Author:
ESU Coordinating Council, Nebraska OER
Subject:
History, U.S. History
Material Type:
Unit of Study
Level:
Middle School
Grade:
8
Tags:
  • Boston Massacre
  • IDM
  • NE SS
  • Nebraska Department of Education
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Language:
    English

    Education Standards

    The Boston Massacre

    The Boston Massacre

    Overview

    The British soldiers have long been blamed for firing upon innocent colonists the night of the Boston Massacre.  Students will examine primary and secondary sources to determine if the soldiers indeed attacked innocent colonists or were acting in self-defense against an angry mob. This inquiry asks, “Did the British soldiers open fire on innocent colonists at the Boston Massacre?”

     

    Resource created by Michelle Wittstruck, Milford Public Schools, as part of the Nebraska ESUCC Social Studies Special Projects 2022 - Inquiry Design Model (IDM).

    Inquiry Question

    Did the British soldiers open fire on innocent colonists at the Boston Massacre?

     

    Supporting Questions

    1. What events led up to the Boston Massacre?
    2. How did different points of view affect people’s beliefs as to what happened at the Boston Massacre?
    3. Was the verdict of the British soldiers’ trials the correct one?

    Overview and Description

    The British soldiers have long been blamed for firing upon innocent colonists the night of the Boston Massacre.  Students will examine primary and secondary sources to determine if the soldiers indeed attacked innocent colonists or were they acting in self-defense against an angry mob.

    Key Ideas and Practices:

    • Examine multiple perspectives using primary and secondary sources
    • Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence
    • Chronological Reasoning and Causation
    • Developing and supporting an argument

     

    Nebraska State Standards (2019)

    8.4.2 a & b - Using multiple perspectives to evaluate historical events.

     

    Note: This inquiry is expected to take five to six 50-minute class periods. The inquiry time frame could be adjusted if the teacher thinks their students need additional instructional experiences (i.e., supporting questions, formative performance tasks, and featured sources). Teachers are encouraged to adapt the inquiries in order to meet the needs and interests of their particular students. Resources can also be modified as necessary to meet individualized education programs (IEPs) or Section 504 Plans for students with disabilities.

    Staging the Compelling Question

    Think about a time when you had a disagreement with a sibling or friend about how an event happened.  What was it that you disagreed about? When you shared or told an adult about the situation, did your side of the story change from what happened, if so why? How did you respond and work through the problem? Were you able to solve the problem or come to a compromise?

    Think about this saying and what you think it may mean: “There are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.” Make sure that this statement is posted in the classroom throughout this inquiry process.

    Ask each student to record their thoughts individually, then share as a small group with table partners. Continue by sharing thoughts as a class, the teacher can record ideas or just hold a class discussion.

    Survey students’ prior knowledge individually using the Empower Learner Activity ( see attached)

    Supporting Question #1

    What events led up to the Boston Massacre?

     

    Students will look at several primary sources from the Boston Massacre trials. (Featured Source A) 

    • Explain that some of them will have similar accounts; others may give different details. Paying close attention to details is important. Let them know that they will see many misspellings in these accounts because there wasn't standard English when these testimonies were recovered. 
    • Explain what a deposition is and how it is used in a court of law. 
    • Introduce the testimony of Theodore Bliss, by projecting and reading aloud to the class. Ask students to jot down notes of evidence in their SQ1 Student Organizer (see attached) as you read. 
    • Discuss these notes as table groups then as a class. It should be written up and displayed in the classroom for the students to see as an example. Remind students that they are only doing detective work gathering evidence at this point, not judgements should be made yet.
    • Students will continue examining the rest of the provided depositions as a group and recording their findings.
    • When deposition examination is complete, small groups should come to a consensus as to what they believe the timeline of that night was by using their evidence and recording in their SQ1 organizer. 
    • Compare group timelines, discuss and debate any major differences, timelines may differ slightly.

    Featured Source A: Depositions of witnesses from the Boston Massacre Trials

     

    Students will examine two maps of colonial Boston. (Featured Source B)

    • Project the maps and ask students to discuss what they notice about these. (street names, proximity of buildings, harbor, etc.) Discuss as a class, pointing out locations on the maps as they are shared. 

    Featured Source B: Maps of Colonial Boston

    Image source: Boston 1775: Charles Bahne on the Boston Massacre Site Today

    Boston Massacre Map

     

    Image Source: History of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770 | Library of Congress (loc.gov)

    Boston Massacre Map 1770


     

    Supporting Question #2

    How did different points of view affect people’s beliefs as to what happened at the Boston Massacre?

     

    Students will anazyze primary and secondary sources about how people viewed what happened in Boston. (Featured Source A)

    • Review point of view.  Refer back to the staging questions and ask for examples of situations students had thought of.
    • Project and introduce the Boston Gazette and London Chronicle articles. (Featured Source A)
    • Tell students to be looking for similarities and differences as they read both articles together as table groups and record their findings on the SQ2 Student Graphic Organizer (see attached)
    • Be sure to have students note that the London Chronicles article is published over a month and a half after the Boston Gazette article.  Ask - Why do they think this is?
    • Discuss as a class who they think the audience for each of these articles is.  (Explain/review writing/creating for an audience if needed.)

     

    Featured Source A: The London Chronicle and Boston Gazette Newspaper Articles describing the events of the Boston Massacre

     

    Students will view and analyze selected artwork of the events. (Featured Source B)

    • Project selected artwork being used as primary and secondary sources. 
    • As each one is projected, have students note on their graphic organizer what they see and answer the remaining questions for each. 
    • Repeat for each piece, students will discuss in small groups, followed by class discussion. Also be sure to note that 2 of the pieces (images 2 and 4) were not created and published until the 1800’s.  How might that factor into their interpretation of each piece?
    • Refer back to the supporting question about point of view.  Students discuss as a small group then discuss as a class.

     

    Featured Source B:  Visual Depictions of the Boston Massacre

     

    Supporting Question #3

    Was the verdict of the British soldiers’ trials the correct one?

     

    • Ask students to think of a time when they were in trouble for something that someone else did.  How and why did that happen and how did they feel about it?  Take responses.
    • Discuss why John Adams was willing to defend the British soldiers.  How might that affect the future of his career? Ask students if they would be willing to sacrifice their futures for something that they strongly believed in.
    • Discuss about what it means when “something is proved beyond a reasonable doubt”. 
    • Students analyze John Adams’ closing statements from the Boston Massacre Trial and witness depositions in small groups and record their findings in the SQ3 Student Organizer (see attached). Discuss findings as a class and record in a class organizer.  Are they finding beyond a reasonable doubt evidence or is there too much conflicting information?
    • As a class view the clip of the John Adams video.  Was there any new information that they gained? How did this depiction differ from how they might have imagined the trial happening?
    • Review the compelling question, students go back into small groups and make a decision using their evidence and responses from their supporting questions. 
    • Return together as a large group to discuss to discover a class consensus.

     

    Featured Source A: John Adam’s Closing Statement and Depositions of witnesses to the Boston Massacre

     

     

    Featured Source B: The Boston Massacre Trial: John Adams and Thomas Gage - US National Archives via YouTube

     

    The Boston Massacre Trial: Thomas Gage and John Adams

     

    Summative Performance Task

    Students will create a claim and cite evidence in response to the compelling question “Did British soldiers open fire on innocent colonists at the Boston Massacre?” Students will write a letter to the editor of the Boston Gazette in which they state their claim and cite evidence. 

    Extension

    Recreate a crime scene of the Boston Massacre using what you have learned.

    John Adams spoke these famous words during the Boston Massacre, “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” What do you interpret this to mean? How does that time period draw similarities to the time that we live in now? Choose a way to represent the connection using art, song, photos, drawings or a written piece.

    Taking Informed Action

    Identify a concern of your town, county, or state and write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper explaining your point of view.

     

    Suggested Rubric for Summative Task:

    Argumentative Scoring Rubric