Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

Colonial Broadsides: A Student-Created Play

Created September 22, 2010


The Lesson


Colonial Broadsides: Image of broadside

A colonial broadside, a one-page, one-sided "newspaper" page meant to be hung on walls and posts.

Gutenberg printed his first in 1454. They are still printed today. They are broadsides: notices written on disposable, single sheets of paper printed on one side only, intended to have an immediate impact on readers.

Broadsides did have an impact in colonial America. They delivered the latest news and much more: government proclamations, public service announcements, opinion papers, advertisements, and entertainment updates. Broadsides address virtually every aspect of the American Revolution, providing a wide range of suitable classroom topics. In this lesson, students will use the resources of the Library of Congress's Printed Ephemera Collection to experience the news as the colonists heard it.

Note: For an introduction to and a complementary lesson on broadsides, see the EDSITEment lesson plan, Colonial Broadsides and the American Revolution.

Guiding Questions

  • In what ways can you connect broadsides to events leading to the American Revolution?
  • What attitudes and political positions are revealed in the broadsides?

Learning Objectives

After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to

  • List important events leading to the American Revolution in chronological order
  • Discuss the connections between broadsides and the American Revolution.

Preparation Instructions

  • Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
  • Either this lesson or the complementary EDSITEment lesson, Colonial Broadsides and the American Revolution, would work well as a culminating activity for a class studying the causes of the American Revolution.
  • An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera, available on the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory, offers an Introduction to An American Time Capsule, featuring excellent background information on broadsides and other printed ephemera.
  • Concerning the broadside No Stamped Paper to be had, available on American Memory, the Introduction to An American Time Capsule states: "Revolutionary leaders used widely circulated newspaper extras to publicize colonial solidarity and encourage future concerted efforts against British measures. 'No Stamped Paper to be had' reports a variety of colonial efforts intended to force the repeal of the hated Stamp Act of 1765, including Boston printers vowing to continue printing papers without stamps, New York and Philadelphia merchants resolving not to import British goods, New Jersey freemen declaring that they would ignore the act and all who support it, and public hangings of the effigy of the stampman in Halifax and the effigy of the Lt. Governor in New York."
  • Review the interactive timeline The Coming of Independence: Key Events from the EDSITEment resource Learner.org. Notice that this timeline offers much more than a list of events; you can access useful introductory secondary texts for virtually every event on the timeline with a single click on the T symbol in the right-hand column.
  • Selecting a broadside when browsing or searching leads you to a bibliography page. Clicking on the thumbnail on the bibliography page leads to the image page. The image page offers one click access to higher quality digitized copies of the original (.jpg and TIFF files), bibliographic information, and a full text version of the broadside in contemporary typeface. The full text option is in the heading. URLs provided in this lesson lead to the bibliography page.
  • If desired, set up a large-scale timeline or other device in the classroom on which students can post broadsides.

Extending The Lesson

Selected EDSITEment Websites

The Basics

Time Required

3 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Historical analysis
  • Role-playing/Performance
  • Using archival documents
  • Using primary sources
  • MMS (AL)


Activity Worksheets
Student Resources