Unit 2: Examining Our History: American Revolution
Students examine the ideas and values behind the American Revolution, and what drove the colonists to seek independence, through nonfiction texts including Liberty! How the Revolutionary War Began.
In this unit, students begin their exploration of factors that influence change by examining the events that led up to the American Revolution. Over the course of the unit, students will build a deeper understanding of the significant ideas and values at the heart of the American Revolution, what drove the colonists to seek independence, and how the conflict between England and the colonists ultimately influenced change in our country. Students will see the American Revolution from multiple perspectives, starting with analyzing the difference in perspectives between the British and the colonists and how each side’s actions often instigated each other. Students will also explore how class structure influenced colonists' perspectives. Later in the unit, students will think about the perspectives of Black people, women, and Native Americans who were forced to choose a side and why they may have had a different point of view of the events of the revolution.
An important part of this unit is pushing students to focus on seeing history from multiple different perspectives. The core text Liberty! How the Revolutionary War Began offers one perspective on events, however, the perspective is limited to that held by white elite colonists. Therefore, students also read excerpts from A Young People's History of the United States to build a deeper understanding of all sides of the Revolution. By reading multiple accounts, students will be challenged to notice how an author’s point of view or perspective on events shapes the information they give. Additionally, in order to fully understand the historical events in the text, students will notice the author’s use of cause and effect, sequence, and chronology. Students will also work on summarizing a text, noticing which ideas from the text are important. When discussing the text, students continue to work on elaborating and supporting their own ideas, using examples and evidence to justify their own thinking. Doing so sets students up for success with discourse in later units when students are pushed to engage with the thinking of others. As writers, students continue to build their fluency by writing daily in response to the text and crafting sentences that show a nuanced understanding of the content. In the second half of the unit, students write both informational and opinion paragraphs and essays, focusing on stating a topic, providing evidence, and elaborating on that evidence to support a point or teach about a topic.
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Book: Liberty! How the Revolutionary War Began by Lucille Recht Penner (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2002)
Book: A Young People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Adapted by Rebecca Stefoff (Seven Stories)
Book: Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand (Puffin Books, 1996)
Book: Let It Begin Here! Lexington and Concord by Dennis Brindell Fradin (Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2009)
Article: “William Barton’s Opinion Letter” (Retrieved from Engage NY Grade 4, Module 3B, Unit 3, Lesson 1)
Book: Black Heroes of the American Revolution by Burke Davis (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1992)
Book: Great Women of the American Revolution by Brianna Hall (Capstone Press, 2015)
Article: “African-Americans in the Revolutionary War” by Michael Lee Lanning, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (adapted by Newsela staff)
Article: “American Revolution: The Indians' War of Independence” by Colin G. Calloway, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (adapted by Newsela staff)
Book: If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore (Scholastic Paperbacks, 1998)
Rubric: Grade 4 Literary Analysis and Opinion Writing Rubric
Template: Single Paragraph Outline
Template: American Revolution Research Note-Taker
Rubric: Grade 4 Informational Writing Rubric
Various websites for research
These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read Assessment Answer Key
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
To explain key events in a historical text, readers think about what happened and why. To do so, readers notice the author’s use of cause and effect, sequence, and chronology.
Summarizing a text involves deciding which ideas from the text are most important and synthesizing them to show the main points or ideas in the text.
An author’s point of view or perspective on events shapes the information they give.
Write strong topic sentences that clearly state the opinion.
Provide reasons and evidence to support a particular opinion.
Elaborate on the reasons to show understanding of the text and topic.
Introduce a topic clearly and group related information into paragraph sections.
Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, or other information.
Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary.
Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.
Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share thoughts.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 2, view our 4th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.
Defend if the actions of the French and Indian War support the idea that America was the land of liberty.
Defend if the colonies really were a land of liberty and equaltiy.
Explain how the colonists united together and if they united together in a productive way.
Summarize what happened during the Boston Massacre.
Use subordinating conjunctions to write more interesting and complex sentences.
Analyze and explain the unrest felt by colonists in the lead up to the Revolutionary War.
Summarize what happened during the Boston Tea Party.
Discussion & Writing
Discuss and analyze unit-essential questions by preparing for and participating in a class discussion using evidence from the text.
Defend if the British army or the militia would win if “blows decided."
Describe what happened at the First Continental Congress and if all of the delegates were in agreement.
Compare and contrast the beliefs of the Loyalists and the Patriots and why they had such different beliefs.
Defend whether one should side with the Loyalists or the Patriots.
Defend the statement, “The minutemen were too weak and had no chance of beating the redcoats."
Describe how Ted Rand uses illustrations to help a reader better understand the events of Paul Revere’s ride.
Summarize what happens in Lexington and Concord and how both battles showed that the Americans would fight for their freedom.
Summarize how the Battle of Bunker Hill showed both sides how terrible war would be.
Describe the role poor people, Indigenous people and black people played in the revolution.
Explain the role of African-Americans and Indigenous people in the revolution.
Explain what the Declaration of Independence was and why it was a turning point for the Americans.
Analyze why the Declaration of Independence was written and who it represented.
Analyze the role women played in the American Revolution and why they were referred to as everyday heroines.
Analyze the role of black heroes in the American Revolution and why they were important.
Informative Writing – 4 days
Write an informational report about a person that participated in the American Revolution, describing their cause, action, obstacle, and outcome.
Opinion Writing – 4 days
Write an essay defending if the colonists were or were not justified in declaring independence and fighting the Revolutionary War.
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Use correct capitalization.
— Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.
— Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
— Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
— Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.
— Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points.
— Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
— Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information
— Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer's purpose.
— Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
— Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
— Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
— Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
— With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
— With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
— Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
— Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Use relative pronouns (who, whose, whom, which, that) and relative adverbs (where, when, why).
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., telegraph, photograph, autograph).
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
— Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
— Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
— By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4—5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
— Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
(Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1—3 above.)
— Apply grade 4 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., "Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text").
— Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
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