This unit was created by educators in eighth grade Civics in Pittsfield, MA as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately five days, or four lessons and independent work time over five class periods.
- Understand how racism against Black and Native American people influenced early colonial history, and how those attitudes still influence modern society, even in their own communities.
- Practice research and information literacy skills, such as synthesizing information from different sources and evaluating the reliability of online sources.
- Use maps and timelines to visualize and contextualize historical events.
- Connect with local African American heritage to gain perspective about our historical surroundings and analyze connections to unit themes.
- Apply knowledge of history to a creative project of students’ choosing.
Students will learn about the history of race in the early American colonies, and discuss how dominant historical narratives can shape our understanding of these groups’ history. They will discuss the start of slavery in Virginia, the treatment of Native Americans at Jamestown and in New England, and the role of the Iroquois Confederacy in shaping the American government. Students will also practice independent research skills by investigating different historical events and mapping the locations of those events on a collaborative map.
At the end of the unit, students will create a work of written or audio nonfiction, art, or realistic fiction inspired by what they have learned and their own independent research.
Refer to the attached document for student performance tasks based on grade level, resources, time commitments, and student interests. Detailed instructions for performance tasks are included in the final daily lesson plan.
Four-lesson unit plan for teachers, including pacing, texts and multimedia resources, background reading for educators, primary source documents for student research, and performance tasks for the unit. Download below, or scroll down to read the complete unit plan.
Common Core Literacy Standards
Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
Massachusetts’s History Standards:
8.T1.4 - Explain how British ideas about and practices of government (e.g., the Magna Carta, the concept of habeas corpus, the Mayflower Company, self-government, town meetings...) influenced American colonists and the political institutions that developed in colonial America.
8.T1.5 - Analyze the evidence for arguments that the principles of government of the United States were influenced by the governments of Native peoples.
End of Unit Performance Tasks
Students should do research and work on writing or creating their individual projects. Teachers should mainly serve as a resource or sounding board for students. Potential projects are listed below.
Options for Students’ Projects
- Creative Writing - A New Ending. Think about all of the experiences that African Americans endured when they reached America. If you had the opportunity to rewrite history, dating back to the period of colonization, what would you want to see happen differently?
- Nonfiction Writing - Research an event in the history of your area (city, county, or state) that involves the treatment of African Americans or Native Americans. Write a short summary/profile or record a podcast about your event, of the kind that might appear in a newspaper or news podcast.
- Geography - Create a brochure or poster to provide some information on a place in or around your city. Imagine tourists are coming to look at this location and you need to provide them with some context. Your location should be relevant to the history of African Americans or Native Americans in your area.
- Art - The Art of the Matter. Illustrate four scenes from one of the periods explored in this unit. Whether you decide to draw, make a collage, or stage a photograph, try to capture the ideas and feelings expressed in the depiction that you are doing.