Skip to main content

Lexington and Concord, Thomas Jefferson, and Declaration of Independence Lesson

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.


This is part 3 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on the American War for Independence. Make tin can lanterns, reenact the Battles of Lexington and Concord, make ink and sign the Declaration of Independence with a quill pen, eat ice cream with Thomas Jefferson, and more! My lessons are geared toward 2nd-3rd grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 14 children between the ages of 0-12. Use these fun lessons with your class, family, camp, after school program, or homeschool co-op!



Introduction & Making Ink

1. Stretch & pray.

2. Discuss Psalm 35:1-3

3. Sing The 13 Colonies Song (Tune: Yankee Doodle):

Virginia, Georgia, Delaware, and North Carolina;

Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina.

Pennsylvania, New York,

New Hampshire and New Jersey,

Rhode Island and Connecticut:

These were the thirteen colonies!

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: Words printed off for the children to read & sing along

4. Begin making ink: Let each child take a handful of pecans and have them crack the shells by putting them in a kitchen towel and smacking them with a hammer. Have them place the shells in a saucepan and eat the pecans (if desired). Pour in 1 1/2 cups of water and bring the shells to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 60 min. until most of water is gone. Cool.

TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: 1 1/2 pounds of nuts in shells (pecans, walnuts, etc.), 1 kitchen towels per child (used for activity 6 as well), 1 hammer per child, measuring cup, & a saucepan

Making tin can lanterns

Making tin can lanterns

The Midnight Ride and Tin Can Lanterns

5. Read The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ill. by Christopher Bing.

6. Make tin can lanterns like the ones used to hang in the church tower.

-Use 1 towel to go under the frozen can to keep it in place and let children have a second kitchen towel to hold the cold can.

Scroll to Continue

-Use a nail and a hammer to hammer holes in the can all over. Children under age 5 will need adult assistance. The ice in the can keeps it from collapsing. Older children can try to hammer in a pattern (such as a star).

-After they are finished hammering, have them hammer a hole on each side so the handle can get put through the holes. An adult can use needle nose pliers to help bend the wire in the shape of a U and insert it into the holes and then bend each side up.

-Place a tea candle inside the can. After everyone has finished, have the children go into a dark room. Light the candles and turn out the lights.

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: (per child): 1 tin can (such as the type that has canned vegetables or canned fruit) with water frozen in it, 1 3-inch nail, 1 hammer, one 1 1/2 foot piece of wire cut from a clothes hanger or from any other bendable wire, 2 kitchen towels, and 1 tea candle. For the whole group you'll also need a couple sets of needle-nose pliers and multi-purpose lighters.

7. Read Let It Begin Here! by Don Brown.



Dramatize Paul Revere's Ride

8. Dramatize Paul Revere's Ride using costumes, stick horses, canoe paddles, tin can lanterns, and nerf guns. Mom reads Let It Begin Here! by Dennis Fradin through April 19, 1775, 1AM as children act out what mom is reading.

TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: costumes, stick horses, canoe paddles or sticks to act as canoe paddles, tin can lanterns, and long toy guns

Our Favorite Picture Books on Paul Revere's Ride

Also look for "Paul Revere's Ride" (Step into Reading) by Shana Corey, "Riding with Paul Revere" (Eye on History Graphic Illustrated) by Holly Karapetkova. "Paul Revere's Midnight Ride" by Stephen Krensky is a picture book that has a some great pictures and details left out of other books.



Maps & Pictures

9. Show the picture of Paul Revere's route & British route from The Story of America by John Scott (p. 72). Show a picture of powder house & magazine from A Window on Williamsburg by John Walklet briefly explain that powder houses were used to store weapons and the gunpowder that would be used to shoot the guns.

-Briefly mention the British military formation vs. Native American/Colonial battle formation. The British army was taught that you fight wars by standing in straight lines facing each other. You shoot at each other. During the French and Indian War, the colonists learned a better way to fight. The Native Americans would hide in the forests, up in trees or behind trees, or behind rocks. They would try to stay hidden and then would shoot soldiers while hiding. The colonists used this method of fighting.

-Show picture of Concord wall on p. 73 from The Story of America by John Scott. Show Concord battle scene on pp. 52-53 of The Revolutionary War by Bart McDowell.

Dramatizing Battle of Lexington

Dramatizing Battle of Lexington

Dramatize Battle of Lexington

10. Dramatize Battle of Lexington using costumes and Nerf guns as mom reads Let It Begin Here! by Dennis Fradin April 19, 1775, 5AM.

TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: costumes and Nerf guns (same ones used for Paul Revere's Ride dramatization)

Books on the Battle of Lexington

A chapter book my oldest son enjoyed was "We Were There At The Battle Of Lexington And Concord" by Felix Sutton. It's about 2 fictional children who are involved in this historical event. It is fun to read and MUCH better written than Magic Tree House books. It's 182 pp. with black and white illustrations every few pages. My son begged to read more every time we took a break. This is no longer published, but it is worth purchasing! If you have older children, "The Minute Boys of Lexington" by Edward Stratemeyer is a great option. It is 302pp. and is a well written, exciting tale of the beginnings of the American Revolution.

Minutemen Drills

Minutemen Drills

Minutemen Drills

11. Practice being minutemen by doing a Minuteman Relay Race. Minutemen needed to be ready in a moment’s notice to defend themselves and the lives of their neighbors against the British soldiers. Divide the children evenly age-wise into 2 teams. Hand each team a backpack, gun, and hat. The first person in the line will grab the items, duck under the swing (or other obstacle course type of set-up such as string laced around poles), race to the fence, pretend to shoot a Redcoat/British soldier (a red coat that you’ve hung on the fence using a hanger), and then run back yelling, "The Redcoats are coming!" They will hand the items to the next minuteman in line who would do the same thing.

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: 2 backpacks, 2 guns, 2 hats, 2 hangers, 2 red coats, and 2 long toy guns

12. Quickly summarize Battle of Bunker Hill, capturing of Fort Ticonderoga, and the Continental Congress using pictures from books.

Chapter Books on Ethan Allen and the Raid on Fort Ticonderoga

Because we read so many books on Paul Revere and Thomas Jefferson this week, we had to read "Ethan Allen, Green Mountain Hero" (Piper books) by Sheldon N. Ripley before we started this unit. It was great! Ethan Allen was courageous and always ready for an adventure. My boys loved reenacting his life over and over again. This was our favorite chapter book on him. It has drawings every few pages and was perfect for my second grade son, though my 3 year old son loved to listen in on many of the chapters. This is worth purchasing. "A Little Maid of Ticonderoga" by Alice Curtis would be a good chapter book for girls. My oldest son loved reading "Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys" (Landmark Books, 66) by Slater Brown, which is an exciting 184 pp. book about Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. His life was so exciting that my son did not want to stop and take breaks between chapters.



Thomas Jefferson

13. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a minuteman. He didn't fight with a gun like the minutemen did. He fought with his mind and with his words. He worked in the government and wrote letters to England and England's King George III. His most famous "letter" is called the Declaration of Independence. Before we talk about that, let's talk about what Thomas Jefferson loved to eat. He loved ice cream. He actually introduced ice cream to America. When he was your age, no one in America ate ice cream or even knew about ice cream. When he was in France, he tasted something really yummy. It was ice cream. He thought Americans would love it. He got the recipe and brought it back with him to the American colonies. Do you think Americans like ice cream?

-Either serve store-purchased french vanilla ice cream or make it.

-To make vanilla ice cream, you can try Thomas Jefferson's actual recipe for ice cream from (We've never tried that recipe.) You can also make the ice cream in a bag/jar. We've done this numerous times. The ice cream has never solidified completely. It usually gets to a milkshake state. The kids enjoy it nonetheless.

-Tell the children that we've added salt to the jars/bags because the salt will help it get the liquid quite cold that it will freeze and become ice cream...but we'll have to shake them just like we did when we made butter.

-Ahead of time get a big bowl of ice. You can keep the bowl of ice in the freezer. While the kids are doing the minuteman drills, lay each jar/gallon-sized bag on a table and fill each jar/bag with about 1/2 cup of rock salt. Top with some ice cubes.

-After briefly taking about Thomas Jefferson, give each child a sandwich or quart-size zip-lock bag.

-Set up 5 teachers/moms in an assembly line and have the children line up and walk down the line to receive each of the ingredients:

Teacher/Mom 1 will pour 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream or half-and-half into each child's bag.

Teacher/Mom 2 will add about 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Teacher/Mom 3 will add about 1 tsp. of vanilla.

Teacher/Mom 4 will close the baggie tightly and place it in their jar/gallon-size bag.

Teacher/Mom 5 will add more ice cubes and will screw on the lid or securely close the gallon-size bag.

-The kids will shake these while someone reads. They can hold the jar/bag using their kitchen towels when/if the jar/bag becomes too cold to handle.

-(We've made ice cream like this 3 times. Twice we used gallon-sized ziplock bags. Some of them weren't securely closed, so the rock salt and ice came out and made a mess. Once we tried large glass jars. Some of them broke. That was a bad idea. If I did it again, I'd probably go back to the gallon-sized ziplock bags or we'd used plastic jars rather than glass ones.)

TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: large bowl to hold ice, 14 sandwich or quart-size zip-lock bags, 1/2 cup measuring cup, rock salt (the kind for making ice cream) (at least 10 cups), heavy whipping cream or half-and-half (at least 10 cups), 1/2 measuring cup, sugar (at least 2 cups), 1 tablespoon measuring spoon, vanilla extract (at least 1/4 cup), 1 teaspoon measuring spoon, ice, 14 jars (preferably plastic mayo-type jars) or 14 gallon-size ziplock bags, and 14 kitchen towels

14. While children shake their jars read the sections of the First and Second Continental Congress from The Liberty Tree by Lucille Rech Penner. Read Thomas Jefferson's Feast by Frank Murphy.

15. Let the children eat their ice cream.

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: napkins & spoons

16. Quickly discuss facts about Thomas Jefferson. Let a child tape a miniature picture of Jefferson that has been pasted it to a small square of blue construction paper to Virginia on the 13 Colonies map.

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: tape and a miniature picture of Jefferson that has been pasted it to a small square of blue construction paper

Great Picture Books (and an Audio CD) on Thomas Jefferson

We really enjoyed "The Value of Foresight: The Story of Thomas Jefferson" (Valuetales Series) by Ann Donegan Johnson, which is a longer picture book on Thomas Jefferson. It covers his entire life and talks about the value of foresight and how it assisted him as he made his decisions. Some additional excellent picture book biographies on his life: "The Story of Thomas Jefferson" by Patricia A. Pingry, "Meet Thomas Jefferson" by Patricia A. Pingry, "Thomas Jefferson" (Bio-Graphics) by Joeming Dunn, "Thomas Jefferson: A Founding Father of the United States of America" by Lori Mortensen, "Thomas Jefferson" by Cheryl Harness, "Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography" by James Cross Giblin, "Thomas Jefferson: A Day at Monticello" by Elizabeth V. Chew, "Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud" by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain, and "When Mr. Jefferson Came to Philadelphia: What I Learned of Freedom, 1776" by Ann Turner.

Favorite Chapter Books on Thomas Jefferson

My oldest son read "Thomas Jefferson: Champion of the people" (Piper books) by Joseph Olgin. It has drawings every few pages and was the perfect level for my second grade son (who is an advanced reader). It includes Thomas Jefferson's entire life.

Declaration of Independence

17. Read a few pages from Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? by Jean Fritz.



18. Read sections of the Declaration of Independence from The Declaration of Independence ill. by Sam Fink. Show replica of Declaration of Independence and mention how John Hancock was the first to sign it and signed it large "so King George III [could] read it without his spectacles." Show picture of the people of New York pulling down the statue of King George III after the Declaration of Independence was read in order to melt it into musket balls (except the head which was rescued by Loyalists). Emphasize the courage the men had in signing this and briefly mention what happened to some of the signers.



Finish Making Ink

19. Finish making ink: Let the children watch while you strain the ink by pouring the liquid and shells into a mesh colander that is sitting over a bowl. If you wanted to keep this ink for a while, you would add vinegar to keep the ink from fading and salt to keep the ink from growing mold. We're not going to do that, though, because we’re going to use the ink right now. Divide the ink 4 small bowls. Divide the children into 4 groups, assigning each group to a bowl.

TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: a bowl that the strainer can fit into, and 4 small bowls (disposable would be the easiest)

Signing the Declaration of Independence using quill pens and homemade pecan shell ink

Signing the Declaration of Independence using quill pens and homemade pecan shell ink

Signing the Declaration of Independence & Review

20. Tell the children that the colonial people didn’t have pens like we have. Instead they used quill pens, made from feathers. Demonstrate how to dip the tip of the feather into the ink we just made and then write with it. Have everyone sign their name on the bottom of their Declaration of Independence copy using a quill pen and the homemade ink. You can find copies of the Declaration of Independence at Click here to find out how to make quill pens. (We got our feathers from someone who owns chickens and turkeys, but you could also just buy feathers from the craft department at Wal-Mart. You don't have to slit the bottom of the feather. They will still write either way.)

TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: 14 feathers & 14 copies of the Declaration of Independence

21. Let children select a person to present on for their end-of-the-unit project.

22. 5 Minute Review of what we learned: Who is famous for warning the colonists that the redcoats were coming? (Paul Revere) What did they use as a sign in the church to say if the British soldiers would be marching on the land or sailing in boats? (lanterns) What was one of the first battles fought? (Battle of Lexington) What do with call the colonists who had to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice? (Minutemen) What food did Thomas Jefferson introduce to America? (ice cream) Did he fight in the war with a gun? (No) How did he help? (He wrote letters and worked in the government) What is the famous “letter”/document that he wrote? (Declaration of Independence) What did it say? (That America would no longer be ruled by England) What was some ink made from during the Colonial period? (nut shells) What did they use to write with since they didn’t have pens? (feathers called quill pens) What was your favorite activity today?

Need More Activities, Games, & Ideas?


Make tricorn hats and mob caps, "brew" root beer with Samuel Adams, hold a tea party as you study the Boston Tea Party, reenact the Battles of Lexington and Concord, make ink and quill pens in order to sign the Declaration of Independence, cook hasty pudding, drill with Baron von Steuben as you study Valley Forge, write a secret code and seal it with wax as you study Benedict Arnold, present on the people of the American War for Independence, and more during this exciting unit study!

  • The Constitution and President George Washington Lesson - This a hands-on lesson plan on the the Constitution and President George Washington. Dance a minuet, cook and eat Nelly's Hoecakes, go on a “fox hunt,” make a Constitution tree, and more! This lesson follows my 6 part unit on the American War for Independence.
  • Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.

Fireworks by Schoolhouse Rock - This is a catchy song about the Declaration of Independence.

Konos Volume II

Konos Volume II

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

© 2011 Shannon

Ideas or Comments? - Let me know you came by! Was this lens helpful? Do you have any questions, comments, or additional ideas? Please post here!

Shannon (author) from Florida on April 13, 2014:

@jmchaconne: Thank you so much!

jmchaconne on April 12, 2014:

Your lens on the revolutionary period are extraordinary, thanks!

Shannon (author) from Florida on June 26, 2012:

@favored: Thank you!

Fay Favored from USA on June 26, 2012:

A good source of resource to draw on for the unit.

TransplantedSoul on February 22, 2012:

This is awesome to share lesson plans. We cna all learn together.

HeatherTodd1 on May 13, 2011:

Thanks for the Great article!

JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on February 16, 2011:

You have such great ideas! Thanks for sharing them. =D

Related Articles