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Lesson Plans
A Dream and an Idea:
Searching for a Roadmap to Create a Country
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Before the lesson is taught, bookmark all the Web sites in the lesson and create an MS Word document with all the Web sites as hyperlinks for students to use. Check that Flash Player, Real Player, and Adobe Acrobat Reader are available on the computer (free on the Internet for download).

Duplicate the Comparing Visions for Government worksheet, Make Your Vote worksheet and the Reporter Scripts.
CUE the videotape to the beginning of the clip to be used. The starting point is where the camera pans across some buildings and a streetlight. You hear, "In 1777 the British captured America's capital city, Philadelphia..."

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Between 1953 and 1957, CBS aired a television program called "You Are There." It was considered to be a historical recreation series and was hosted by Walter Cronkite. Today its format might be considered to be a "docudrama," as the viewer was taken back in time as an eyewitness to historical events. The following script is modeled after that program with "reporters" and a "news anchor" visiting different periods of history. Our "news" report is made with the help of a few anachronistic changes, to allow for a multimedia presentation of the FREEDOM lesson plan. Not surprisingly, the newscast is entitled "Anachronism News."

Step 1:

Explain to the students that they will examine how events at Valley Forge and the Constitutional Convention helped shape a new nation. Ask for two volunteers to serve as "reporters" for your newscast and provide them a copy of the script provided in Student Materials. The two "reporters" are Mary Goodhearth and Jedediah Smith. To enhance the drama of the newscast, you may want to choose two students who enjoy reading aloud and will be creative with their roles. Inform students that you will be serving as the "News Anchor" for their newscast. Distribute copies of the Reporter Script to each reporter and allow them time to read over their lines. Remind students of what the Revolutionary War was about. Who were the colonists fighting? What were they fighting about? Where is Valley Forge, and what happened there? Establish some prior knowledge. When you feel comfortable that students have a sense of the time period they are studying, begin the news report by reading the following dialogue aloud.

News Anchor: Welcome to Anachronism News. We bring you both timely and untimely events. We stand on our record of accuracy. This news team has chosen to borrow 21st century technology to report 18th century events. We believe multimedia can make history more interesting. This just in! (Okay, so the news is over 200 years old!) Reporter Mary Goodhearth is at Valley Forge with news of General Washington and the continental Army. Mary...

Mary (Report #1): General George Washington and his men are facing many hardships at Valley Forge. We understand there's a witness at Valley Forge documenting the brutal conditions. Let's get some answers from the FREEDOM series.

Be sure the video FREEDOM: A History of US #2 is in the VCR. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to watch this first clip of video and identify the witness at Valley Forge who is documenting the soldiers' hardships. What are the hardships?

PLAY where the camera pans across some buildings and a streetlight and you hear, "In 1777 the British captured America's capital city, Philadelphia..." PAUSE when you hear, "Lord, Lord, Lord."

CHECK for comprehension. Ask students who the witness at Valley Forge was. (Dr. Albigence Waldo.) Where was he from? (Connecticut.) What were some of the hardships the soldiers faced? (Snow, the soldiers were sick, they had nothing to eat and no whisky.) Where was he recording his observations? (In his diary.) If students did not get all of the answers, REWIND and REPLAY the section for students.

You may want to point out to students that not having whisky could be serious. Whisky was given to soldiers as a painkiller, or anesthetic, when they removed bullets and amputated limbs. Poor Dr. Waldo, and pity the poor soldiers!

Let's continue to learn more about the conditions at Valley Forge. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them what other hardships the soldiers faced. RESUME PLAY and STOP when you hear, "Here comes a bowl of beef soup, full of burnt leaves and dirt."

CHECK for student comprehension. Ask students to identify some additional hardships. (Some of the soldiers had no shoes. Their toes froze. Their feet left bloody tracks. They endured poor food, vomiting half the time, hard lodging, dirt floors in the huts, and fatigue.)

FAST FORWARD the tape about 5 minutes to where there is a portrait of many men with Benjamin Franklin. You hear, "Benjamin Franklin sat patiently and listened..." Read the following dialogue aloud:

News Anchor: Mary Goodhearth, we understand you have additional sources for this ongoing story. What do you have for your second report?

Mary (Report #2): Our field producer tells me we can confirm this on the FREEDOM Web site. We warn our viewers that descriptions may be graphic. This is Mary Goodhearth, with the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Back to the studio.

Step 2:

News Anchor: Thanks for the warning, Mary. Let's check FREEDOM Webisode 2 for our viewers. It seems on Webisode 2, Segment 2,, Dr. Waldo does indeed document that misery. Students who have strong stomachs may want to check that out but we'd like to alert that the description is graphic.

Go to where there is a description by Dr. Waldo of conditions at Valley Forge in the text. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read the specific online source confirming some of the dreadful conditions documented by Dr. Waldo.

CHECK for understanding. What does it say on the Web site about the hardships? (It confirms that there was poor food and hard lodging.) What were Dr. Waldo's responsibilities at Valley Forge according to the Web? Click on the hyperlink to Dr. Waldo's name, and allow students time to read. CHECK for understanding. (He cared for sick soldiers, inoculated soldiers for smallpox, and possibly treated soldiers by bleeding them.) If students are interested, they may also click on "ADDITIONAL RESOURCES" in the upper right side of the Web site where the class can investigate and gather more detailed information.

Also, as students look for Dr. Waldo's description of the conditions at Valley Forge, you will see a scroll icon where you can "CHECK THE SOURCE." Click on the icon and you will see an image come up on the left side of the screen. You can click on the image to enlarge it and get more information about the document. Read the following dialogue aloud.

News Anchor: Now that we have witnessed the hardships of Valley Forge, I must announce that the suffering paid off and the Colonists have won the Revolutionary War! They have gained independence from England! Now, they just have to create a government, laws, and choose a leader – no problem!!

Learning Activities

Step 1:

Explain to students that they will investigate some of the many hurdles the founding fathers had to overcome at the Constitutional Convention. The Constitutional Convention was a meeting where representatives from most of the states gathered in Philadelphia to write the United States Constitution, which would establish the way the U.S. government would be organized and run. One of the major debates was over the representation of the states. How would small and large states be represented in the government? Would they have the same number of representatives or would it be based on population? Elicit from students why each would think equal representation or representation by population would be unfair. Following the discussion, read the following dialogue aloud.

News Anchor: Once again we fast-forward through time. The colonists are victorious and a nation in born. We move now to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Investigative reporter Jedediah Smith is on location with his first report. Jed, do you have Report #1 for us?

Jedediah Smith (Report #1): Jedediah Smith here in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. People are arguing everywhere here at the home of the Constitutional Convention. Like any good, juicy convention, people are taking sides. Sources tell me that political parties are about to emerge.

News Anchor: Good work, Jed. We know that information is scarce. The participants are very secretive. Those sources tell us they are law abiding so far. This heated debate is no friendly fight. The public anxiously awaits word. Let's go to video, as Katie Couric has some answers in this update. But what should we be looking for?

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen for the following answers:

What were the concerns of the small and large states?
Who was the leader that found the answer? From what state was that leader?
What was his solution?

CUE the video to where you see a portrait of many men with Benjamin Franklin in the middle and you hear, "Benjamin Franklin sat patiently and listened..." PLAY. STOP when you see the dome inside Congress and you hear, "That simple solution, that compromise, meant that there would be an American government."

CHECK for student comprehension. Ask the class what the main concerns were of the small and larger states. (They were all concerned with the relative power of the small and large states and how each would be represented in Congress. The smaller states felt that their liberties would be in danger. The larger states felt that their money would be in danger.) Who came up with the answer? (Roger Sherman.) Where was he from? (Connecticut – his solution was called the Connecticut Compromise.) What was his solution? (The government is to include two houses of Congress, one whose representatives are based on population called the House of Representatives, and a second having an equal number of representatives from each state called the Senate.) If students need to hear the segment again to develop better understanding, REWIND and REPLAY the segment.

FAST FORWARD to the scene of a black and white pen and ink drawing of Washington and you hear, "Right away Washington appointed advisors who became known as the Cabinet."

Step 2:

Read the following line aloud:

News Anchor: There's additional coverage by our online news team. There are more details about the controversy surrounding the representation of small and large states.

Go to Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read and find the population of Delaware and Virginia. After students have found the numbers, ask them what the population of each was. (Delaware had 59,000 and Virginia had 692,000 residents.) That's a big difference.

Read the following line aloud:

News Anchor: I understand our Web reporters have secretly (or maybe not so secretly) arranged for us to listen in on the Constitutional Convention. Virginian delegates were asked if they should have the same representation as the much smaller state of Delaware. Let's see what it sounded like as the delegates debated...

Click the mouse on the sound icon within the text. You will hear the murmurs of the delegates. Clicking on the icon again or on the right arrow immediately to the left will allow you to listen to the sound again.

We heard about Roger Sherman in the video, let's learn more about Roger Sherman. Click on the hyperlink to Roger Sherman in the text. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read the text and identify some unusual characteristics about Sherman. After students have had time to read the biography, ask them to list some of the characteristics. (Sherman exhibits an odd character. He is awkward, un-meaning, and unaccountably strange in his manner ... [but] no Man has a better Heart or a clearer Head. He cannot embellish.)

Step 3:

So we've seen so far that a new nation was born, and a compromise has been made. Who was elected to be the first President? (George Washington.)

Read the following line aloud:

News Anchor: We've come a long way so far, but there is still controversy. Please stay with us. There are new reports of disagreements. Jed, what's the latest? Will you let us know what we should be watching for?

Jed will provide the FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, by posing several questions to the students.

Jed (Report #2): I understand that President George Washington has appointed some advisors. Let's listen to find out:

What did Washington called this group of advisors?
Who were the advisors?
What position did each advisor hold?
What were the two political parties that emerged?
Who represented each of the parties?

CUE the video to the scene of a black and white pen and ink drawing of Washington when you hear, "Right away Washington appointed advisors who became known as the cabinet." PLAY. PAUSE when you hear, "Hamilton and his followers became Federalists." Be sure to stop before you see Eric Foner on camera.

CHECK for student understanding. Ask students what Washington called this group of advisors. (The Cabinet.) Who were the advisors? (Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.) What position did each advisor hold? (Jefferson was Secretary of State and Hamilton was the Secretary of the Treasury.) What were the two political parties that emerged? (Democratic Republicans and the Federalists.) Who represented each of the parties? (Jefferson headed the Democratic Republicans and Hamilton led the Federalists.)
We're going back to the video. Historian Eric Foner describes the two visions for the new America. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them what the visions of freedom held by each of the new political parties were. RESUME PLAY. STOP when you see Eric Foner and he says, "The parties really represent very different visions of what America ought to be."

Ask students to describe visions of the two parties. (The Democratic Republicans, led by Jefferson, saw a limited government with individual opportunity. Power was to be land-based. The Federalists, led by Hamilton, saw a powerful national state. Freedom for this group meant national greatness, economic development, and financial power modeled after that of the British government.) Continue additional discussion until you feel comfortable that students understand the difference between the two political parties.

Step 4:

Distribute the Comparing Two Visions for Government handout found in Student Materials. On this handout, students will see a definition for each party and space for them to record their responses. Instruct students to compare and contrast the Federalists and the Democratic Republicans. Also, students should identify what aspects of each carry over to the 21st century. Allow time for students to complete this activity. Ask for volunteers to share their comparisons and observations.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Students will now be asked to assume the role of a person living in the 1780s and choose a vision of government they want at the end of the 18th century. There is a ballot they will complete, on which they will explain the reason for their choice. This activity may serve as assessment as students will have to apply their knowledge of the struggle for freedom of the colonists and their understanding of the goals of the Constitution to make an educated choice.

Distribute the Make Your Vote Count student worksheet. Allow students time to make their vote on the ballot and explain the reasoning behind their choice. After the votes have been made, send a "ballot collector" around the room. Ask that student to tally the votes and announce whether the Federalists or the Democratic Republicans received the most votes. Continue discussion as needed to help students understand what the country would look like with the winning system of government.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Follow current events to identify recurring cycles of history
Interpret cartoons as primary source documents.
Study biographies of American leaders.

Write a follow-up "broadcast" focusing on another period of history presented in the FREEDOM: A History of US series.
Develop performance skills in class by presenting scripts.

Examine art of the various periods covered in FREEDOM: A History of US.

Examine medical practices of the Revolutionary period (bleeding, leeches, etc.).

Community Connections
  • Student work can include e-mail interviews with experts related to research conducted. Speakers whose professions are related to topics covered in FREEDOM: A History of US (i.e. attorneys, authors) could be invited to present before students.