Lesson Plan: The Revolutionary War

The Beginning of the Revolutionary War

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.


The American Revolutionary War was a war fought between Great Britain and the thirteen North American colonies which sought their independence. The war began with the first armed conflicts in Lexington and Concord in 1775, followed by an official Declaration of Independence in 1776, and would not end until the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Through the following videos, students will learn about the battles, events, and significance of the colonies winning their independence in the Revolutionary War.



    Assign background reading from a textbook or another appropriate source relating to the American Revolutionary War.

    Then, as a class, watch the video on the beginning of the Revolutionary War and have students answer the Bell Ringer questions.

    Video Clp: The Beginning of the Revolutionary War (13:02)

    • 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.

    Break students up into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout below and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

  • Video Clip: Washington Crossing the Delaware (8:52)

    Clay Craighead described General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware that began his surprise assault on Trenton. General George Washington and over 2,000 of his troops crossed the Delaware River on a snowy Christmas night in 1776.

    • Describe the situation for the Continental Army prior to crossing the Delaware River.

    • Explain the status of the war prior to the crossing of the Delaware River.

    • Describe the process and challenges for the Continental Army in crossing the Delaware River.

    • Who were some of the key people involved in this event?

    • Explain the significance of the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton.
  • Video Clip: Battle of Trenton (13:16)

    Historian Ralph Siegel talked about the Battle of Trenton and toured the battlefield in downtown Trenton, New Jersey. The Battle of Trenton marked a turning point for American troops early in the Revolutionary War. American troops under the command of General George Washington attacked Hessian soldiers camped in Trenton on Christmas Day 1776.

    • Why was the Battle of Trenton significant in the Revolutionary War?

    • Describe Washington's strategy for this battle.

    • Why was this a strategic location for Washington?

    • Explain how the battle unfolded. What was the outcome?

    • According to Ralph Siegel, why is the Assunpink River important to the Battle of Trenton?

    • Explain how events evolved over the Ten Days' Campaign.
  • Video Clip: Battle at Cowpens (6:33)

    Farrell Saunders discusses the battle that occurred at this site during the American Revolutionary War.

    • Why was this battle so significant?

    • How does Mr. Saunders characterize General Daniel Morgan?

    • How does Mr. Saunders portray Banastre Tarleton?

    • Who were the Green Dragoons?

    • What strategy did the British use in the South up until this battle? What were the results?

    • Explain the strategy General Morgan employed during this battle. What was the result of this battle?
  • Video Clip: Battle at Guilford Courthouse (10:26)

    John Durham visits the battlefield and talks about the Battle at Guildford County Courthouse, a Revolutionary War battle fought on March 15, 1781. Major General Nathanael Greene led a group of 4,500 American troops and militiamen against the British, and the battle is credited for weakening British forces so much that it led to Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.

    • How did the British arrive at Guildford County Courthouse?

    • Why did General George Washington send General Nathanael Greene to the south?

    • Describe the mindsets of the two generals.

    • What was General Greene’s strategy to defeat General Cornwallis?

    • Describe the battle that occurred in this location.

    • Explain the outcome of this battle for both British forces and the Continental Army.

    • How is General Greene honored for his leadership in the Revolutionary War? Why is he considered to be one of the major heroes of the Revolutionary War?
  • Video Clip: Siege of Yorktown (9:20)

    Ed Ayers discusses the Revolutionary War and the siege of Yorktown in which General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, defeated General Charles Cornwallis's British army.

    • Why was the Battle at Yorktown significant?

    • What was George Washington’s role at this battle?

    • Describe the circumstances surrounding Charles Cornwallis and his forces during this time.

    • Explain the negotiations that led to the end of the war. Describe the events that led up to the Battle at Yorktown.

    • Compare the number of troops on both sides of the Revolutionary War. Which countries comprised the allied forces?

    • Describe the leadership qualities of Washington, Cornwallis, and the Comte de Rochambeau.

    • Explain the strategy and events that led to the allied forces victory at this battle.
  • Video Clip: George Washington’s Spy Ring (23:03)

    Brian Kilmeade and Richard Brookhiser talk about the Culper spy ring and its significance during the American Revolutionary War.

    • Why was New York City an important location during the American Revolutionary War?

    • Who was Nathan Hale? Describe his experiences as a spy.

    • What conclusions did George Washington draw as a result of the experience with Nathan Hale?

    • Explain the role of Benjamin Tallmadge in the Culper spy ring.

    • Describe Abraham Woodhull's reaction to engaging with the spy ring.

    • Explain the significance of the Townsend family to the spy ring.

    • How was the information delivered among the spies and George Washington?

    • Explain Caleb Brewster's role in the spy ring.

    • According to Brain Kilmeade, what were the contributions of the female spy to Washington's ring?

    • How did James Rivington contribute to the spy ring?

    • According to Brain Kilmeade, what was one situation in which Washington and his spy ring were successful in their endeavors?

    • Explain the personal relationship among the spies in the ring during and after the war.
  • Video Clip: Benedict Arnold and the American Revolution (4:23)

    New York State Archivist Christine Ward talks about Benedict Arnold's actions taken during the American Revolution that gave him the title of a traitor. New York State Archives has in its possessions the physical documents written by Arnold about betraying the Continental Army.

    • What military base was Benedict Arnold put in charge of?

    • How did Benedict Arnold feel he was treated?

    • List some examples of information Benedict Arnold wrote down in his letters to John André about West Point.

    • In what year did Benedict Arnold give documents to the British Army?

    • What was John André’s pseudonym?

    • Was John André successful in transporting the documents?

    • Where did Benedict Arnold spend the rest of his life after leaving the colonies?
  • Video Clip: Legacy of the American Revolution (2:24)

    Scott Stephenson talked about important lessons from the American Revolution and its legacy today.

    • Explain how the American Revolution and the Revolutionary War are different according to Scott Stephenson.

    • In what way does the American Revolution continue past the end of the Revolutionary War?

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


    Rank the battles from greatest to least importance, with justification for the order given.

    Caroling Across the Delaware: Rewrite a traditional holiday carol, keeping the tune the same but replacing them with lyrics for Washington and his troops to sing as they crossed the Delaware (pertaining to their mission and boosting their spirits).

    Love and Thank You Notes: "THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." – Thomas Paine Write a thank-you note to the soldiers of the Revolution, communicating your understanding of (a) the sacrifices they made in order to not be "summer soldier[s] or sunshine patriot[s]" and (b) the benefits of your life today that are a direct result of their actions

    Benedict Breakup Beats: Suppose you were a revolutionarily-minded colonist involved in a romantic relationship with Benedict Arnold and discovered that he was a spy. Write the breakup letter you might have sent him severing your relationship. Then create a modern-music playlist appropriate to the occasion (include both your song titles and the reason that you selected each).

    Battle of Trenton Stocking Stuffers: You are Revolutionary War Santa Clause. Choose three stocking stuffers to gift unto Washington's troops on Christmas morning 1776- explain what you're giving and why!

Additional Resources


  • American Revolution
  • Battle Of Cowpens
  • Battle Of Trenton
  • Benedict Arnold
  • George Washington
  • Lexington & Concord
  • Revolutionary War
  • Siege Of Yorktown
  • Treaty Of Paris


U.S. History


Middle SchoolHigh School