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Lesson Plans - Massacre or Street Fight? A Study of Images Relating to the Boston Massacre

NAME OF LESSON: Massacre or Street Fight? A Study of Images Relating to the Boston Massacre
GRADE(S) DESIGNED FOR: 5
TIME REQUIRED: Three 45-minute class periods

NAME OF AUTHOR:

Megan Reilly
PRIMARY SALEM in History CORE THEME ADDRESSED: The United States and the World: American Foreign Relations
ADDITIONAL SALEM in History CORE THEME(S) ADDRESSED:  
SALEM in History Topic Addressed:

The Long Road to Lexington: Networks of Resistance in colonial Massachusetts

Lesson Summary | Frameworks | Essential Question(s) | Lesson Objectives
Historical Background Essay | Materials List and Pre-Arrangements/Preparations Needed
Vocabulary | Lesson Activities | Student Product or Performance
Assessment Criteria | Possible Modifications | Possible Extension Activities
Cross Curricular/Interdisciplinary Links/Activities | Sources and Resources
Additional Resources for Students and Teachers


LESSON SUMMARY:

In this lesson, students will learn that Salem’s visionary and dynamic merchants played a crucial role in opening the economies of Salem, New England and America to international trade and that this trade was instrumental in the growth of our nation at an extremely critical juncture. Students will also explore the role of one of Salem’s most prominent China Trade merchants, Elias Hasket Derby.

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PRIMARY SOURCES & SOURCE TYPES USED in LESSON:

Chappel, Alonzo. Boston Massacre.  Painting.1865.

Revere, Paul.  A View of the Town of Boston in New England and British Ships of War Landing Their Troops, 1768.

Revere, Paul.  The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770, by a Party of the 29th Regt.  Hand colored engraving, 1770.

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ESSENTIAL QUESTION(S):

Why did the Boston Massacre happen? Was it really a massacre? What can artists’ rendering of the Boston Massacre tell us about how different groups perceived the event? 

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LESSON OBJECTIVES

LEARNING/CONTENT OBJECTIVES:

Students will understand what the causes were of the tensions leading up to the Boston Massacre and different interpretations of the event. They will learn about the use of propaganda in the colonists’ fight against British policies. Students will also learn that the colonists felt the British were treating them unfairly.

CONCEPT/SKILLS OBJECTIVES:

Students will recognize how all representations of historical events reflect a particular perspective. Even art can be biased and that one must consider the artist’s point of view before considering what he’s representing. 

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CORRELATION WITH HISTORY STANDARDS FROM the 2003 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORY AND SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK

MA FRAMEWORK STRAND: Grade 5

MA FRAMEWORK UNIT/THEME ADDRESSED:

United States History, Geography, Economics, and Government: Early Exploration to Westward Movement

MA FRAMEWORK LEARNING STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED:

5.14 Explain the reasons for the French and Indian War, how it led to an overhaul of British imperial policy, and the colonial response to these policies.

MA FRAMEWORK CONCEPT AND SKILLS STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED

GRADE AND SUBJECT: Grade 5 History and Social Science

NUMBER(S) AND DESCRIPTION(S): 

3. Observe and identify details in cartoons, photographs, charts, and graphs relating to a historical narrative. Apply concepts and skills learned in previous grades.

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND/CONTEXT ESSAY: 

In order to fully understand the Boston Massacre, it is necessary to look back to British policies toward American colonists during and after the French and Indian War. Though historians differ as to whether the event was spontaneous or planned, no one can deny that British policies created tensions in America that reached a boiling point in 1770. The boiling point manifested itself in the violent skirmish between colonists and British soldiers known as the Boston Massacre.

After helping to repel the French from North America, the British Parliament implemented policies in 1765 to help maintain peace in North America and defray expenses incurred as a result of the war. To the British, it seemed only fair to ask the colonists to help pay for the war because it took place on their land. Two key policies were the Quartering Act and the Stamp Act.(1)  The Stamp Act required colonists to pay a tax on all paper products, from a deck of cards to newspapers and official documents. The Quartering Act mandated that troops could be housed in colonist-owned buildings. These policies ending up infuriating the colonists, eventually creating the tensions that led to the Boston Massacre.

The colonists succeeded in getting Parliament to repeal the initial tax law, the Stamp Act, but the Townshend Act soon replaced it. Though Parliament’s intent to raise revenue from the taxes was the same, unlike the Stamp Act, the Townshend Act taxed items that colonists could avoid buying such as, glass, paper, lead, paints and tea. Though they thought the tax would be more palatable to the colonists, Parliament also wanted to demonstrate that it had the power to tax the colonists.(2)  For various reasons the Townshend Acts did not ignite colonial reactions as immediately as the Stamp Act. The most notable reason is because the colonies were experiencing an upsurge in economic conditions and feared that boycotts would have a negative impact on the economy.(3)  Yet, the peaceful acceptance of the tax did not last. 

In Boston, Sam Adams helped orchestrate resistance to the Townshend Acts. The resistance ultimately compelled the British to send more troops to Boston in 1768.(4)  The troops’ presence increased tensions with the colonists in Boston. Colonists resented the troops living in their town and often taunted them. To further escalate tensions, a British commander allowed the British soldiers to take part-time jobs, which squeezed a tight job market for colonists even tighter. Radicals, like Sam Adams, encouraged colonists to protest British occupation on the streets and in front of specific houses.(5)

The tension between the soldiers and colonists reached a boiling point on March 5, 1770. What started out as an altercation between a soldier and a young apprentice ended in pure chaos as alarm bells inexplicably rung, summoning colonists to the Customs House. The colonists who assembled bombarded the British soldiers with projectiles, such as rocks and snowballs, as well as insults. A nervous soldier shot his gun, which propelled other soldiers to do the same. As the crowd rushed the soldiers, the British captain in charge implored the soldiers to hold their fire. Five colonists ended up dead.(6

The interpretation of the event shortly after its conclusion is the key to understanding the Boston Massacres significance in the coming of the Revolutionary War. Shortly after the event, Paul Revere made an engraving based on a drawing by Henry Pelham and produced enough copies to spread around the colonies. He entitled his work, “The Bloody Massacre perpetuated in King Street, Boston.” This image was widely disseminated throughout the colonies and both its title and its imagery succeeded in portraying the colonists as innocent victims of British brutality.(7)

Even though only five colonists died in the “massacre” and the guilt of the British soldiers was hard to prove, Revere’s visual image of the event shaped many colonists’ view of British policies. Ultimately, these negative views propelled colonists to continue and step up their resistance to British policies. 

1 Ferling, 30-31.

2 Ferling, 56.

3 Ferling, 57.

4 Ferling, 64-68.

5 Ferling, 73-74

6 Ferling 74-77

7 Fischer, 23-24.

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MATERIALS LIST AND PRE-ARRANGEMENTS/PREPARATION NEEDED

MATERIALS LIST:

Overhead projector

Overhead of Paul Revere’s engraving, Ships in Boston Harbor

Overhead of Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre

Overhead and photocopies of Alonzo Chappel’s painting

Copies of assessment assignment #1 and assignment #2

Copies of rubric

PREPARATION:

Pre-teach British policy of taxes—Sugar Act and Townshend Act

Pre-teach colonial reaction to taxes

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VOCABULARY:

  • Propaganda
  • Protest
  • Massacre
  • Patriot
  • Tory
  • Perspective

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LESSON ACTIVITIES:

Day 1:

Goal: For students to recognize the growing tensions in Boston as a result of British taxes and the deployment of troops to Boston. Also, students will understand Paul Revere’s perspective in making this engraving. Students should be able to recognize that this image portrays British troops arriving in Boston in 1768 to enforce the taxes. They should understand the threatening nature of the warships encircling Boston Harbor and tons of troops rowing to shore. They should contrast that image to the shoreline full of busy wharves and church steeples, which make the colonists look like hardworking, God-fearing people. 

Observation: (hide title banner)

  • What do you see?
  • What do the flags on the large ships mean?
  • Where are all the British ships located in relation to the land?
  • What types of building do you notice?

Contextualization: (reveal title banner)

  • Where is this taking place?
  • What has been happening in the colonies in the 1760’s?

Interpretation:

  • Why do you think the ships are lined up as they are?
  • What events do you think led the British to send warships to Boston?

Argument:

  • Why do you think the artist included all the different church steeples? 
  • Do you think the artist was a Patriot or a Tory?
  • How might this picture look different if someone who was a Tory made it?

Reveal that the artist was Paul Revere, a prominent Patriot. Discuss why he included the images he did to show his point of view. After students have discussed and observed the image, discuss how they would feel if they were being encircled by threatening people. Think of analogies your students can relate to—when you’re in trouble and both your parents come to talk to you, when friends gang up on you, etc.

To assess students’ understanding of point of view and images, have students draw some images that would show what the British thought of the colonists. Encourage students to think of reasons why the British and colonists were increasingly upset with each other. (See assignment #1)

Day 2:

The second day, students will try to figure out what happened during the Boston Massacre based on two images, Paul Revere’s engraving and Alonzo Chappel’s 1865 painting. Most of the class will analyze Paul Revere’s engraving using the listed guided questions, while a few students observe Chappel’s painting in a separate location.

Goal: In Paul Revere’s engraving, students can easily observe the arrangement of the soldiers, the weapons they’re holding, the belligerent looking captain, and the passivity of the colonists. Upon observing these characteristics, students should develop an idea of what they think happened during the Boston Massacre. This image depicts the Boston Massacre as an attack on the colonists. The colonists look passive and helpless as the soldiers are lined up in a straight line shooting at the colonists. The British captain is pointing, as if saying, “Fire.”

When they compare this to what other students decided happened based on Alonzo Chappel’s painting done in 1865, they will understand that many different perspectives can be shown through art, depending on the artist’s purpose. Chappel’s painting depicts the Boston Massacre as a fight between the colonists and the soldiers. The two groups are attacking each other in the painting, but the British soldiers are outnumbered. The colonists are armed with sticks and snowballs and it is easy to see why the soldiers felt they needed to defend themselves. The British captain is holding up is hand as if trying to stop the fighting. This painting highlights the chaotic nature of the even and leaves room for questioning who was the aggressor.

Have a few reliable, observant students leave the room with a copy of Chappel’s painting. Have them observe the painting and determine what is happening in the painting by answering the following questions.

Observation:

  • What do you notice in this picture?
  • Are the two groups made up of the same people?  How do you know?
  • What are the people wearing?
  • What colors do you see? Where are they?
  • What do you see the colonists doing?
  • What do you see the soldiers doing?

Contextualization:

  • What group of people do we know that wears Redcoats?
  • Why would these groups of people be fighting?

Interpretation:

  • What is going on here? What makes you say that?
  • What does this image tell us about the event that occurred on March 5, 1770?
  • Can you tell who started the fight?

Guide the rest of the students as they observe Paul Revere’s engraving:

Observation:

  • What do you notice in this picture?
  • Are the two groups made up of the same people?  How do you know?
  • What are the soldiers wearing?
  • How many figures are there on each side of the picture?
  • What colors do you see? Where are they?
  • What is each group doing? 
  • Does one group seem to be more active than the other?

Contextualization:

  • What group of people do we know that wears Redcoats?
  • Why would these groups of people be fighting?

Interpretation:

  • What is going on here? What makes you say that?
  • What does this image tell us about the event that occurred on March 5, 1770?
  • On which side are the American Patriots, and on which side are the British soldiers? How can you tell?
  • Who is Paul Revere?

Argument: (after two groups come together to talk about Revere’s engraving)

  • Given what you know about the anger of the colonists against the British, which image is probably more realistic?
  • Why would someone create an image of this event as Revere did?

Take the image of the engraving off the overhead and bring the other group of students back into the room.  Ask them to describe what happened during the Boston Massacre.  Hopefully a good discussion will ensue as students try to figure out what some students would have a very different account of what happened. Show both groups both images. Discuss with students the differences between the pieces of art and what they tell us about the different point of views. Confirm that they understand that Paul Revere had a specific purpose in depicting the image the way he did. (Keep in mind that Chappel’s painting was done 100 years later, but don’t let this complicate the discussion.)  A Venn diagram might help the students delineate the differences between the images.

Day 3:

Goal: For students to demonstrate their understanding of events that led to the tensions surrounding the Boston Massacre. They should have a good understanding of both points of view of the Boston Massacre. 

Give students assignment #2 to work on. Students will show what they have learned about the Boston Massacre and the concept of perspective. To extend their learning, students can use the ideas they came up with to work on a writing piece showing that they understand one of the perspectives. Possible ideas are on the second page of the assignment sheet.

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ASSESSMENT/STUDENT PRODUCT or PERFORMANCE:

Students will be asked to participate in discussion as well as complete two assignments. In the assignments, they will be asked to create their own images that reflect specific perspectives the colonists had. They will also be asked to think of quotations to reflect the colonists’ viewpoints.

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ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:

The first assignment will be a formative assessment for the teacher to see what students understand. The teacher will use this information to adapt the second lesson as needed. The second assignment will be assessed using a rubric, which describes understanding of both the content and the skills.

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POSSIBLE MODIFICATIONS:

Visual aspect helps struggling readers work on brainstorming with a partner instead of independently.

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POSSIBLE EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

Read Jean Fritz’s books about Paul Revere and Sam Adams, act out a play of the Boston Massacre, act out a trial (John Adams National Historic Park), writing pieces (possibilities: a speech John Adams may have written in defense of the soldiers; speech the prosecutor wrote; a letter from a colonist to someone in England or visa versa; a newspaper article written in England about event, newspaper article written in Boston about event…)

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CROSS CURRICULAR/INTERDISCIPLINARY LINKS/ACTIVITIES:

Writing—various genres (see second page of assignment #2), acting out the trial, create a cartoon showing the events leading up to the Boston Massacre.

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SOURCES AND RESOURCES

PRIMARY SOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON:

Chappel, Alonzo. Boston Massacre.  Painting.1865. [Viewed May 10, 2005] This source is also reproduced in: Freedman, Russell. Give Me Liberty: The Story of the Declaration of Independence. NY: Scholastic, 2000, p. 19.

This painting depicts the Boston Massacre as a fight between the colonists and the soldiers. The two groups are attacking each other in the painting, but the British soldiers are outnumbered. The colonists are armed with sticks and snowballs and it is easy to see why the soldiers felt they needed to defend themselves. The British captain is holding up is hand as if trying to stop the fighting. This painting highlights the chaotic nature of the even and leaves room for questioning who was the aggressor.

Revere, Paul.  A View of the Town of Boston in New England and British Ships of War Landing Their Troops, 1768. http://back.acs.csulb.edu:8080/emurray/BostonEngraving.html [Viewed May 10, 2005]  Can also be found in Cobblestone Magazine, 1(3), March 1980, p. 6.

This image portrays British troops arriving in Boston in 1768. England had sent them to enforce the taxes. Paul Revere shows warships encircling Boston Harbor and tons of troops rowing to shore. The shoreline is full of busy wharves and church steeples to make the colonist look like hardworking, God-fearing people. On the online version, it is hard to see the text along the top, which is the same as the title, and the British flags on the warships.

Revere, Paul.  The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770, by a Party of the 29th Regt.  Hand colored engraving, [Viewed March 16, 2005]

This image depicts the Boston Massacre as an attack on the colonists. The colonists look passive and helpless as the soldiers are lined up in a straight line shooting at the colonists. The British captain is pointing, as if saying, “Fire.”

SECONDARY (PRINT) SOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON:

Cobblestone Magazine, 1(3), March 1980.

This edition of the children’s history magazine is all about the Boston Massacre.  It has a full print of Paul Revere’s 1768 engraving. It also has some adapted transcripts from the trial and a transcript of an imagined radio broadcast about the massacre.

Ferling, John.  A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Ferling emphasizes throughout his book that the American Revolution was not inevitable. At many moments during the decades leading up to the revolution, momentum could have been lost for the Patriots. He credits the political prowess of men like Sam Adams for being able to sustain the sentiment and convince others to be on the side of the revolutionaries by not proposing more that the general public was able to stomach. The third chapter “1766-1770 ‘To Crush the Spirit of the Colonies’” is the most relevant to the events leading up to the Boston Massacre.

Fischer, David Hackett.  Paul Revere’s Ride.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Fischer’s first chapter, “Paul Revere’s America: The Patriot Rider’s Road to Revolution,” describes Boston in the late 1760’s early 1770’s. It not only addresses the importance of Revere and his prints, but also interprets them within the context of the time.

 

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS AND/OR STUDENTS:

John Adams National Historical Park

Though this website does not offer many resources, its educational department does. They offer free programs about the Boston Massacre and the trial afterwards and will even travel to your school.

Fritz, Jean.  Why don’t you get a horse Sam Adams?  NY: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1974.

Fritz shares interesting tidbits about Sam Adams to demonstrate how essential he was to organizing colonists in the Revolutionary era. The pictures are cartoons, but they do not seem dated.  Kids love the fun information, but are also able to digest the more meaty details. Her books on Paul Revere, John Hancock, King George III, and Patrick Henry are also worth exploring. 

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