Learning About Colonial Life

Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Subject Area

Social Studies




This is a group activity that allows students to use predictions to learn about the lifestyle of American colonists.

Social Studies (2010) Grade(s): 10 - United States History I


Compare regional differences among early New England, Middle, and Southern colonies regarding economics, geography, culture, government, and American Indian relations. [A.1.a., A.1.b., A.1.d., A.1.g., A.1.i.]



  • regional
  • Magna Carta
  • English Bill of Rights
  • Mayflower Compact
  • House of Burgesses
  • Great Awakening
  • New England colonies
  • Middle colonies
  • Southern colonies


Students know:
  • Regional differences among early New England, Middle, and Southern colonies a regarding economics, geography, culture, government, and American Indian relations.
  • Impact and details of essential documents in the establishment of colonial governments, including the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the Mayflower Compact.
  • The role of the House of Burgesses and New England town meetings in the development of early American colonies.
  • The impact of the Great Awakening on early American colonial society.


Students are able to:
  • Compare and contrast regional differences among early New England, Middle, and Southern colonies
  • Locate the appropriate colonies in each region on a map.
  • Analyze the effect of geography and weather on the development of regional colonies.
  • Analyze primary documents.
  • Describe the impact of the Great Awakening on colonial society.


Students understand that:
  • There were regional differences in the early American colonies and the roles of essential documents and events in the development of these colonies.

Primary Learning Objectives

1. Students will make predictions about the purpose of items from colonial America.
2. Students will draw conclusions about the culture of colonial America based on items used in daily life.



1.) Display a common classroom item, such as a stapler, and have students make predictions about what people 200 years from now will assume it is. Ask students to share ideas about what household items and tools can tell us about a culture.

2.) Explain to students that they will be working in groups with their classmates to make predictions about tools and household items of colonial America. Tell students that the class will use these predictions to draw some conclusions about the nature of colonial society.

3.) Divide students into heterogeneous ability groups. Give each group the handout with 10 pictures of common colonial household items and tools. Give the groups 20 minutes to come to group consensus about what they think the item is and how it would have been used in colonial America.

4.) Have each group share their ideas about the items. Do not give the correct answers until all groups have shared. After all groups have shared ideas, display the handout and explain the use of each item using the answer key. Students will be very interested to hear what the item actually is and was used for. The teacher may want to give a small reward to the group that guesses the most items correctly.

5.) If available, share some real colonial items and allow the students to touch them and make predictions about their uses as well. This is a very effective follow-up to the activity with the pictures.

6.) Have the class to brainstorm conclusions that can be made about the nature of colonial society based on the household items discussed. Direct students to focus on things such as how people made a living, what they did for recreation, things that they valued in their lives, etc.

7.) Conclude by having students write a paragraph explaining the nature of colonial society.








Assessment Strategies

Assessment is a writing activity that has students integrating the knowledge gained from the activity to draw conclusions about colonial society (see step 7). Objective questions may also be used to determine student knowledge of the use of the items.

Total Duration

61 to 90 Minutes


Students should have a general understanding of the origins of the English colonies in America.

Materials and Resources

Handout for each group with pictures of common colonial items, actual colonial items (if available)

Answer Key (for teacher)

Approved Date