Teaching the American Revolution Through Collaborative Dialogues and Reading


Key Assessments

SS. 7.3 Growing tensions over political power and economic issues sparked a movement for independence from Great Britain. New York played a critical role in the course and outcome of the American Revolution.

RI. 7. 2 Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Informational writing, students wrote an informational feature article

Participation in class discussions


Multiple choice assessment

Curriculum Components

In this unit, we address life during the Revolutionary War period.

We wanted students to discuss documents and sources about the American Revolution; however, we wanted all students to be able to participate.

So, instead of using a variety of articles, we created stations of different short sources. There was a “quotes” station where there were 5 different quotes.

Rather than long text sources, students had access to 8 different stations. Each station had a different type of source to analyze (such as images, statistics, quotes, artifacts).

Universal Design for Learning Strategies

Strategy 1: American Revolution Centers

We created 8 different centers for students to use for discussion and research. All of the stations had 4-7 sources and a task card. The task card guided the students reading and discussion with some activities or questions. The stations included a quote station, a statistics station, an image station, a maps station, , an artifact station.

Students visited stations with a partner. They would read the task card and then choose one or more “texts” from the station to discuss. The questions at the stations were at different levels but all engaged students in some level of analysis.

The stations offered multiple representations of the content. Students who learn better from short texts had access to those, students who learned better from statistics or images had those and there was even a video station.

The centers also allowed for different kinds of engagement. Students were able to talk and discuss but they also had different ways to take notes. The task cards often had different activities such as sorting, comparing, retelling, making claims so students could engage with the sources in multiple ways.

Sample center resources:

American Revolution Statistics

American Revolution Quotes

Sample Student notebooks: Students could choose how to represent their learning. Here are two different notebooks and a chart to help students assess their own notebook.

notebook 2.JPGnotes 1.JPG

note-taking self-assessment chart.JPG

Strategy 2: American Revolution Tea Party

During a “‘tea party,” students were given role cards. They each represented a real or fictional person during the American Revolution. The role cards represented a diverse set of experiences: Colonial leaders, British Parliament members, Loyalists, women of different social classes, free and enslaved African Americans, Native people, and children.

Students were also given a set of questions to prompt discussion. Al of the students played the role that they were given to discuss their experiences. They would then record some of the answers.

This activity allowed students who struggle with discussion to talk in short informal discussions. They could choose which classmates to talk to so they could gain practice with students who they felt most comfortable with. They also got to gain knowledge about the various perspectives on the war. By looking at multiple perspectives, students see that throughout all of the key events in US history, many different people had a role.

See how the students interacted in the Tea Party Activity

Sample Roll Cards



Strategy 3: Socratic Game  

The Socratic Seminar Game is split up into two 45 minute class periods. During the first period, students watched a short clip that front-loads key information on the topic. The video is usually under 4 minutes long. Following the video, the lead teacher modeled how to annotate a small section of the text. Small group instruction is held for students that need the additional support. In the small group, a teacher will work with students to read the article aloud and annotate some of the key ideas.

In preparation for the second day, teachers will analyze students’ annotations and discussions in order to come up with 6 heterogeneous teams of 5.

In the second day, students were assigned their groups when they arrived to class. Teachers reviewed how students would receive points for their team and the norms for the Socratic Seminar Game. They also had a list of sentence starters to support their participation. In their small groups, they were then given 3 minutes to re-read the article in order to remind themselves of the key points. Teachers announced the first discussion question to the class and gave them 2 minutes to prepare for the question in their groups.

In each small group, students nominate one person to go discuss the question. Students who struggle with discussion often participated in the first round of discussion because questions got progressively more challenging. Students are also encouraged to write their own questions to stimulate discussion.

Once the two minutes were up, all of “nominated” students across all groups would sit in an “inner circle” to discuss the first question. The rest of the teams would sit around them as an “outer circle.” The outer circle students were encouraged to take notes, pass notes, create discussion questions or provide pieces of evidence to their teammates to support those in the inner circle.

After the first question was discussed, students reflected on their performance by utilizing a checklist. Students then set goals for themselves to meet for the second round. Inner circle and outer circle students would then return to their seats in order to prepare for the second discussion question. This process continues on for 3-4 questions depending on time.

At the end, students have a low stakes writing reflection that lasts between 2-3 minutes.

Materials and modifications: Sentence stems, question stems, leveled readings, checklist, heterogeneous grouping

Socratic Seminar Sentence Starters

Discussion Question Stems, Checklist

Strategy 3: Collaborative Strategic Reading 

Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) is a cooperative learning strategy where heterogeneous groups work through the reading process (pre-reading, figuring out unfamiliar words, summarizing, creating questions, and reflecting). Each student has a roll to support and guide the group but each student must complete a learning log so there is individual accountability.  

Since this unit had a strong focus on discussion, we wanted to make sure that all students had access to texts that were a little longer as well as close to grade level. Using CSR, students used discussion to access these texts. Because students read together, they often choose the most fluent reader to read aloud. The students who struggle with discussion, rely on the cue cards that help them to facilitate a discussion.

See of a video of the students engaging in CSR.

CSR Resources


Strategy 4: Circles    

In order to meet the social and emotional needs of our students, we began to implement restorative community building circles. We tried to create circles that would help students connect to the bigger themes of the American Revolution.

We used the Restorative Circles format, with a center piece, opening ceremony, rounds of discussion, talking piece, and closing ceremony.

Possible Prompts:

  • Think of and share a time when you had to follow a rule that you thought was unfair.
  • Think of a time when you felt like ..

These types of prompts allow students to think of ways that their personal experiences connect to the historical content and also values students’ experiences and voices,

In order to create community, we had students write and share their hopes and concerns for the circles.

Here are the Hopes and Concerns Trees:

concerns tree.JPGhopes tree.JPG