by researching their historical figure?

  • What did they learn by hearing the other poems?
3. Have students try to answer the guiding question about each famous person: Who was this person and how did he or she impact the American Revolution? If a student has done a thorough job of researching their historical figure, the other students should be able to answer this question in a sentence or two.

4. At the end of this session, have students turn in their organizers, poems, and peer review forms.


  • Publish students' poems in a class book or website titled The Who's Who of the American Revolution.

  • Have students research and write acrostic poems about important battles, places, or events in the Revolutionary War.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Compare what students are able to share about the American Revolution during the discussion in Session 1 with what they share during Session 7.

  • Informally assess students' research skills as you observe them during Sessions 3 and 4.

  • Informally assess students' abilities to work collaboratively and to offer feedback on each other's work during Session 6.

  • Use the Using the American Revolution to Teach Research and Writing Rubric to assess students' research, writing, peer editing, and presentation skills.

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