Lesson Plan

Colonial Correspondence Material

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Eighth Grade
Language Arts, Social Studies, Theatre
1 class period
Group Size:
Up to 24
in the park
National/State Standards:
SC: SS: 3.1.2-3.2.2, 3.8.1, 3.2.7; 4.1.7; 8.1.2, 8.2.6 ELA: 3rd-1-B, C, D, G; IV-A, B, D, E, F, G; V-B; Research –B; 4th- B, E, G; IV- A, B, D, E, G, H, I; 5th- I- B, D, F. IV-A, B, C, D, E, H, I; Drama - Comp 2-3


To help students gain skills in reading and writing historical journals and in construction and use of related material culture such as quill pens and journals


The student will identify problems and dilemmas in the past. The student, with teacher assistance, will construct a quill pen, sand-shaker ink blotter, and parchment journal. The student will read eighteenth-century journals and letters and contrast language and spelling to that of today. The student will create a fictional eighteenth-century character and construct a journal in proper historical context. The student will research and write a journal based on an historical battle participant. The student will select a fictional or historical figure and describe his or her feelings about the British surrender at Yorktown. In completing the above, the student will use correct contemporary or historical penmanship.


A number of Colonial-Revolutionary Era Americans kept journals. George Washington was among these. Much of his journaling was in the form of agricultural notations and records. At the Battle of Cowpens, a number of people made journal entries or completed journals later in life. James Collins, a seventeen year-old soldier in the battle, wrote a journal in his old age from memory and surviving notes. Journals such as these are first-hand accounts (primary source materials) of the past. They are invaluable sources because they give important facts about the Revolutionary War Era from one involved in the events. The reader should be cautious, however; even though the journal-writer was closer to historical events, he or she might show prejudice related to specific events. Memory lapses or reliance on folklore might also contribute to misinformation.

In addition to the content of the journal, colonial writing and penmanship are important topics of study. Writing technology had changed little over the years; early Americans still used quill pens similar to those scribes used in the Middle Ages. Journals were often bound, and some later published, as with the James Collins journal.

The following activities address the making of quill pens, ink blotters, and parchment journals as well as journaling and penmanship.


Materials needed for the above activity:
Quills – wing feathers from large birds such as geese or turkeys often available at arts and craft supply stores, and from historic sites and catalogs (often already prepared as pens) – or toothpick and construction paper Fine sand
Sharp knife (adult use)
Baby food jars
Hammer and nail
Ink (Sometimes available at historic sites, arts and craft stores, or make your own.)
Parchment Journal Parchment paper – ½ sheet for each journal
Ivory copy paper
Small paper clips 2-3 hole punchers


Last updated: May 19, 2015