Lesson Plan

Surviving and Thriving - Lesson 2: Washington's Orders

A reenactor portraying a continental soldier is swinging an axe to cut a notch in a log for a cabin
Notching a log

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Eighth Grade
Colonial History, History, Planning/Development, Revolutionary War
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Pennsylvania State Standards:
8.1: Historical Analysis and Skills Development
8.1.6. B, 8.1.7. B, 8.1.8. B

Common Core State Standards
RH.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.2b, WHST.6-8.4


This lesson focuses on exploring what may have been one of the most important orders given by General Washington during the winter encampment, building the hut.

The "Surviving and Thriving" unit is broken into seven lesson plans. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit - each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources.
This is lesson 2 of the unit.


In the second lesson, students will work as a small group in making decisions and fostering discussion. Students will examine primary source materials and engage in a model hut building exercise.

Each student must remember that he/she is also moving through the steps of the module from the perspective of an individual Continental soldier who is ultimately assessing his/her ability to successfully "survive and thrive" while encamped at Valley Forge.  


The "Surviving and Thriving" unit is broken into seven lesson plans. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit, though some lessons do refer to one another and are better done in sequence. However, each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources.

Throughout the unit, students will evaluate and understand the winter encampment site at Valley Forge (1777-78) by taking part in the life of a member of the Continental Army as it marched into Valley Forge, was challenged by multiple elements, and then potentially exited to continue the war for independence against the British. 

We suggest that students be placed in small, heterogeneous groups which can then move as independent entities through the lessons. The students within a group will individually complete the "Survival Rubric" with each learning module to determine, at the completion of the curriculum, how successfully he/she has "survived and thrived" by virtue of their individual "survival score." 

Other lessons in this unit
Lesson 1: The March In
Lesson 2: Washington's Orders
Lesson 3: Breakfast...Lunch...Dinner?
Lesson 4: Keeping the Doctor Away
Lesson 5: The Daily Routine
Lesson 6: Successful "Sogering"
Lesson 7: The March Out



Step 1: Students will actively read the primary source text. This can be done individually or as a whole group. After they read, students should complete the assigned graphic task while utilizing the text. Your graphic task is to take the information provided in the primary source document and transfer it into an artistic sketch of the encampment. Ask yourself: what does this encampment look like based on the information provided in General Washington's orders? 

Step 2: Each group of soldiers will use the following materials: 1 lump of clay, 20 wooden popsicle sticks, 1 piece of white construction paper, and 20 plastic straws to build your hut in which you will live in during the winter encampment. General Washington has given the army VERY specific orders, thus you must use the required sizes and shapes. Remember that your supplies are limited and cannot simply be replenished at a store. You are encouraged to work together to complete this process.


Students who have completed the reading text and the graphic task, may award themselves up to 5 Survival Points on their Survival Rubric based on the quality of their work.

Students who successfully complete your hut you may award yourself up to 5 Survival Points on your Survival Rubric.


The Valley Forge Archaeological Dig
The link below will bring you to a terrific exploration of an actual archaeological dig at Valley Forge National Historic Park in 2000: http://www.cr.nps.gov/logcabin/html/vf.html 

How to Build a Hut

Primary Source Text: Washington's Orders 
Read the following from General George Washington's orders to his troops about building log huts in the winter of 1777: 
"The soldiers were to be formed into twelve-man squads, each charged with building its own hut. These shelters were to be made of logs chinked with clay, and were to be six and a half feet high, fourteen feet wide, and sixteen feet long. They were to be aligned along company streets, with doors (made of boards, if available, otherwise of split-oak slabs) facing the street. There would be a fireplace in the rear, made of wood and "secured" with clay. Behind the enlisted men's huts was to be a line of huts for officers. These were to be of the same design and dimensions; but instead of twelve men, each would house the officers of two companies (six to eight men), the three field officers (major through colonel) of a regiment, the members of a brigade staff, or one general officer."( G. Washington. The Writings of George Washington: From the original Sources 1745-1799. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934.)