Lesson Plan

Ben Franklin:  What a Character!

Benjamin Franklin wearing a fireman's helmet.
This 19th century image shows Benjamin Franklin in a Union Fire Company uniform in front of the Union Fire Company building.

c. 1850 by Charles Washington Wright, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record ID 56990

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fifth Grade
Language Arts, Social Studies
One to two class periods, depending upon teacher preference and the literacy block format.
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Common Core State Standards associated with this lesson:
RI 3.1
R.I. 3.7
S.L. 3.1 A, B, C, D


This lesson is relative to the Common Core in that students collaborate and defend their choices of Franklin's character traits by citing evidence.  This lesson is multi-curricular (social studies, ELA, ESL, Arts & Humanities when using the extensions).  This lesson combines Reading, Speaking, and Listening standards as well as content language that students need to be familiar with to answer constructed response questions.  The lesson plan is readily adaptable for Differentiated Instruction.


1. Students Will Be Able To (SWBAT) analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone;
2. SWBAT cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text;
3. SWBAT determine central ideas or themes of a text; summarize the key supporting details and ideas;
4. SWBAT use information gained from illustrations (i.e. photos and primary sources) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text;
5. SWBAT engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own ideas clearly.


  • printed cards of Franklin's accomplishments and history (one set per pair/group)
  • printed copy of Franklin's character traits (headings)(one set per pair/group)
  • list of vocabulary words and definitions
  • chart paper
  • discussion directing prompt card (one per student)
    My card shows:
    I think it belongs in this category:
    My evidence to support this choice is:




Pre-and Post assessments can be done to determine the knowledge of Benjamin Franklin’s achievements and character traits that students acquire. This assessment sheet is suggested. Note: each answer is worth 10 points.


Park Connections

This lesson plan ties directly to a primary theme at Independence National Historical Park, “The Life of Benjamin Franklin” as shown in the new Benjamin Franklin Museum.



1. Write a “five paragraph” informational essay stating a set of traits and its corresponding evidence.

2. Use a main idea/detail outline (boxes and bullets) resulting in a paragraph. Main idea is one character trait and details are the supporting evidence obtained through the character cards.

3. A descriptive/creative writing assignment in which the student identifies a contemporary problem and how to go about solving that problem using Benjamin Franklin as an inspiration.

4. A first person essay, in diary form, in which Benjamin Franklin explains why he created one of his inventions or the problem he felt needed to be solved.

5. Improvise a “scene” in which Ben either sees a problem to be solved and solves it, or works with others to accomplish something.

6. Think of a contemporary problem in daily life today. Draw a picture of an invention that might help.

7. Draw, or act out, Ben exhibiting one character trait. What is he doing? What action is he taking?

Additional Resources

Web Resources for teachers and students:

Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary
http://www.benfranklin 300.org/

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man

Ben's Guide

Independence National Historical Park

Resources for Teachers (Print):

Block, Seymour Stanton. Benjamin Franklin, Genius of Kites, Flights and Voting Rights. McFarland & Co., 2004.

Franklin, Benjamin. Franklin Writings. The Library of America, 1987.

Franklin, Benjamin and Paul M. Zall. Franklin on Franklin. University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin's Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman's Life. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003. Modeled on Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac, this book is a combination of biography, anecdote, cartoon, and etchings. Geared toward middle schoolers, it is still a wonderful resource for adults.

Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Lemay, J.A. The Life of Benjamin Franklin. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Talbott, Page. Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. Yale University Press, 2005.

Resources for Students (Print)

Adler, David A. A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin. Holiday House, 1990.
A biography of Franklin geared toward primary school children.

Adler, David A. B. Franklin Printer. Holiday House, 2001.
A detailed autobiography for older students; contains a detailed timeline of events in Franklin's life.

Barretta, Gene. Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin. Henry Holt and Company, 2006.
A picture book that compares modern inventions with those designed by Franklin.

Fleming, Candace. The Hatmaker's Sign. Scholastic, 1998.
A story by Benjamin Franklin, retold by Ms. Fleming in picture book form.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell. Who Was Ben Franklin? Grossot and Dunlap, 2002.
An illustrated biography suitable for students in grade 3 and beyond.

Fritz, Jean. What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? Putnam and Grossot Group, 1976.
A brief account of Franklin's role in the early history of America. Written for students in intermediate grades.

Giblin, James Cross. The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin. Scholastic Press, 2001.
A picture book biography accompanied by masterfully painted illustrations. Length and context of text makes this suitable for older students.

Gutman, Dan. Qwerty Stevens Stuck in Time with Benjamin Franklin. Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Historical fiction about a boy whose time travel machine transports Ben to the 21st century. Intermediate level.

Murphy, Frank. Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares. Random House, 2001.
A Step Into Reading Book (Step 4), that discusses Ben's sayings, discoveries, and inventions.

Pingry, Patricia A. Meet Benjamin Franklin. Ideals Children's Books, 2001.
A biography in picture book form that presents Franklin simply and with humor.

Schanzen, Rosalyn. How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning. Harper Collins, 2005.
Focuses on Franklin's role as an inventor; a picture book appropriate for ages 6 and up.

Schroeder, Alan. Benjamin Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z. Scholastic, 2006.
A collection of interesting facts and anecdotes categorized alphabetically. Great read-aloud.

Smith, Lane. John, Paul, George and Ben. Hyperion Books for Children, 2006.
A picture book in which the author imagines these patriots as children. Uses humor to entice readers.

The Ben Franklin Book of Easy and Incredible Experiments. John Wiley & Sons, 1995.
A Franklin Institute Science Museum Book that shows students how to conduct experiments the Ben Franklin way using inexpensive everyday items.

Appleseeds, Benjamin Franklin. A Cobblestone Publication. December, 2004.
This magazine is written for grades 3 and up and the entire issue is dedicated to Benjamin Franklin. Includes a Reader's Theater and fun activities.


Major vocabulary introduced:

Industrious - constantly or regularly active or busy
Hardworking - known of taking on difficult tasks and “stick-with-it-ness”
Practical - good at putting ideas or plans into action
Sensible - having, using or showing good sense

Generous - free in giving or sharing
Team Player - works well with others to solve problems
Caring - to feel interest or concern
Thoughtful - considerate of the rights and feelings of others

Clever - quick in learning; showing wit
Problem-Solver - looks at a problem as something that needs to be solved
Imaginative - showing creativity, especially in inventing
Curious - eager to learn

Negotiate – to work with other people to reach an understanding
Establish – to start or begin something that is permanent
Publish – to make publicly known, present formally
Committee – a group of people with an assignment to complete
Apprentice – a person who works for another to learn a trade
Political – referring to the government actions or people

Last updated: February 26, 2015