Martha Andrews
5th Grade

5th Grade Social Studies Curriculum


Printable PDF of this page
Order DVD


Andrews began the project in early March, following a study of "Life in New Amsterdam."  Although the project was designed to last six weeks, it stretched on for several additional weeks because of the normal constraints of the school calendar and the students' interest in the material.  This page details the key parts of the project as it unfolded and the several of the specific activities that Andrews used.   Three classes were videotaped, clips of which can be accessed below. Some samples of related student work and exceprts from Andrews and Falk's reflections after each class are also provided.   Longer videos from these classes are available by DVD.

Part 1:
Introduce Unit: Colonial America through the Revolution.
   • What did Colonial New York look like?
    • Class trip to lower Manhattan to walk the perimeter of colonial NY and to Fraunces Tavern.

Part 2 : Establish a sense of time and place.
  • Students compare maps of New Amsterdam and New York. Students read the British Slave code as well as narrative descriptions of how lives of Africans changed under British rule.  
    • How was NY different when under the British rule after having been ruled by the Dutch?

Part 3 (2/28/05): Understand daily life; create colonial character.
    • What jobs did people have in colonial NY? How did people get what they needed?
    • Students examine information from the City of New York census of 1703.
    • Students are assigned jobs and research these jobs (over vacation). Martha gives the students a packet that includes a set of activity guides to lead them through the steps of the project, and additional information and resources that she had gathered about jobs in colonial America.
    • Students interview each other in character.


Martha's complete written documentation of unit (pdf).

Colonial maps

NY Census of 1703 (online) (pdf)

Activity guides

Martha's reflection about the importance of assigning names to characters.

Student work: description of blacksmith job

Activity sheet for student interviews.

Part 4: Understand important issues/events of time period, including the government of the colony.
    • Who controlled the colonists? How is this different from America today? What laws regulated business? Read about mercantilism laws in book. Who did Mercantilism affect? How did the French/Indian War change relationships with England? How did the war impact Native Americans? Who was affected by Navigation Acts and Sugar Act? Why did the Native Americans side with the French?
    • Field trip to Van Cortlandt Manor.
    • Field trip to the Museum of the City of New York's period rooms.

Part 5: Develop a point of view on events as a community member.
   • Students hold a town meeting to discuss slavery/the slave code, and indentured servants. Students play different roles as members of different societal classes and discuss the fairness of these policies.
  • Students make a presentation to the whole school about "A Long Time Ago."

Falk's transcription of class discussion following students' interviews in character.

Read script and see class notes for the presentation.

Andrews's reflection about the class presentation for the school.

Part 6: Whole Class Town Meeting to discuss taxation of the colonists by the British Government.

1st "Town Meeting." Martha introduces the lesson: the colonists are being taxed (Townshend Act) (6 min. video).

Students work in small groups and the class meets for a second town meeting (10 min. video of excerpts).

Individual writing; 3rd whole group town meeting (6 min. video).
Martha talks about the day (watch 1 min. video).
    • What are taxes? What are they used for? How are they decided?
    • Budgeting--how are these taxes affecting you as colonists?
    • What can the colonists do about the taxes? What are the consequences? What will you do about the taxes?

Part 7: Students create budget for things they need to buy and calculate total taxes they must pay.
• Why does the government assess taxes?  How does it affect the lives of individuals and communities?
Martha talks about students' understanding of taxation and development of their characters (watch 1:25 min. video).
Part 8:  In their colonial characters, students discuss the taxes and try to decide what they should do to counteract them.
• How can communities and individuals show disagreement with their governments? What means of power does the common person have?

Martha and the class read and discuss a secret message (12:45 min. video) (read message, pdf).

Students work in their groups (3:35 min. video).

Second town meeting of the day (4:45min. video).

Chart used in town meeting: "What the colonists can do about taxes"

Martha and Beverly talk about the day (watch 7:25 min. video).

Part 9: Students write about the benefits of being Loyalists and Patriots and whether they are leaning toward staying with King George or going with the Sons of Liberty and the Rebels.
• What are the pros and cons of remaining loyal? How do groups of people make decisions together? How do people discuss differing opinions respectfully?
Part 10 (May 16):  Students' Final Presentations at a Town Meeting: "Will you sign the Declaration of Independence?" Assignment

Town Meeting: Students' Final Presentations (11:30 min. video)

Meeting ends; Martha assigns reflection questions. (4 min. video)

Students write reflections about the day/unit. (4 min. video)

Final Papers

Political Cartoons

Student Self-Assessment

Beverly talks about the day (watch 6:35