Lesson Plan: Events Leading to the American Revolution

Pre-Revolutionary America

Scott Stephenson gives a tour of a collection at the Museum of the American Revolution that describes the events and circumstances that led to increased British involvement in the colonies and the American Revolution.


Following Great Britain’s victory in the Seven Years’ War in 1763, they greatly increased their territorial holdings and presence in the North American colonies. The cost of the war, as well as the challenges of controlling a greater empire created a situation of increased British involvement, policies, and taxes in the colonies. These led to a series of events and ideas in North America that would culminate in the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence. Through the following videos, students will learn about the events and ideas that led to the Revolutionary War.



    Assign background reading from textbook or another appropriate source on the events leading to the American Revolution.


    Break students up into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout or complete the individual Bell Ringer questions, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

    HANDOUT: Events Leading to the American Revolution Handout (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: Pre-Revolutionary America (3:03)

    Scott Stephenson gives a tour of a collection at the Museum of the American Revolution that describes the events and circumstances that led to increased British involvement in the colonies and the American Revolution.

    • Explain how the British victory in the Seven Years' War impacted the British Empire and North America.

    • Describe how the objects in the gallery illustrate British involvement in the everyday life of colonists.

    • How did growing its empire cause new problems for Britain?
  • Video Clip: Boston Tea Party (11:53)

    On the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, re-enactors and observers recreated the debate that took place in the Old South Meeting House, blocks away from Griffin’s Wharf. On December 16, 1773 thousands of Massachusetts colonists gathered at Old South Meeting House in Boston to discuss a shipment of tea that had recently arrived in port from Britain. The arrival of the tea escalated an already existing debate over the new tea tax, and the Sons of Liberty led an effort to protest the King’s new measure. After the debate, colonists marched to Griffin’s Wharf and dumped the tea into Boston Harbor.

    • Identify the key resolutions regarding the cargo of tea that were determined as a result of the meetings at the Old South Meeting House.

    • Explain the position of Captain Francis Rotch regarding his shipment of tea from Britain.

    • Describe the reactions among colonists.

    • Explain the argument of "representation" that is presented.

    • What was Sam Adam's position regarding the role of governors?
  • Video Clip: The Stamp Act (1:41)

    Scott Stephenson describes the passage of the Stamp Act and its impact in the American colonies.

    • Why did Britain decide to build forts and station troops throughout North America?

    • Why did Parliament decide to pass the Stamp Act?

    • Explain how the Stamp Act worked and its impact on colonial life.
  • Video Clip: The Gaspee Affair of 1772 (6:22)

    Historian John McNiff talked about the Gaspee, a British ship that patrolled the waterways off of Providence. In 1772 several prominent Providence residents snuck out during the middle of the night and burned the Gaspee to protest new taxes that had been levied by the British.

    • Explain how Providence and Rhode Island were founded.

    • Describe the evolving relationship between the colony and England.

    • Why was the HMS Gaspee’s goals deployed to Rhode Island?

    • Describe the events that led to the burning of the Gaspee.

    • Describe the events following the burning of the Gaspee in Rhode Island. What effect did it have on other colonies?
  • Video Clip: Worcester Revolution of 1774 (8:49)

    Jim Moran talked about the Worcester Revolution of 1774, in which more than 4,000 militiamen from Worcester County, Massachusetts, gathered on Main Street to force the British magistrates out of the county government. He spoke about the Massachusetts Government Act, the role played by General Thomas Gage, and why the revolution was considered one of the first non-violent acts of the American Revolution.

    • According to James Moran, what is a common understanding among people regarding the start of the American Revolution?

    • Describe the circumstances that led to the Worcester Revolution of 1774 according to Mr. Moran.

    • Explain the significance of the Massachusetts Government Act of 1774.

    • Describe the reaction among people in the surrounding communities. What action did they take?

    • Explain the legacy of this event.
  • Video Clip: First Continental Congress (5:56)

    Roger Moss gave a tour of the building that served as the meeting place of the First Continental Congress in 1774.

    • Describe the incident that occurred in Boston in 1773.

    • Explain Britain's response to this event.

    • Explain the colonists' reaction to Britain.

    • Why did this group of colonists decide to meet in Carpenters' Hall?

    • Explain the significance of this first meeting of the Continental Congress.
  • Video Clip: Communication During the American Revolution (1:54)

    Scott Stephenson discussed how communication during the time period affected the American Revolution.

    • How did the difficulty of communication during the time period impact the American Revolution?

    • Describe how the difficulty of communication was illustrated during the Seven Years' War.
  • Video Clip: Thomas Paine's Common Sense (4:10)

    Professor John Fea talked about the ideas and philosophy found in Thomas Paine’s pamphlet "Common Sense."

    • Explain the ideas Thomas Paine expresses in his "Common Sense" pamphlet.

    • Describe Paine's philosophy on politics.
  • Video Clip: The Beginning of the Revolutionary War (13:02)

    National Park Service ranger Phillip Lupsiewicz talked about the Battle of Concord and sites that were part of the fighting on April 19, 1775. Some of the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired on the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts.

    • Why is Old North Bridge considered the beginning of the American Revolution?

    • Describe the tension that occurred between Great Britain and the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War.

    • Explain the cause of events of the initial shots fired at Lexington and Concord that began the Revolutionary War.

    • Describe the events that occurred at Barrett Farm and it effect on the American Revolution.

    • Explain the events that occurred at Old North Bridge and the Battle of Concord and its significance to the American Revolution.
  • Video Clip: The Declaration of Independence (7:22)

    Historian John Ferling describes the events leading up to America’s declaration of independence from Britain in July 1776.

    • Who were the Committee of Five and what was their task? Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

    • What happened on July 1, 1776? Summarize the events of the day as described by Mr. Ferling.

    • What happened on July 2, 1776? What was the result of the vote?

    • According to Mr. Ferling, why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th each year?

    After viewing the video clips and reporting out to the entire class, have students write an essay (or similar culminating activity) explaining the effect and significance of the events and ideas leading to the American Revolution, citing specific examples from the videos and class discussion.


    Scripted Dramatization: Have students script and dramatize their own recreation of another event documented by the clips (not including the Tea Party Debate). Have students submit the script with annotations and/or footnotes that document research and primary source material that served as inspiration.

    Compare and Contrast: Students can compare responses of the colonists with acts of civil disobedience today? Which of these events are most similar to behaviors demonstrated in America today, especially during times of high public dissatisfaction with government? Could any of these Revolutionary-era events be even possible to pull off today?

    Debate Topic: Were the causes of the Revolutionary War more political than economic, or more economic than political?

    RSV-TEA: Create an invitation to your fellow Bostonian colonists to join you in participating in the Boston Tea Party. Be sure to include not just the date, time, and place, but also a compelling reason for your compatriots to join you and a reminder that it is a "surprise party" (and why)!

    Revolutionary War Protest Signs: If we applied modern objection-to-government norms to the Revolutionary War era, colonists probably would have shown up to the Battle of Concord with protest signs as well as muskets. Design one that they could have used to help communicate their grievances.

    Rewrite Common Sense: Professor Fea mentioned that one of the advantages of Common Sense was that it was "written in common language." Choose a chapter of the text to read and see what "common language" looked like in January 1776. Then choose two paragraphs of that chapter and rewrite them in modern "common language."

    Website: Common Sense (Gutenberg.org)

Additional Resources


  • American Revolution
  • Boston Massacre
  • Boston Tea Party
  • Common Sense
  • Declaration Of Independence
  • French And Indian War
  • Gaspee Affair
  • Intolerable Acts
  • King George
  • Lexington & Concord
  • Revolutionary War
  • Seven Years


U.S. History


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