Lesson Plan

The Early Years of the State House Bell

Close up of the inscription on the Liberty Bell, focusing on the word
NPS photo
Grade Level:
Kindergarten-Fifth Grade
History, Social Studies
Three class sessions
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Common Core Standards
Reading Information Text CCRI 5.1
Reading Information Text CCRI 5.2
Writing CCW 5.2


This lesson brings students to understand the uses of the Pennsylvania State House bell during colonial times and as it was evolving into the powerful icon of the Liberty Bell.


  • Students will identify and list at least three uses of tower bells during colonial times.
  • Students will explain the meaning of the State House Bell's inscription and create their own bell and inscription.
  • Students will use a graphic organizer to categorize key events of the State House Bell's history in Pennsylvania.
  • Students will understand and appreciate the economic and political decision-making processes of early colonist.


Students should be familiar with Pennsylvania's early history and such terms as William Penn, colony, Quakers, Charter of Privileges, and Pennsylvania Assembly.


Materials Needed:

  • The Liberty Bell by Gail Sakurai
  • Our Liberty Bell by Henry Jonas Magaziner
  • The Liberty Bell by Mary Firestone
  • A paper with the following message written on it: "Get everyone in the class to move up to the _____________(circle-time) area and wait for directions.
  • Toothpick
  • Various soft vegetables or fruit
  • Four handouts:
    Handout 1 Message
    Handout 2 Overhead
    Handout 3
    Handout 4


LESSON 1 “Origins of the State House Bell”


Whole Class Discussion “Colonial Communication Simulation”:

1. Begin the class discussion with the question: “How do people communicate today?”  Give them one minute to record a brief list (phone, newspaper, TV, text message,…)  and then record their responses on the board or chart. Next, discuss  and circle the forms of communication that immediately transfer information. Discuss items left over. (Announcement posters, newspapers, word of mouth,...) Ask, “What makes these items different?”

2. Explain that during colonial times many modes of instant communication listed on the board were not possible. There may have been several thousand people in Philadelphia during 1750’s, but it took awhile for a message to spread. Explain that you are going to simulate what communication difficulty may have been like.

3. Select a student and  give him/her a message. (See Handout 1 for example). This student will represent a colonist. Tell the class that the student has a message to deliver to the class. This message must be delivered immediately to all the colonists as quickly as possible.  Explain that the class represents the city of Philadelphia and their desks represent their homes.

4. The “colonist’s” goal is to communicate his/her message and to see how quickly the message is acted upon. The “colonist” cannot do the following things:

a. Use his or her voice as there was no way to send a colonist’s voice as a broadcast.
Cannot be seen by the everyone in the town all at once as there was no way to send an image to their homes- so students should either close their eyes or turn away so they cannot see Student A.
c. Cannot write a poster as not everyone could read. 

*The teacher will give no longer than 5 minutes for student and the class to follow the message. (You may encourage the student to be quite creative. He/she may physically travel to each home and lead each person to the meeting area (like a town crier traveling through town telling the news). He or she may clap and use gestures and model, too!)

5. Debrief:
Ask: "What do you think early colonists did to communicate messages immediately?"
Answer: In colonial times, bells were used to gather people quickly to disseminate information.

Then play a brief recording of the tolling of the bells and ask students to list/discuss other possible uses for bells during colonial times. Finally, read a transparency of page 4, paragraph 2 of The Liberty Bell by Gail Sukarai (Handout 2) on the overhead and have student pairs read and see if all possibilities were discussed.

Teacher-Directed Instruction:
1. Tell students that today we are going to learn about a special bell made for Pennsylvania during colonial times.

2. Pass out handout on vocabulary terms (Handout 3). Explain that these words have something to do with bells. Ask them to check off the appropriate column. Discuss their responses.

3. Show pictures of various monuments with inscriptions and define an inscription as a piece of writing or a message that is carved or engraved in a hard surface and one that is meant to last for a duration. Discuss the source of the inscriptions are often cited. www.ace-clipart.com/patriotic-clipart-art-01.html

4. Next create synonyms for the words "proclaim" and "inhabitants" by using sentences with context clues. Tell students that these new terms will be found in their upcoming reading.
Ex. The principal proclaimed the fifth graders the winners of the reading contest.
Ex. The inhabitants of Pennsylvania are called Pennsylvanians.

Independent Student Activity:
1. Pass out pages 5-6 of Our Liberty Bell by Henry Jonas Magaziner (Handout 4) to read independently. On the board or chart paper, list the following questions:
a. What was and is the State House Bell?
b. Why was it created?
c. Why was and is it important?

2. Then have students add new information to their vocabulary handout defining and giving details about the bell. Students put their responses on sticky sheets or index cards to be taped to the board or chart paper.

3. Class discussion of responses and vocabulary handout may be used to assess student's level of understanding.

Teacher discusses class' response to the board questions and introduces extension activities that will be included as an assessment.

LESSON 2 “How Do You Hide a 2,000-Pound Elephant?”


Whole Class Discussion:

1. Have students make estimations about the weight of the bell, height, etc.

2. Give a series of clues about the weight of the bell and have groups revise the estimation until they arrive at the correct weight. (Please refer to resources for teachers to find the correct size and weight of the bell).

Teacher-directed Discussion

1. Discuss the difficulties in moving the bell. Tell the class that the new nation of America was worried about the safety of the bell after the war with England began - as colonists feared the bell would be broken down and melted and formed into a cannon. Have the class predict what the colonists did with the bell. Record predictions on the board or chart paper.

2. Then, introduce the book The Liberty Bell by Mary Firestone. Tell the students that the teacher will be reading this aloud to see if any of the predictions were correct. (Before reading aloud, be sure to tell the class that the State House Bell and the Liberty Bell are both the same bell. Tell them to also listen to when the bell changed its name and why.  Tell them to record three new interesting facts from today’s reading onto their graphic organizer sheet.)

3. Finally, discuss the information about how the bell was moved. Also discuss how the bell was renamed.

Cooperative Work:
1. Tell the students that they are going to imagine that the class represents the citizens of the new nation of America. Their goal is to hide an object that represents the State House Bell. This object will be as big and bulky as the bell except it will not be heavy. (The teacher will show the class a large empty cardboard box or a huge Pilates ball).

2. The teacher will then divide the class into teams of 4 students. These teams each will be given one destination to carry the State House Bell safely during an assigned school day. The bell may not be damaged or altered so that it can be returned to its original form.

A. Get the bell from the class to the cafeteria.
B. Get the bell from the cafeteria to the recess playground.
C. Get the bell from class to special.


  • Students should record their plans that the group has agreed upon and write them in a final copy for assessment.
  • Discuss the outcome of the activity and discuss how it mirrors the difficulties of hiding the State House Bell.




Extension/Assessment for Lesson 1:

1. Tell the class that Isaac Norris chose a quote he felt was fitting for the bell and for the celebration of the Charter of Pennsylvania’s and its 50th year. Now you want them to choose a quote that is fitting to represent not Pennsylvania, but our classroom community.

2. Teacher reviews the direction sheet as well as the provided grading rubric.

3. Distribute the Inscription Mission. (Handout #5 and have students complete using the direction sheet provided (Handout #6).

4. Complete this final copy on outline of bell (Handout #7) 

Post Visit Assessment:

  • Prior to visiting ….Ask the students to memorize the Liberty Bell’s inscription and while at the Liberty Bell, students should record at least three new facts about why the Liberty Bell is seen as a symbol for freedom for people all over the world.

  • After visiting the Liberty Bell:
    1. A class discussion will ensue about how the Liberty Bell Center developed the theme that the Old State House Bell truly represents liberty. List key events and people that the students recall seeing associated with the Liberty Bell.
    2. Pass out a new bell (See handout in image attachment). Have the students record the Liberty Bell’s inscription on this bell. Then have them write a brief paragraph of what the inscription and the bell means to the people all over the world. The paragraph should be supported with factual information discussed in class and observed in the center.
    3. Collect and display.


Park Connections

This lesson plan helps students understand the history of this international symbol of liberty.


The assessments can also be used as extensions.


(See Handout 3)
Isaac Norris
State House Bell