I have recently been asked to write a lesson plan on the Boston Massacre (for a potential job opportunity). Specifically, it is supposed to be designed for an honors 8th grade social studies class. As I sat and pondered about how best to challenge honor’s level students, I realized that I had to get to the heart of who I am as a history major.
That being said, first thing I wanted to do for my students is provide them with a question to help them relate to the content. For those of you familiar with the Boston Massacre, you know that there was debate over who started the massacre. Was it the soldiers or the unruly mob? So I ask the students to consider how they choose who to trust when two friends are in an argument and telling different stories. Then I lay the groundwork for the Boston Massacre — the who, what, where, when, and why. However, I do not go into extreme depth here.
Why did I not give them all the information on this event? Because I want my students to learn that sometimes history is complicated. As a result, I was source searching and found this awesome page by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. It has several primary sources with questions accomanying them. I took a few primary sources from the site, and designed my own questions to serve as a guiding force for the students.
Then the students are going to take the answers to their questions, and their own views on the sources and write what they actually think happened at the Boston Massacre. It is my hope that as students analyze the primary sources, they will engage with a world different from their own, and see how the past can come alive when it is given a voice. It should also teach them that sometimes, historians have to read sources and try to determine bias and reliability.
All in all, I hope this is a more effective way of teaching my students about this story, because they are now involved in it. I want them to help see one of the key tasks of the historian — analyzing primary sources. Hopefully they’ll have some fun along the way since I’m letting them work with a partner.