Highlighting Our History: American Revolution Read-alouds PLUS for the Common Core
For Lower Elementary Students
Benchley, Nathaniel. Sam the Minuteman. ISBN: 0-06-020479-6. Lexile: 410.
In early reader format, students are transported to the events of the night of Paul Revere’s ride. Sam Brown, whose father is a Minuteman, learns first hand of the trouble to come as British troops march toward Lexington and Concord in search of stores of ammunition. The author skillfully conveys the emotions of the main characters and sets the scene as patriots waited throughout the night. Although Sam joins in the skirmish he does not take pleasure in it.
Writing extension: Together at your interactive whiteboard, compose a news article about Sam and the evening's events using the simple template available at the Printing Press site. Children will especially enjoy putting together a newspaper using characters and events from several of the books on this list. This is a great way to tease out the key ideas and details from Reading Standards 1-3.
Figley, Marty Rhodes. Saving the Liberty Bell. ISBN: 0-329-39226-3. Lexile: 530
Students will enjoy this account of the rescue of one of our nation’s most beloved symbols. Eleven-year-old Johnny Mickley and his father are in Philadelphia delivering goods from their farm just as the city is about to be captured. The Mickleys are recruited for an important mission—to take Old Independence (now called The Liberty Bell) to safety. (British troops were known to seize bells and melt them down for making muskets and cannonballs.) With the bell hidden under a pile of hay in their wagon, Johnny has to think fast when approached by British soldiers, and is sorely disappointed when one of the wagon’s wheels breaks and they have to turn their cargo over to another farmer to complete the mission. The author provides additional information in an afterword.
Writing extension: Throughout the book students will notice references to Johnny wanting to be “a hero instead of a farm boy.” Have them reflect independently upon Johnny’s actions in the story and form an opinion about whether he truly was a hero. Consider a writing prompt like the following: “Johnny and his father were not able to finish what they set out to do, although Old Independence did make it safely to the basement of the Zion Reformed Church. In your opinion, was Johnny the hero he hoped to be? Remember to use evidence from the text to support your thinking.”
Griffin, Kitty. The Ride: the Legend of Betsy Dowdy. ISBN: 978-1-4169-2816-4. Lexile: 510.
This text is another tale of a young person who made a difference in the war effort. Though the author acknowledges that Betsy's existence has not been proved, she uses the oral tradition about this brave young girl to bring to light a true incident from 1775. Word did reach colonial General Skinner of British troops marching to Great Bridge, North Carolina (presumably because Betsy delivered a message on horseback, a distance of fifty miles.) Because they were alerted in time, they were able to claim victory and prove that colonials could in fact defeat King George’s troops. Betsy's mantra, “She couldn't stop George. She couldn't fight as a soldier. But she could ride,” along with Marjorie Priceman's energetic illustrations reinforce the central message of doing your part, (whatever that may be) for a cause you believe in.
Speaking extension: The story of Betsy's ride takes place in one night. Brainstorm as a class a list of important events in the beginning, middle, and end of this narrative. Split the class into small groups and have them practice retelling Betsy's story with the events from the list as a guide, perhaps with Betsy's refrain as a bridge between each part (beginning, middle, and end) and simple props that they create out of paper. Make a video recording after each group has practiced their retelling several times, and post it on your website or classroom blog.
Rappaport, Doreen. The Boston Coffee Party. ISBN: 0-06-024825-4. Lexile: 340.
This “I Can Read” book is based on an actual incident that was recorded in one of Abigail Adams’s letters to her husband John. (Use this as an opportunity to introduce the term primary source.) With items like sugar and coffee scarce in wartime Boston, one merchant in particular hoards supplies and charges exorbitant prices. This so angers the local women that they band together to teach Merchant Thomas a lesson. Inspired by the Boston Tea Party, they take him on a wild ride in a cart to his warehouse, demand the key, and then help themselves to the merchandise.
Writing extension: First and second graders could write a short opinion piece that answers this question: “Rules are important for communities. In your opinion, was it okay for the women to take the coffee from the warehouse? Is it ever okay to break a rule? Remember to state your opinion, give reasons, and wrap up your writing at the end. Use evidence from the text to help explain your ideas.”
Walker, Sally M. The 18 Penny Goose. ISBN: 0-06-027557-X. Lexile: 370.
The year is 1778. British soldiers are conducting raids in what is now part of New Jersey, looking for food, horses, and supplies. Letty Wright and her family must flee quickly. Fearful of what the soldiers might do to her flock of geese, Letty hastily leaves a note for them asking them to do no harm. Tension and suspense builds in four short chapters that are perfect for the youngest readers. Soldiers ransack the house, but leave a note of their own, explaining that they have left a penny (for the geese they took) with the gander of the flock (Letty’s beloved Solomon). The author’s note provides additional context. Children will be delighted to know that Letty’s descendants still owned most of those coins one hundred and fifty years after this incident.
Writing extension: Letty called the coins that the British left “lucky pennies.” In your opinion, were the pennies lucky? Explain your ideas using evidence from the text.