Lesson Plan

The Joseph Bellamy House: The Great Awakening in Puritan New England

Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden.
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 2 Standard 2B: The student understands religious diversity in the colonies and how ideas about religious freedom evolved.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

What roles can religion play in American communities?


1. To describe the basic principles of Puritanism.
2. To examine the role of religion in 18th-century New England.
3. To consider the causes and effects of the Great Awakening.
4. To trace the career of Reverend Joseph Bellamy and examine his role as a religious leader in New England during and after the Great Awakening.
5. To conduct research on prominent historical figures in their own community.


Time Period: 1740s-1790
Topics: This lesson plan will help students gain a deeper understanding of the Great Awakening as well as the role Puritan ministers played in 18th-century New England.


The rural town of Bethlehem, Connecticut still conveys an image its first minister would recognize. This small, tight-knit New England community contains pristine examples of modest 18th-century houses that surround a charming village green. The stark white steeple of the First Church of Christ (Congregational) fills the horizon. To the north, opposite the village green, the Reverend Joseph Bellamy's immense white clapboard house rises from the top of a hill, an imposing presence that makes the village appear diminutive in comparison. The house stands today as a reminder of Bellamy's role as a leading preacher, author, and educator in New England from 1740 to 1790.

Lesson Hook/Preview

By 1600, some Protestants felt that the Reformation, begun in 1517 when Martin Luther began to openly criticize practices of the Catholic Church, had not gone far enough to eliminate Catholic influence. In England, a group of Calvinists became known as Puritans because they wanted to "purify" the Church of England of any remaining Catholic tendencies. In 1630, a group of more than 1,000 Puritans left England and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony to protect their religious freedom. Over the next decade, thousands more followed and established Puritan towns over a wide area of New England.

Based on the doctrine of Protestant Reformer John Calvin, the Puritan religion proclaimed that not everyone in society would achieve eternal salvation. God selected some souls to save and condemned the rest to hellfire. Puritans opposed elaborate church decoration and priestly vestments, and insisted that individual congregations be free from control by a general church organization. In the colonies, churches were controlled by the members of the congregation rather than by their ministers. The job of a minister was to teach, preach, and set an example.

By the second half of the 17th century, religious fervor had begun to die down in the colonies as many people began to concentrate on material rather than spiritual matters. Religion for many had become more of an accepted social routine rather than a deep personal conviction. In the 1730s, concern over the declining state of religion led to several small, local religious revivals that paved the way for a more intense resurgence known as the Great Awakening.


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.


Great Awakening

Additional Resources

Connecticut Landmarks
Connecticut Landmarks, formerly The Antiquarian & Landmarks Society, is Connecticut's statewide museum-based preservation organization. It owns the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden, also known as the Joseph Bellamy House. The mission of the organization is to preserve historic structures, sites, collections and landscapes, as well as to interpret the social and material dimensions of their properties to the public.

Plymouth Colony Archive Project of the University of Virginia: 
Archives and Analysis of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691 

The Plymouth Colony Archive Project features online historical analyses and original source documents on the Colony's social history. The site features artifacts, maps, wills, court records, architecture, and samples of material culture that help students gain insight into what life was like for these early settlers.

Library of Congress: 
Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Visit this online exhibit by the Library of Congress that uses prints, paintings, and samples from its Rare Book and Special Collections Division, as well as biographical sketches, to illustrate the role of religious groups in the colonial era and their contributions to the American Revolution.

Modern History Sourcebook
The Modern History Sourcebook is one of a series of Internet history primary sourcebooks created by the History Department of Fordham University in New York. Included on their website are numerous sources on the Reformation and Colonial North America.

National Humanities Center
TeacherServe, a program of the National Humanities Center, features a section called Divining America: Religion and the National Culture which offers essays on religion during different time periods in the U.S., including The Great Awakening.

Contact Information

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Last updated: March 12, 2020