Hands On Activities for the American Revolution

Phillips is a Core Knowledge school, so in fourth grade, we always spend time learning about the American Revolution. For the past two years we completed a webquest, researching and writing about the causes of the revolution and the impact it had on families. This year we took a whole new approach. I always integrate fiction and non-fiction reading into our learning, and we write about the things we learn. We still enjoyed reading great books, and we wrote lots of our own books.

My lesson plans were based on this book, American Revolution, Hands On History, by Michael Gravois. I’ve actually had a copy of this book for several years, but this is the first time I’ve really looked it over. I found it listed on, but I’m afraid that it may not be available on Scholastic anymore, so snap up a copy if you are interested.  Here is the link.


Our first activity was to create a Domino Time Line.  This a timeline for events leading up to and causing the American Revolution.  Students kept this at their desks, and as we learned about each event, we wrote it under a domino.  For this activity students had a copy of the page with the dominoes and a piece of cardstock.  Students designed their own path and glued the edge of the domino to the path.  Next year I will give more guidance about this, because some of our dominoes crashed into each other.

As we studied the revolution, we learned new vocabulary.  I loved this idea for a vocabulary bulletin board/display.  Since I am limited on bulletin board space, I just hung bulletin board paper on my whiteboard.  As I introduced new words I added soldiers to the battle field.  In addition to learning new words.  It was easy for the kids to see the disadvantage that the British, with their bright red coats, had in their approach to battle.

Some of our introductory activities were completed together, like the French and Indian War lock book.  Most of the time, students read about an event using pages from the student book of The American Revolution, edited by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. or using internet resources.  So we still maintained many of the aspects of a webquest.  You can see our resources on our Explore Earth Wiki.

As students completed each activity, they filed their finished page or small book into a hanging file with their name on it, with the plan that we would put together a book when the pages were finished.  I also helped them keep track of the assignments by posting the assignments on a piece of construction paper.

 We finished by creating Circle Books of four important events from the war.  These included Washington Crossing the Delaware, the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Winter at Valley Forge, and the Battle of Yorktown.  Before writing, we organized our information with word webs.



This hands on approach was much more engaging than just taking notes or completing worksheets, and I was very impressed with the outcome.


I plan to include mini-books and foldables  into our upcoming unit on Medieval Europe.

All but a few students completed all the work.  We all learned a lot, myself included, and we were proud of our work.  And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.


One Response to “Hands On Activities for the American Revolution”

  1.   Michael Gravois Says:

    How wonderful! I see you’re using my book “Hands-On History: AMerican Revolution.” I loved doing those activities with my students. I’ve since written 21 books for Scholastic, all with hands-on, creative teaching ideas. Glad it helped. If you’re ever stuck for an idea, just jot me an email and I’ll happily try to help you with a related hands-on activity.

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