Teaching the 13 Colonies or Colonial America is the highlight of my school year.
I teach Colonial America in three units: New England Colonies, Central Colonies, and Southern Colonies. We also spent a little time comparing colonial regions after getting to know all three.
In this blog post I want to share with you how I teach the Colonial Regions and give you some ideas to make your classes fun.
I think it's important to give students an overview of each region before diving in and learning the details. For each of the Colonial Regions I have created general passages and shift books. I would like to share them with you. Just enter your name and email address. You will also be part of my VIP mailing list. No spam... Just great ideas and resources 🙂
Teachings of the New England Colonies
When I think of the New England colonies, I picture these old-fashioned images of people wearing caps and hats to church on Sundays and walking through the snow.
In the New England colonies, small towns were the norm and the church was the center of life.
This region was founded by people yearning for religious freedom, so God and the Church were the cornerstones of life in the New England colonies.
Facts and background information about the colonies of New England
Colonies in this region: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire
Economic activities: shipbuilding, fishing, timber, animal skins, whale oil
Geography and climate: fine and rocky soil; cooler weather
Farming and Cash Crops: New England farmers were able to farm to support their families and neighbors. However, the soil was not suitable for large-scale cultivation, so farming in this region did not bring in much money.
Ideas for teaching in the New England Colonies
Draw a fictional New England town!
We know that the church was the center of New England life, but another important aspect of city life was the commons, a grassy area where animals could graze and artisans could sell their wares.
The houses were built around the city commons. Wealthier families lived closer to the commons, and less wealthy families lived farther from the commons.
I ask my students to create a sketch of a fictional New England town, including the church, parish, meetinghouse, craft shops, and houses.
City meeting simulation
During the town meetings, all male homeowners resident in the town voted. This type of decision-making was unique in that eligible residents voted directly, rather than electing representatives to vote for them. Indentured servants, slaves and women were allowed to attend but were not allowed to vote.
Hold a mock meeting around town in your classroom. What concerns might a large landowner have that a small landowner might disagree with, and vice versa?
*Just a note: Please use sensitivity and common sense when running this simulation.*
Have students research the Puritans' beliefs and list the top five or write a few paragraphs to explain what they learned. The Puritans had great influence on the New England colonies. I want my students to see the hypocrisy of Puritans who impose their beliefs on others and deny religious liberty while demanding religious liberty for themselves.
Teach the middle colonies
When I think of the middle colonies, I picture rolling wheat fields, peaceful Quakers, and a busy grain trade.
This colonial region earned the nicknamebarn coloniesThanks to the fertile soil and long growing season, they were able to grow a variety of crops used to make bread.
Religious freedom was available to all in the central colonies. The region was dominated by Quakers, who believed that all people, regardless of gender, race, or income level, deserved to be treated equally.
Facts and background information about the Midway colonies
Colonies in this region: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware
Economic Activities: The economy of the middle colonies was based on agriculture. However, some residents of this region, mainly in the larger towns, worked in steel mills making boilers, ploughs, tools and nails.
Geography and Climate: Rich and fertile soil; long growing season
Agriculture and Cash Crops: Grains essential to bread making were the main cash crops in this region including wheat, rye and corn. There were also vegetables, fruits and livestock grown/raised in the middle colonies and exported for sale.
Ideas to teach the intermediate colonies
All about Ben Franklin
You can't study the central colonies, especially Pennsylvania, without talking about Ben Franklin. Philadelphia was his beloved city and he did much to improve life there.
Franklin is credited with some famous inventions like the lightning rod, the Franklin stove etc. He also did important things like founding the first public library, served as postmaster etc.
As students take the time to research Ben Franklin, they will find some of his lesser-known inventions and exploits truly fascinating.
Quaker vs. Puritans
Quakers are still active today and practice their religious beliefs. Students may have heard of them as the "Society of Friends". I encourage my students to learn a little more about this group and compare them to the strict and bigoted Puritans of the New England colonies.
I introduce the concept of learning in my Middle Colonies unit. Of course there were trainees in each of the colonial regions, but I think this unit is a great place to talk about the practical training that many colonial children and youth have experienced. I challenge my students to research different types of apprenticeship trades and then create a job posting that outlines the qualities needed to be an apprentice in one of the trades.
Teachings of the Southern Colonies
Seriously, I could spend weeks in the southern colonies. I am trying very hard to control myself and not let the unity of the southern colonies last too long. During a typical school year I spend 2-3 weeks in the southern colonies. There is so much to discover and every part is fascinating!
The southern colonies were the nerve center of the colonial economy. Thanks to the excellent soil and long growing season, they grew large quantities of crops such as tobacco and cotton on small farms and large plantations.
The five southern colonies have interesting founding histories, but Georgia is always a favorite of my students. James Oglethorpe founded George in 1732 for two reasons. First, he wanted to clear the debtor's prisons in England and send people who owed money to Georgia to pay their debts in hard labor. Second, he wanted the colony to be a buffer zone between the "bad" Spaniards of south Florida and the "good" Christians north of the Carolinas.
Religious tolerance was common among the southern settlers. There were villages and towns, but the southern colonies were mostly rural. Large farms and plantations arrived where there might not be a close neighbor. This region was not like the New England colonies, where life revolved around the Church and everyone in town knew everyone's business.
Alongside the intriguing aspects of the southern colonies, we have the difficult issues. The southern colonies depended heavily on slave labor. We see waves of this sad truth beginning in colonial America and continuing through the Civil War.
Teaching slavery is essential even in elementary school, but that doesn't mean it's easy to teach. I recommend the following two blog posts to help you become more familiar with the best practices for teaching bondage with sensitivity and respect:
How to Teach 18th Century Slavery in Today's Classroom
Teaching Slavery in Elementary Schools: An Interview with Scholar Richard Josey
Facts and Background on the Southern Colonies
Colonies in this region: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia
Economic Activities: Agricultural products including commercial cultivation of tobacco, rice, indigo, corn, cotton; Cattle; Barrels and other transport products
Geography and Climate: Rich and fertile soil; long growing season
Ideas for teaching in the southern colonies
Colonial money: pounds, shillings and pence
During or after our study of the southern colonies, I introduce colonial money. There were different forms and types of currency, but I noticed that most historical documents from this period use pounds, shillings and pence. I created an entire blog post on teaching colonial money, so I encourage you to check it out. Also, there is a free resource at the end that my students love!
Teaching about the colonial money of the 18th century
Monte Vernon von George Washington
Mount Vernon is an excellent resource for teachers. Once I have introduced your amazing website to my students, they often come back to see it again and again. I recommend taking students on the virtual tour of Mount Vernon first. It's great to use on student laptops or project onto your tech whiteboard and walk around the classroom.
Williamsburg Colonial Resource Library
Our great friends from Colonial Williamsburg have created a free resource library for teachers. This website has videos, activities and lessons for teachers. You have to create a free account, but I promise it's worth it.
I have a few favorite videos from this resource library that I show my students each year. They used to charge a lot of money for these videos, but now they are all free. Master victory!
I recommend you check them outcolonial IdolVideo. Decorated like American Idol, but in a colonial style. I love these artists and the students learn a lot by listening to their stories!
Williamsburg Colonial Resource Library
Colonial Williamsburg online games
There are a variety of games on this site that teach about life in colonial America and students love to play them. I often give my students a few suggested games and then give them some time to explore the games and activities on their own. Trust me they will keep coming back.
Colonial Williamsburg children's games and activities
Compare colonial regions
Having learned about the three colonial regions, I think it's important to spend a little time comparing and contrasting the regions.
Looking at the similarities and differences between the regions helps students make connections and see that the regions were truly unique. For example, while the Southern colonies were all about making money, the New England colonies were mostly about religious freedom.
If you're looking for a ready-to-use Colonial America unit pack, you'll love this one:
In my classroom, I use the following layer books to introduce each colonial region. I'd love to send them to your inbox for free. Simply enter your name and email address below. You'll also be a part of my weekly VIP email club for primary school teachers only. 🇧🇷
What am I teaching now? After teaching the 13 colonies we move on to the Way of Revolution and then to the American Revolution. This blog post will be of great help to you:
Teaching the American Revolution in Upper Elementary Education
If you would like to see a layout of how I teach 5th grade social studies click here:How I Teach Social Studies through Fifth Grade
If you want to save this post for later, just pin this image to your teacher's Pinterest board!
Why were the 13 colonies so successful? ›
1) Fewer tropical diseases; 2) Land that was easier to cultivate (less swamps/jungles); 3) Britain's approach to funding colonies and extracting value was more nuanced than Spanish monoculture cash crops and silver mines (thanks to banking concepts introduced by the Dutch); 4) Relatively more open to general ...Why is learning about the 13 colonies important? ›
The thirteen colonies were British settlements on the Atlantic coast of America in the 17th and 18th centuries. They eventually lead to the creation of the United States of America and are an important part of US history.What are the two motivations which led to establish the 13 colonies? ›
The British settlers came to these new lands for many reasons. Some wanted to make money or set up trade with their home country while others wanted religious freedom. In the early 1600s, the British king began establishing colonies in America.What is the 13 colonies summary? ›
They were Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. By 1750 nearly 2 million Europeans lived in the American colonies. Still others came from Africa.How did the 13 colonies win? ›
After French assistance helped the Continental Army force the British surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, the Americans had effectively won their independence, though fighting would not formally end until 1783.What is the most important colony of the 13 colonies? ›
Massachusetts. Much like Virginia to the South, this is the most important colony in the northern region of England's 13 colony experiment. Originally called the Massachusetts Bay colony, this site was founded in the Plymouth area by the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1623.What is a colony 5th grade? ›
A colony is a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country, typically a distant one, and occupied by settlers from that country. 5 - 8.What grade learns about the 13 colonies? ›
The 13 Colonies unit articles are written at a 7th-8th grade reading level. If you teach one of those grades, your students will be able to complete the activities more or less independently.What was the colonies main purpose? ›
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, often by establishing colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance.What were the 3 motivations for colonization? ›
Historians generally recognize three motives for European exploration and colonization in the New World: God, gold, and glory.
What 3 reasons were colonies established? ›
The reasons varied as well. The motivations were the desire for riches, the hope of freedom of religion or freedom from imprisonment, debt or slavery. All of these people and these reasons contributed to the Americas early settlement.What were the 13 colonies fighting for? ›
The colonists fought the British because they wanted to be free from Britain. They fought the British because of unfair taxes. They fought because they didn't have self-government. When the American colonies formed, they were part of Britain.What is a slogan for the 13 colonies? ›
Join, or Die. by Benjamin Franklin (1754), a political cartoon commenting on the disunity of the Thirteen Colonies during the French and Indian War. It was later used to encourage the colonies to unite for the cause of independence during the American Revolutionary War.What did the 13 colonies all have in common? ›
While each of the colonies had their own relationship with Britain, there were important points of overlap. Just like free-born British subjects in other parts of the Empire, white Anglo-Americans thought of themselves as British. Because of this, they demanded the same rights and freedoms as those born in Britain.What are the 13 colonies now called? ›
It was those colonies that came together to form the United States. The original 13 colonies of North America in 1776, at the United States Declaration of Independence.What were the 13 colonies originally called? ›
The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies, the Thirteen American Colonies, or later as the United Colonies, were a group of British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America.Why is it called the 13 colonies? ›
The colonies grew both geographically along the Atlantic coast and westward and numerically to 13 from the time of their founding to the American Revolution. Their settlements extended from what is now Maine in the north to the Altamaha River in Georgia when the Revolution began.How were 13 colonies formed? › Who betrayed the 13 colonies? ›
Benedict Arnold, the American general during the Revolutionary War who betrayed his country and became synonymous with the word “traitor,” was born on January 14, 1741.Why did colonies fail? ›
Some European attempts to colonize the New World failed not only because of physical hardships and deprivation but also because of cultural misunderstandings on the part of both the colonizers and the native inhabitants.
Who lost the 13 colonies? ›
In 1763 the first British Empire primarily centred on North America. By 1815, despite the loss of the 13 colonies, Britain had a second empire, one that straddled the globe from Canada and the Caribbean in the Western Hemisphere around the Cape of Good Hope to India and Australia.Which colony was the most successful? ›
Virginia was one of the most successful colonies because of its a profitable economy, a colonial government, and settlers who benefited Virginia and caused problems in the colony.What are the 3 divisions of the 13 colonies? ›
By the 1700's, the American colonies grew into three distinct regions. The New England, Middle, and Southern regions each had different geographical and cultural characteristics that determined the development of their economy, society, and relationships to each other.Who founded the colonies? ›
The Spanish were among the first Europeans to explore the New World and the first to settle in what is now the United States. By 1650, however, England had established a dominant presence on the Atlantic coast. The first colony was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607.What are the 5 shapes of a colony? ›
Based on their form, bacterial colonies are categorized as circular, irregular, filamentous, spindle, rhizoid, and concentric. Based on their margin, they are categorized as entire, lobate, undulate, filamentous, and irregular.How do you define a colony in simple terms? ›
: a group of people sent out by a state to a new territory. : the territory in which such colonists live. : a distant territory belonging to or under the control of a nation.Why did colonists come to America for kids? ›
Many of the early English colonists were Puritans and other Protestants who wanted to reform or separate from the Church of England. Persecuted at home, they immigrated to North America, where they set up colonies in which their religion and way of life predominated.What are two main functions of a colony? ›
The fitness of the colony has been defined through its two basic components: viability and fecundity. These authors have introduced a specific trade-off function reflecting the intrinsic relationships that link viability and fecundity within a given cell.What is a colony for kids? ›
A colony is a group of people from one country who build a settlement in another territory, or land. They claim the new land for the original country, and the original country keeps some control over the colony. The settlement itself is also called a colony.How do colonies benefit a country? ›
Under mercantilism, colonies were important because they produced raw materials for the mother country, goods that the country would have to import otherwise (things like grain, sugar, or tobacco). The colonies also gave the mother country an outlet for exports, which increased jobs and industrial development at home.
What are the 13 original colonies in order? ›
The 13 original states were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The 13 original states were the first 13 British colonies. British colonists traveled across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe.What grade do you learn 13 colonies? ›
13 Colonies Poster Project Idea
The items in this project align specifically with Ohio's New Learning Standards for Social Studies in grades 4, 5, and 8.
They were Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.What is the trick to memorize? ›
Mnemonics are systems and tricks that make information for memorable. One common type is when the first letter of each word in a sentence is also the first letter of each word in a list that needs to be memorized.
- Assign meaningfulness to things. ...
- Learn general and specific later. ...
- Recite out loud in your own words until you don't need to refer to your notes.
- Teach someone else. ...
- Use memory devices.
- Understand your learning style.
- Learn the 3 'R's of memorization.
- Practice the substitution method.
- Learn the story and link method.
- Use the memory palace method.
- Apply spaced repetition strategically.
A colony is a group of people from one country who build a settlement in another territory, or land. They claim the new land for the original country, and the original country keeps some control over the colony. The settlement itself is also called a colony. The practice of setting up colonies is called colonialism.What is the meaning of 13 American colonies? ›
The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies, the Thirteen American Colonies, or later as the United Colonies, were a group of British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America.What did the 13 colonies have in common? ›
While each of the colonies had their own relationship with Britain, there were important points of overlap. Just like free-born British subjects in other parts of the Empire, white Anglo-Americans thought of themselves as British. Because of this, they demanded the same rights and freedoms as those born in Britain.How did the 13 colonies became states? ›
The United States was formed as a result of the American Revolution when the thirteen American colonies revolted against the rule of Great Britain. After the war ended, the U.S. Constitution formed a new government. These thirteen colonies became the first 13 states as each ratified the Constitution.