Standard Lesson

Using Pictures to Build Schema for Social Studies Content

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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Looking to help students practice "reading" images for a variety of contextual meanings while engaging in content area study? This lesson uses images of the Boston Massacre to deepen students' comprehension of both the event and the effects of propaganda. Students begin by completing an anticipation guide to introduce them to Boston Massacre, propaganda, and British/colonial reactions to the massacre. They then complete an image analysis to make inferences about various images of the massacre. The culminating activity-a presentation about students' observations and inferences-demonstrates students' knowledge of the Boston Massacre and propaganda in a variety of ways. This lesson benefits English-language learners (ELLs) and struggling readers because it involves viewing images, participating in discussions, working with peers, and listening to a read-aloud that reinforces the lesson content and vocabulary.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Meaning is communicated by illustrations in texts. Art can extend meaning beyond the words, and illustrations can help convey the mood of the text.

  • Not only are illustrations useful for addressing all ability levels in the classroom, but the conversations that occur because of these pictures also provide the opportunity for a greater dimension of understanding to all children.

  • Picture books provide meaning because the illustrations tell the story, clarify and define advanced concepts, and set the tone of the text.

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

  • 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).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 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

  • The Boston Massacre by Michael Burgan (Capstone Press, 2006)

  • Sheets of poster board

  • Markers, pens, and pencils




1. Depending on your students' familiarity with the American Revolution and Paul Revere, you may want to teach "Paul Revere: American Patriot" or "Learning About Research and Writing Using the American Revolution" prior to beginning this lesson's activities.

2. Print out images of the Boston Massacre from the following websites:

3. Obtain a copy of The Boston Massacre by Michael Burgan.

4. Gather poster paper and art supplies (e.g., markers, pens, and pencils) for as many groups of three students as your class will form.

5. Make one copy of the Image Analysis Sheet and the Anticipation Guide: Boston Massacre for each student.

6. Make a copy of the My Task List: Boston Massacre, the 2-circle interactive Venn Diagram, and the 4-Square Project Template for each group.

7. Prepare and teach a poetry minilesson focusing on cinquains and ballads that will prepare students for the culminating activity.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Use a variety of comprehension strategies to determine how an engraving of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere is similar to or different from other images depicting the event

  • Visually depict their interpretations of the Boston Massacre

  • Practice analysis and critical thinking by explaining propaganda as it relates to Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre

  • Demonstrate understanding of how the Boston Massacre was a cause of the American Revolution by explaining British and Colonial reactions to the massacre

Session 1: Image Analysis

1. Give each student the Anticipation Guide: Boston Massacre to introduce them to the topics that will be studied over the next three sessions: the Boston Massacre, propaganda, and British/Colonial reactions to the massacre. Have each student complete column 1 of the guide before the start of the lesson.

2. Assign groups of three students to work together. Give each group the My Task List: Boston Massacre. Read and explain each task and the points to be earned. Review the extension activities and remind students that the extensions are optional. Give each group one of the images of the Boston Massacre. Do not let students see Paul Revere's engraving at this point.

3. Tell the groups that they are to observe their image for one minute. After the minute is up, group members should discuss their observations of the people, objects, and activities in the image and complete the first section of the Image Analysis Sheet.

4. Have group members complete the inferences and questions sections of the Image Analysis Sheet after their discussion.

5. When each group has completed their analysis sheet, give them a copy of Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre. Group members then use the 2-circle interactive Venn Diagram to record the similarities and differences between their group's assigned image of the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere's interpretation of the event.

6. Have student groups report to the class the similarities and differences they found between their assigned images and Paul Revere's engraving.

Session 2: Culminating Activity

1. Read aloud The Boston Massacre by Michael Burgan. Students will make connections to the read-aloud and the images they analyzed in Session 1. The following prompts can help get the discussion started:

  • What were some of the events that led to the Boston Massacre?

  • Do you think the British were justified in sending for more soldiers on the night of the massacre?

  • Describe the mood of the crowd (Patriots and British soldiers) the night of the massacre.
2. Introduce the concept of propaganda and post the following definition: Propaganda is a type of message aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of people.

3. Have the student groups get together to work on the culminating activity. Each group will create a 4-square poster, which should be completed on poster board. Give each group a copy of the 4-Square Project Template; a sheet of poster board; and markers, pens, and pencils.

  • Tell students that Box 1 should include their group's observations and inferences and the completed Venn Diagram that they used to compare their original image of the Boston Massacre to Paul Revere's engraving of the event.

  • In Box 2, students should provide an explanation of how Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre was propaganda. The box should also include a detailed explanation of British and Colonial reactions to the massacre.

  • In Box 3, students should create their own depictions of the Boston Massacre based on the images they analyzed and the facts they learned from the read-aloud. Have students include a caption explaining their drawing.

  • In Box 4, students should write a poem (ballad or cinquain) that explains how and why the Boston Massacre was a cause of the American Revolution.

Session 3: Oral Presentations/Wrap-Up

1. Have each group present its 4-square poster to the class.

2. Have each student complete column 2 of the Anticipation Guide: Boston Massacre.

3. Have student volunteers read the false statements from their anticipation guide that they made true. Students should be able to explain what part of the lesson helped them make the false statements true (e.g., "The Boston Massacre was a disagreement between Patriots and British soldiers. I learned this by analyzing images of the Boston Massacre.").


  • Have students find examples of propaganda in current newspapers, magazines, journals, or other publications, and give oral presentations explaining why what they found is propaganda.

  • Have students write an essay explaining the effects of propaganda. They should use specific historical and/or current events to support their ideas. Suggest that they use the Essay Map as a prewriting tool before drafting their essays. Alternatively, students could write an essay that compares their own impressions of the Boston Massacre to Paul Revere's engraving using the Compare & Contrast Map as a prewriting tool.

  • Have students create an example of propaganda that we may see today. In 2 to 3 paragraphs, students should explain who would be affected by this propaganda.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Assess students’ understanding of the concepts studied using the task list. You and your students should assess the following areas:

  • Clear and accurate understanding of propaganda

  • Understanding of how the Boston Massacre was a cause of the American Revolution

  • Presentation of information to the class using eye contact and appropriate volume

  • Effective use of comprehension strategies to make meaning (e.g., observations, inferences, visualizing, making connections, questioning)

  • Effective editing for conventions of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling


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