COLONIAL & REVOLUTIONARY AMERICA: Film, Literature & Classroom Resources


[semester equivalent = 4.00 credits]



Eric Low



One of the essential components in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Reading is the study of the human experience. In this course you will examine key people, places and events during the American Colonial and Revolutionary period. This topic fascinates us and there are ample film, literature, and classroom resources to help communicate the scope and importance to our students.

            This course also provides video, literature and classroom resource ideas for teachers preparing for major themes of the American Revolution and Colonial Life that can actively engage students around many of the major themes and events of this time period.  Choose books and videos such as Johnny Tremain, My Brother Sam is Dead, John Adams, 1776, Last of the Mohicans, 1776 the Musical, The Scarlet Letter, etc. Many of these films are available at local libraries, from NetFlix, in video stores for purchase, and ESDs. You will choose 8 videos and 2 novels to view and write a unit plan on how you’ll use some of these in your teaching situation. In addition to film and literature, this course will also provide classroom resources on both Colonial and Revolutionary America such as websites that offer interactive maps, lesson plans, art, music, reenactment videos, lectures from leading scholars, etc.

            This course will provide curriculum ideas for Language Arts, Social Studies, and Reading teachers of grades K-12 that meet state standards.

            If you choose NetFlix, a three-month subscription is about $30. (NetFlix also has an online video capability with the right operating system.)  You will need to have access to both a DVD player and a VHS video player to enjoy the full range of media choices.



LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

Upon completion of this course, participants will:

1.     Have a broader knowledge of classroom resources on Colonial America and the American Revolution

2.     Develop greater skill in using videos, literature, and selected resources for teaching purposes.

3.     Develop a plan for a comprehensive teaching unit for the Colonial and Revolutionary themes that apply to their teaching.

Apply extended reading and research on Colonial and Revolutionary issues to lesson plans, if the credit option is chosen.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), or Washington State Clock Hours or Oregon PDUs. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours and Oregon PDUs.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



• After determining your assignment choices, you may select books from among the following options: Please see list of books under Assignment #3 and #4. • Cost of materials vary and can be found online at or

None. All reading is online.




Eric Low, M.A.  has been a teacher and coach in the state of Washington since 1992.  He has lived, taught, and studied in Southwest Washington since 1995.  Eric has a Master’s degree in history from Eastern Washington University with an emphasis in America’s West and has been an active researcher of Washington State history for 20+ years.  Eric currently teaches history at Winlock High School and serves as a Lead Teacher for ESD 112s “Constitutional Connections” American History grant, a 3 year program that has worked to utilize and develop Social Studies Common Core and CBAs in the classroom.   


COLONIAL & REVOLUTIONARY AMERICA: Film, Literature & Classroom Resources

Colonial & Revolutionary America



Novels, VHS & DVD Resources



Many of the following can be found in local libraries, ESD libraries, in Google Books, or for purchase.

Books Recommended for teachers of grades 7-12

Cooper, James Fenimore.  Last of the Mohicans, Signet Classics (July 5, 2005).
The classic tale of Hawkeye—Natty Bumppo—the frontier scout who turned his back on "civilization," and his friendship with a Mohican warrior as they escort two sisters through the dangerous wilderness of Indian country in frontier America.

McCullough, David.  1776, Simon & Schuster, First Printing edition (May 24, 2005).
Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. He also effectively explores the importance of motivation and troop morale--a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war.

McCullough, David.  John Adams, Simon & Schuster (January 29, 2008).
Adams--who, David McCullough writes, was "not a man of the world" and not fond of politics--came to greatness as the second president of the United States, and one of the most distinguished of a generation of revolutionary leaders.

Shaara, Jeff.  Rise to Rebellion, Ballantine Books (June 29, 2004).
The first of two projected novels on the American Revolution, Rebellion takes the reader from the Boston Massacre to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Steele, Ian Kenneth.  The Human Tradition in Colonial America, SR Books (April 1, 1999).
The Human Tradition in Colonial America is an entertaining as well an enlightening book that brings the colonial period to life through the stories of the colorful participants who helped mold the British dependency that would eventually become the United States.


Books recommended for teachers of grades 1st-6th

Collier, Christopher.  My Brother Sam is Dead, Scholastic Paperbacks (June 1, 2005).
All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother Sam.  Sam's smart and brave -- and is now a part of the American Revolution. Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion.  Most are supporters of the British -- including Tim and Sam's father.  With the war soon raging, Tim knows he'll have to make a choice -- between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats . . . and between his brother and his father.

Forbes, Esther.  Johnny Tremain, Laurel Leaf (January 1, 1969).
Johnny Tremain is an exciting historical fiction novel that takes place in Boston during Revolutionary war times.  It is about a young silversmith apprentice, Johnny, who meets up with people we now call heroes (John Hancock, Sam Adams, and John Adams).

Fritz, Jean.  Early Thunder, Puffin (October 1, 1987).
Events rapidly transpiring in Salem, Massachusetts in 1774-1775 force 14-year-old Daniel West to re-examine his loyalties, and finally, to change from Tory to Whig.

Herbert, Janis.  The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities, Chicago Review Press, 1st edition (September 1, 2002).
Grades 5-8.  In a series of brief articles, this appealing book traces the colonists' struggle for independence beginning with initial rebellions against taxation by George III and concluding with the Continental Congress' ratification of the Constitution.  Copious photos and biographical sidebars add dimension to the chronologically recorded events.  Besides highlighting major historical figures, the biographical entries supply information about groups of unsung heroes, including women, blacks, and frontier warriors.  The 21 projects give young people a hands-on view of colonial life.  Time line, a glossary, annotated biographical lists, and a list of Web sites are among appended materials.

Lawson, Robert.  Ben and Me: A New and Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin as Written by His Good Mouse Amos, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 30, 1988).
In A New and Astonishing Life Of Benjamin Franklin As Written by His Good Mouse AMOS, young readers will discover that while the good Mr. Franklin got considerable credit, many of his most important contributions really originated with Amos, a less-than-humble rodent.  (For ages 10 and up with a sense of humor).

Miller, Brandon.  George Washington for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities, Chicago Review Press, 1 edition (April 1, 2007).
Although most children's biographies of Washington convey the facts of his life as a youth, a military man, and a public servant, this book offers a well-written account of those topics, spiced with many details providing insight into his personality.  The 21 activities are varied, with choices such as "Play a Game of Whist," "Tie a Cravat," and "Cast a Plaster Life Mask."  Illustrated mainly with reproductions of paintings and prints, the volume concludes with a glossary and lists of books and Web sites.

O’Dell, Scott.  Sarah Bishop (Point), Scholastic Paperbacks, Revised edition (March 1, 1991).
Fifteen-year-old Sarah lives on a little Long Island farm at the outbreak of the War for Independence.  Her brother defies his Tory father and leaves to join the patriot army.  Soon her father dies for his Tory sentiments.  Finding herself a homeless orphan, Sarah goes to the crowded young city of New York.

Osborne, Mary Pope.  Revolutionary War on Wednesday, Random House Books for Young Readers, illustrated edition (September 26, 2000).
The Magic Tree House whisks Jack and Annie back to Colonial America.  They arrive just as General George Washington is planning the crossing of the Delaware.  Before they know it, they are in a boat with the Father of Our Country making history!


Web sites to be revieWED



VHS & DVD Resources


Educational Service District  

Many ESDs have Colonial and Revolutionary America videos available for use at your school.  Check selections.


Local Library Systems

Many local library systems have Colonial and Revolutionary America videos available for use at your school.



NetFlix is an online DVD site where you can order many commercial and documentary movies that are mailed to you.  A monthly subscription costs about $9, and you receive one DVD at a time.  As soon as you have seen it, return the DVD and you are supplied a second choice.  If you choose NetFlix, they have a documentary section (upper right under favorite genres on the home page) and all the films listed and described below are all available from NetFlix.  If you work quickly, it would be possible to view all the movies easily in two months or less.


DVDs from NetFlix—select 8 videos

1776 The Musical
Peter Stone's Pultizer Prize-winning musical (starring much of the original Broadway cast) about the internecine congressional squabbling that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence makes a glorious transition to the big screen.  William Daniels is John Adams, Ken Howard is a statuesque Thomas Jefferson, and Howard Da Silva is hilarious as wit-cracker Ben Franklin.  A very funny -- and poignant -- history lesson with a great score.

The Crucible
Playwright Arthur Miller's parable of the 1950s anti-communist crusade (thinly veiled here as the Salem, Mass., witch trials of 1692) receives lush treatment in this 1996 film adaptation.  After being spurned by her married lover (Daniel Day-Lewis), young Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) stirs up a frenzy of hysteria and fear with accusations of witchcraft.  Paul Scofield (who won a BAFTA Award) and Joan Allen turn in strong supporting performances.

George Washington: American Revolutionary
George Washington was forced into early adulthood at age 11, when his father died.  The future father of his country trained as a surveyor, but longed to follow his half-brother's footsteps and join a British regiment.  Via brilliant commentary and extensive archival material, this authoritative portrait traces Washington's life and career, concentrating on the 10 days in 1776 when his inspired leadership turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.

George Washington: Founding Father
From his youth of privilege to his inauguration as the nation's first president, explore George Washington's remarkable life in this compelling portrait of a man who first distinguished himself in the British forces before creating the army that would ultimately defeat them. This film is a stirring look at the American hero who remains, in the words of Henry Lee: "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen."

George Washington's First War: The Battles for Fort Duquesne
In the early years of the French and Indian War, a young, hot-tempered colonel named George Washington is chosen by the leaders of Virginia to defend Fort Duquesne from a guerilla alliance of French and Native American fighters.  Under the tutelage of British Maj. Gen. John Forbes and Swiss deputy Col. Henry Bouquet, Washington hones the legendary military acumen that would later forge a new country, as evidenced in this absorbing documentary.

The History Channel Presents: The American Revolution
Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") and Michael Learned ("The Waltons") lend their voices to this comprehensive chronicle of the American Revolution.  Actors read the words of important figures, battle reenactments depict Bunker Hill and other skirmishes, and events from Benedict Arnold's treasonous acts to the signing of the Declaration of Independence are told through period images, rare archival material and commentary by renowned historians.

John Adams
Paul Giamatti shines in the title role of this epic Emmy and Golden Globe winner that recounts the life of founding father John Adams as revolutionary leader, America's first ambassador to England, the first vice president and the second president.  The iconic cast of characters includes Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), George Washington (David Morse), Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane) and Benjamin Franklin (Tom Wilkinson).

Johnny Tremain
When an injury bars him from pursuing his trade, Revolutionary War-era silversmith's apprentice Johnny Tremain (Hal Stalmaster) finds a new life in the ranks of the Sons of Liberty army, taking part in the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's legendary ride.  Based on the novel by Ester Forbes, this Disney classic was originally crafted for "Walt Disney Presents" in two segments, which have been blended into a single film for viewing.

The Last of the Mohicans
When rugged frontiersman Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) saves the Munro sisters -- two newly arrived English settlers -- from a Huron ambush, he ends up in the midst of the battle between the British and the French for control of the American colonies.  Director Michael Mann's first-rate production also stars Madeleine Stowe as the Munro sister who wins Hawkeye's heart, and Wes Studi as the Huron warrior who has a score to settle with her father.

Liberty! The American Revolution
This PBS production showcases the events that led up to the American War for Independence, in comprehensive and sequential order.  The documentary combines narration, reenactments of events, interviews with academics and historians, actors' dramatic readings of letters and diaries written at the time and much more.  No stone is left unturned, as everything from the Boston Tea Party to the approval of the U.S. Constitution is explored.

The New World
Set in 1607 at the founding of the Jamestown Settlement, Terrence Malick's epic adventure chronicles the extraordinary actions of explorer John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Native American princess Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher).  As English settlers and Native Americans clash, Smith and Pocahontas find their worlds colliding and their hearts entwined, but ancestral loyalty may tear them apart.  Christian Bale and Christopher Plummer co-star.

The Patriot
Widower Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) wants nothing more than to live in peace and farm his land, but when a cruel British officer (Jason Isaacs) brings the American Revolution to Martin's door and threatens what he cherishes most, the former war hero is forced to take action.  With the help of his son (Heath Ledger), Martin becomes a feared militia leader. But before he can defeat the British, he must win a battle within himself.

The Scarlet Letter
This striking adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel originally aired on Boston's WGBH television station.  A young woman (Meg Foster) is condemned to wear a scarlet A on her breast for the sin of adultery, earning the ridicule and condemnation of the Puritan townsfolk who are her neighbors. Kevin Conway and John Heard co-star in this passionate, dramatic epic of love, honor and, ultimately, what it is to be human.

You Are There: The American Revolution and George Washington
Newsman Walter Cronkite's stentorian pronouncement "You are there" -- a witness to history's greatest moments -- greeted viewers of this popular television series that ran from 1953-1957.  Hosted by journalists such as Mike Wallace and Charles Collingwood, the show investigated famous historical events as though they were breaking news.  This episode depicts the crucible of the American Revolution and how it helped define George Washington.


OR, you may choose a different video with the instructor’s prior approval.