Colonial House Picture of the colony
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For Teachers
Lesson Plan: Fearless and Faithful
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Grade level: 5-8

Time Allotment: Three to four 45-minute class periods

Overview: In this lesson, students will examine the hardships faced by 17th-century New England colonists, focusing particularly on the difficulties presented by the Atlantic crossing. After assessing their suitability for colonial life in the 17th century via an online quiz, students will utilize another online interactivity to lead a ship of colonists across the sea from England to the New World.

Following the interactivities, students will read excerpts from a 17th-century primary account of a voyage to the New World to better understand the realities of life at sea in the 17th century. As an assessment of the lesson, students will write a letter or diary entry from the perspective of a 17th-century colonist, and incorporate historical information discovered in the lesson.

This lesson can be used as a pre- or post-viewing activity for the PBS series COLONIAL HOUSE, or as an independent lesson on early colonization in North America. A basic knowledge of early colonial history and American history is required.

Subject Matter: American History

Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to:
  • Assess their suitability for life in a 17th-century New England colony;

  • Describe the difficulties encountered by 17th-century New England colonists;

  • Describe the conditions faced by 17th-century colonists during their Atlantic crossings;

  • Discuss a primary-source document describing a 17th-century Atlantic crossing;

  • Synthesize information gained from primary source documents and online interactivities into a creative writing exercise.
Standards: From the National Standards for History Grades 5-12, available online at

Historical Thinking Standard 2: The student thinks chronologically; therefore, the student is able to read historical narratives imaginatively, taking into account what the narrative reveals of the humanity of the individuals and groups involved -- their probable values, outlook, motives, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. The student is also able to describe the past on its own terms, through the eyes and experiences of those who were there, as revealed through their literature, diaries, letters, debates, arts, artifacts, and the like. The student is also able to draw upon visual, literary, and musical sources to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented in the historical narratives.

Historical Thinking Standard 4: The student conducts historical research; therefore, the student is able to formulate historical questions from encounters with historical documents, eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos, historical sites, art, architecture, and other records from the past.

Era 2, Standard 1A: The student understands how diverse immigrants affected the formation of the European colonies. Therefore the student is able to: analyze the religious, political, and economic motives of free immigrants from different parts of Europe who came to North America and the Caribbean; explain why so many European indentured servants risked the hardships of bound labor overseas; evaluate the opportunities for European immigrants, free and indentured, in North America, and the difficulties they encountered.


For each student:
Media Components:
  • Video: COLONIAL HOUSE, Episode 2: "Harsh Reality" (optional)
    (For ordering information, visit PBS Shop for Teachers)

Prep for Teachers:
Prior to teaching the lesson, review all of the Web sites to make certain that they are active and appropriate for your students. Bookmark the Web sites on each computer in your classroom. Access the "American Journeys" Web site to be to familiarize yourself with the navigation of the site. 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.

Continue to Procedures for Teachers

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