Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

Why Do We Remember Revere? Paul Revere's Ride in History and Literature

Created October 14, 2010


The Lesson


Why Do We Remember Revere?

Sheet Music for Paul Revere's Ride By Webb Miller, 1884

Credit: Courtesy of American Memory

In his account of his famous ride, Paul Revere described the impetus for his journey: "…I was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren, of said Boston, on the evening of the 18th of April, about 10 o'clock; when he desired me, 'to go to Lexington, and inform Mr. Samuel Adams, and the Hon. John Hancock Esq.'" Though the lantern signal from Christ Church had been Revere's idea, he never mentions seeing it, though he does go on to say, "I set off, it was then about 11 o'clock, the moon shone bright." Anyone who learned the story from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow heard it told a little differently. Virtually all students, at one point or another in their schooling, are exposed to Longfellow's ballad, "Paul Revere's Ride." How accurate is it? Is it responsible for Revere's ride achieving such iconic status?

Provide the opportunity for your students to think about the answers to these and other questions as they read primary and secondhand accounts of events during the American Revolution. Extend the study of American Revolutionary history into literature by discussing how Revere's ride has been dealt with in poems by Longfellow and others.

Note: Your students can learn more about other rides during the American Revolution in the related EDSITEment lesson plan Not Only Paul Revere: Other Riders of the American Revolution

Guiding Questions

What are the essential differences between Longfellow's account of Paul Revere's ride and historical fact? Why does Revere's ride occupy such a prominent place in the American consciousness?

Learning Objectives

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

  • Recount the circumstances prior to, during and after Paul Revere's ride
  • List differences between Longfellow's poem and the historical event
  • Determine possible political reasons for Longfellow's writing the poem
  • State and critique some hypotheses that might explain why we remember Paul Revere's ride as we do

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.
  • If you are going to use it, download the excerpt from Chapter III of The True Story of Paul Revere (1906) by Charles Gettemy, from the site Archiving Early America a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Studies at the University of Virginia. This is the lengthiest (9 pages), and most difficult of the accounts used in this lesson, but it is the most detailed and arguably the most colorful. Assign to a group accordingly.
  • Familiarze yourself with Longfellow's abolitionist views by reading Jill Lepore's article Paul Revere's Ride Against Slavery. As discussed in the article, Paul Revevere's Ride is about an event that happened during the American Revolution, yet Longfellow may have quietly intended for the poem to pursuade the nation to join in a new battle for freedom by supporting the end of American Slavery. Understanding the poem as a critique of social policy and a national call to action will help you guide students' exploration of the the poem's place in national memory.
  • Determine whether you have the Flash plug-in installed on student or classroom computer(s). You will need this plug-in to participate in the optional activity Paul Revere: Messenger of the Revolution, an online presentation on Archiving Early America, a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Studies at the University of Virginia.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Facts about Paul Revere

Ask the students what they know about Paul Revere. Read with the class a brief biography of Paul Revere, such as the one available on the website of the Paul Revere House, a link from the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library, skipping (for now) any sections specifically about the ride.

Ask students to identify any facts about Revere heard in the biography that they did not previously know, and keep a class list of these new facts on the chalkboard or elsewhere. Do the students believe Revere would have been remembered for other achievements even if he had never been on that famous ride?

If desired, review with the class the political/military circumstances surrounding Paul Revere's ride. The EDSITEment resource Learner.org features a pertinent timeline as part of its Biography of America. To help students understand the political situation in 1775, access additional information about events on the timeline by clicking on the "T" in the right-hand column. Share with the class these two opposing accounts of events surrounding the Battle of Lexington, written at the time the events occurred. Both are from the EDSITEment-reviewed website American Memory:

Discuss the similarities and differences between the accounts. Do they help answer the question, "Who fired the 'shot heard 'round the world'?" Or, do they add to the confusion?

Activity 2. Record details of account's version of the ride

Divide the class into as many as eight groups (six, if you choose not to use the online presentation below), assigning each of the following accounts to one or two groups:

Encourage students to make note of the details of their account's version of the ride. If desired, you can use or adapt the PDF handout, Keeping Track of Paul Revere. Then, work together as a class to construct the best possible version of what really happened on the ride.

Activity 3. Read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem "Paul Revere's Ride"

Read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem "Paul Revere's Ride" aloud to the group without the students looking at the text; the poem is available from the EDSITEment resource The Academy of American Poets. After one reading, ask students what stands out for them and what they recall about the poem. Then pass out copies of the text and assign sections to volunteers to read aloud as the class follows along. Further class discussion at this point should focus on literary elements and not historical detail, as that will be covered later.

After the poem has been read aloud, and before the discussion to follow, give students the opportunity to review the poem on their own. Ask them to make notations in the text. For example, have them

  • Circle memorable place names (North Church, Lexington, Concord)
  • Underline lines indicating the historical importance Longfellow attributes to Revere's ride
  • Underline twice lines indicating the personal qualities with which Longfellow imbues Revere and the Patriots at Lexington
  • Make stars beside lines indicating Longfellow's attitude toward the event.

Ask students to think about the following:

  • Longfellow published his poem in 1861, when the country was in a state of turmoil-the start of the Civil War. Do the students think he was trying to renew national unity?
  • What does the class think is the "word that shall echo forevermore!"?
  • Pay special attention to any details in the poem they recall from the other accounts of Revere's ride
Activity 4. Note differences and similarities between the poet's account and summarized details of the event

Download and distribute copies of a Venn diagram for students to use to note differences and similarities between the poet's account and the class summary of the details of the actual event. If desired, when the groups are done, use student input to build a composite diagram on the chalkboard. Prepare the class for a discussion of why we remember Revere's ride the way we do. Download a copy of the handout Why Do We Remember Revere's Ride the Way We Do? Pass out copies to the class and have students complete the questionnaire. Discuss students' ratings, as well as any additional hypotheses offered by students, and attempt to come up with a unified theory about the iconic status of the ride.

Extending The Lesson

  • Introduce students to additional poems by Longfellow, some of which have historical themes. Appropriate examples may be found:
  • Other poets have written about Revere's ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Have students read a few of these poems. How did the poets treat the subjects? How accurate were their accounts? The EDSITEment resource American Verse Project features the following:
    • From "The Poems of Sidney Lanier," a collection published in 1885, Psalm of the West(page 128), starting with the lines:

      “O'er Cambridge set the yeomen's mark: Climb, patriot, through the April dark.”

    • From the 1903 collection "Ballads of Valor and Victory Being Stories in Song from the Annals of America" by Clinton Scollard and Wallace Rice Scollard, The Minute Men of Northboro.
Selected EDSITEment Websites

The Basics

Time Required

3 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Common Core
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Common Core
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
  • History and Social Studies > U.S.
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Poetry
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Analysis
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Poetry analysis
  • Writing
  • MMS (AL)

Related Lessons

  • Not Only Paul Revere: Other Riders of the American Revolution

    Created September 24, 2010
    Paul Revere's Ride

    While Paul Revere's ride is the most famous event of its kind in American history, other Americans made similar rides during the Revolutionary period.  After learning about some less well known but no less colorful rides that occurred in other locations, students gather evidence to support an argument about why at least one of these "other riders" does or does not deserve to be better known.