This lesson takes a situation historically labeled as the Boston Massacre and forces students to come to their own conclusion based on primary source accounts. You will gain students’ attention by setting up a crime scene in your classroom as they enter. Students will then explore primary source accounts of what happened in Boston on March 5th, 1770. Students will highlight important aspects of the accounts that they want to communicate to others. Depending on your school situation, you will then bring students outside or to a larger area where they will act out their version of what happened. To conclude the lesson, students will produce a product that shows what they feel truly happened while also including their rationale for the decision.
Rationale for the lesson
In our current world, students and adults alike are bombarded with contradictory messages. Sorting out the story of history is even more challenging considering we were not alive during most of the history we study. This lesson forces students to take a fresh look at a scenario that history books generally do a subpar job teaching. By labeling the incident the “Boston Massacre”, history book authors automatically steer students to a predetermined conclusion of what occurred that day. This lesson is designed to challenge students to read primary source accounts and come to their own defensible position about what truly happened. Although we can’t be 100% certain of the events that unfolded that night in Boston, the process of examining the sources is instructive in and of itself.
Prerequisite knowledge and skills
This lesson could be utilized as part of a unit on Colonial America or the American Revolution. In that case, having background knowledge of the building tensions between the colonists and British would enhance students’ ability to understand the evening’s events. However, this lesson could also be used as a lesson on interpretation or bias, and could be delivered in any social studies or language arts class, or simply as a method of introducing the situation that occurred in Boston. Depending on how much assistance is provided with primary sources, this lesson could be used all the way from elementary school to AP high school. The key lies in adding assistance to the primary sources at the lower levels or providing the primary sources with no help to the highest levels.