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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Will the Real Ben Franklin Please Stand Up?
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Extending the lesson


Media Components:

Web Sites

The following are useful web sites to bookmark. Please note that your students will be able to make their own choices when researching their information online.

Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man from The Franklin Institute Online (
A wealth of information on Franklin and science from the online version of this Philadelphia Museum. Gives you a brief overview of Franklin's contributions. This site has links for all students and their subject.

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids (
This site includes links to his role as printer, librarian, inventor and statesman.

Biography of Benjamin Franklin at The Great Idea Finder
Fascinating facts about Benjamin Franklin and his work as a printer, author, diplomat, philosopher, and scientist.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (
This site documents the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin site of the ACCESS INDIANA Teaching and Learning Center
A comprehensive list of links to primary and secondary sources, general resources, information about his work as a scientist and inventor, and his writings.

The Electronic Ben Franklin Site (
A comprehensive Web site that highlights all aspects of his life.

An Enlightened American - Benjamin Franklin (
Links to his biography, complete works, inventions, quotations, wit and humor, interesting facts, genealogy and other references.

Benjamin Franklin: A Documentary History (
Links to information and timelines about his life as a printer, a soldier, scientist and politician, an unofficial ambassador to England, a revolutionary, and an elder statesman.

The Friends of Benjamin Franklin (
Links to a timeline of the Benjamin Franklin years from Friends of Franklin, Inc.

Primary Sources

Benjamin Franklin's Own Writings:
  • Poor Richard's Almanac
  • The Autobiography and Other Writings
  • Benjamin Franklin Wit and Wisdom
  • Benjamin Franklin's the Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living
  • Fart Proudly
  • Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: Principles for Successful Living from the Life of Benjamin Franklin
Secondary Sources:

Children's Biographies about Benjamin Franklin:
  • The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin by James Gilbin
  • Ben and Me: A New and Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin As Written by his Good Mouse Amos by Robert Lawson
  • Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia by Margaret Cousins
  • Benjamin Franklin (Inventors) by Paul Joseph
  • Benjamin Franklin (World Leaders Past and Present) by Chris Looby
  • Benjamin Franklin: American Statesman, Scientist, and Writer (Colonial Leaders) by Bruce Fish
  • Benjamin Franklin: Young Printer by Augusta Stevenson
  • Benjamin Franklin's Adventures with Electricity (Science Stories Series) by Beverly Birch
  • The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments: A Franklin Institute Science Museum Book by Lisa Jo Rudy
  • What's the Big Idea, Benjamin Franklin? By Jean Fritz
Biographies about Benjamin Franklin:
  • The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands
  • Benjamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren
  • Benjamin Franklin Politician by Francis Jennings
  • Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: An Authoritative Text Backgrounds Criticism (Norton Critical Edition)
  • Benjamin Franklin's Science by I. Bernard Cohen


Students may choose to use any or all of the following art supplies:
  • poster board
  • paint
  • markers

    Students can also opt to use computer software programs that allow them to present their facts, arguments, and visuals:
  • HyperCard or HyperStudio
  • Microsoft PowerPoint

    Computer Resources:
    While many configurations will work, we recommend:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.

  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.

  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MBs of RAM.

  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MBs of RAM, running Windows 95 or 98.

    For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

    Prep for Teachers

    1. Teachers should bookmark the Web sites listed above for their students.

    2. Teachers should also check out books from the school library and/or have books available for students to use during research times in the classroom. There should be a broad selection of books to accommodate a variety of reading levels and abilities.

    3. Teachers may also want to arrange to have the school librarian or any other learning specialists help individual students with research and note taking during all of the classes that are designated for individual research.


  • Before introducing the unit, discuss what it means to be a leader with your students. Ask them to give examples of current leaders in different areas - such as politics, religion, their community, and in school; as well as what contributions these leaders made. Ask students to identify similar characteristics among their examples of leaders. Ask them if they think that society can look to current and past leaders as role models for future leaders.

  • Ask your students what they know about Benjamin Franklin and what his role in Colonial America was. They should come up with ideas such as: printer, signer of the Constitution, inventor of bifocals, writer, Franklin stove inventor, politician, etc. Record the students' ideas on the blackboard or on newsprint.

  • Help the students categorize these ideas into four major categories - printer, writer, statesman/politician, and inventor. Divide the class and assign one group to each of these four areas to begin their research.

  • Each group will have to do enough research to argue that their assigned contribution or role of Franklin's was his most significant for American History. Instruct the students to prepare for the following:
  • A 10-minute oral presentation to argue their position and a visual presentation to complement the oral presentation.
  • A question and answer portion of the debate.

  • Learning Activities:

    1. After presenting the assignment to the students, ask the class how they will go about getting their information. Responses should include: the Internet, encyclopedias, CD-ROMs, books and textbooks.

    2. Present the bibliography sheet found in Organizers for Students to the students so that they know the minimum number of sources they need to use. There is a distinction between primary sources and secondary sources. If students do not know the difference, explain this to the class.

    3. You may also need to present a variety of note-taking techniques to the class. These may include: using index cards, creating bibliographies, highlighting and/or underlining information, and organizing and categorizing facts.

    4. Before students begin to pore through books or surf the Internet for information, their groups should develop a list of questions that they need to answer in their search for information. Meet with each group to go over the questions the students have developed and provide feedback before they get to work.

    5. Instruct students to gather as much relevant information that they possibly can.

    6. After a week of research, the students should meet as a group and assign roles for the project such as presenter, recorder, questioner, etc. Each person should have a distinct role on the day of the debate. Students should also divide up the workload - opening statements, visual aid, Q&A notes, the conclusion, and the bibliography.

    7. Set the date for the debate, based on the abilities and the attention span of the students in the class.

    8. While students are conducting research, meet periodically with the groups to make sure that each person has a job and to make sure that the students are focused and on track.

    Culminating Activity:

    The culminating activity is the oral presentation and subsequent debate of the four groups.

    1. Each group gets 10 minutes to present their information and visual aids.

    2. Each group is allowed to ask 1 question of each of the other groups. The order should be arranged randomly (i.e. picking numbers out of a hat, toss of a coin, etc.).

    3. Each group will have 2 minutes to summarize their information in a closing argument.


    1. After studying Ben Franklin and his role in American History, have students brainstorm contemporary people who are influential in many different arenas. After brainstorming, they can do presentations on these people and compare their influence to that of Ben Franklin's. For example:
    • Michael Jordan - athlete, businessman, cultural icon
    • Oprah Winfrey - talk show host, author, actress, publisher
    • Anna Quindlen - Nobel Prize winner in literature, mother, activist
    • Princess Diana - teacher, royalty, mother, peace maker, activist
    • Arthur Ashe - athlete, AIDS activist
    • Jimmy Carter - president of the United States, farmer, statesman, professor, humanitarian, peacekeeper
    2. Students can try to re-create some of the inventions and/or experiments that Benjamin Franklin conducted.

    3. Portraiture is especially important in Colonial America. The students can paint their own portraits of Benjamin Franklin in different backgrounds, based on what they feel is his most significant contribution to American History.

    4. Field trip to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall and Franklin Court.

    Community Connections:

    1. Older classes can debate Benjamin Franklin's four main roles in American History in front of younger students who may be studying American History or Colonial American History. Younger students could then vote on which one of Franklin's contributions were most important to America based on the information and the arguments.

    2. Students can give their presentations to different classes (and even parents) and field questions from the audience.

    3. Students may be able to post their presentations on the school website and share the information with the general public.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students