Shays' Rebellion, From Revolution to Constitution

For Teachers: A Note to Teachers About This Material

A Note to Teachers

The For Teachers section of this website is made possible by a grant from the New Alliance Foundation, New Haven, CT.

The For Teachers section of this website comprises both a Study Guide and a set of eight lessons. The Study Guide is a general introduction to Shays’ Rebellion and a series of broad questions to consider when planning to teach this topic. You can use it in conjunction with the lessons, or, if time is limited, it can serve as a broad treatment of the subject in one lesson. For educators with no time constraints, the eight lessons provide a more detailed treatment of the subject.

We designed the lessons to serve as examples of how you can use the Shays’ Rebellion website with high school and college students. The curricula covers a range of topics—corresponding to each historic scene—with the goal of helping students gain a richer understanding of our nation’s Constitution and how it came to be. The lessons can also help students personalize their study of the people involved in the events surrounding the rebellion, as well as gain experience working with primary source materials.

The curricula challenges students to study the rebellion from a variety of perspectives—most notably the viewpoints of pro-Regulator people and groups and pro-militia people and groups. The website presents a variety of perspectives by Massachusetts government leaders, leaders of the US Congress, Boston merchants, western Massachusetts merchants, newspaper editors, Massachusetts farmers, notable historic figures, ordinary citizens, and military interests. We have incorporated into the lessons the voices of real people whose stories illustrate a variety of conflicting points of view, primary source materials that help illuminate key ideas, historic maps and essays. In addition, a timeline and music of the period can be used to augment lessons. The lessons encourage students to use both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources were written during the time being studied. Secondary sources were written after the fact, but the author may have studied a primary source to produce the secondary source.

Please note that the website contains a wealth of materials, especially in the Artifacts and Documents section. We obviously had to limit our use of these materials in each lesson, but you should make use of the Search function in the Artifacts and Documents section to find other artifacts and documents that might enrich your teaching. For example, if you select an item type of manuscript and use a keyword of diary or journal, you will find excerpts from diaries and journals to use in your lesson. And if you enter the word Shattuck, you will find a variety of documents for Job Shattuck: arrest warrant, order of confinement, verdict, order of execution, and reprieve.) If you want to search the entire site (not just the artifacts and documents), then you should use the Search function and the Advanced Search function at the bottom of each page. This will search historic scenes, character narratives, glossary terms, footnotes, the music section, etc.

Because the text of the site is written at an adult level, the lessons are best used with high school and college students, but can be modified for lower grades. Elementary and middle school teachers can guide students’ use of the maps, music, stories of people’s lives, artifacts and illustrations in such a way that the website will have meaning for them, despite the reading level of most of the text.

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