Lesson Plan

The March In

The March to Valley Forge

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
State Standards:
Pennsylvania  Subject: History Grade Level: 6th.  8.1.6A and 8.1.6B
Pennsylvania  Subject: History Grade Level: 7th    8.1.7A and 8.1.7B
Pennsylvania  Subject: History Grade Level: 8th    8.1.8A and 8.1.8B
Thinking Skills:
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.


In this lesson, students will examine secondary source documents and utilize map skills to understand the reasons why Valley Forge was chosen as the site for the Continental Army's winter encampment in 1777. 
Students will then be able to answer the following essential question: Why did General George Washington choose Valley Forge as the site for the Army’s winter encampment?


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."


Reserve computers - Ideally students would have one computer or laptop per pair or small group. If this is not possible, an AV computer can be used to do the map activity as a whole class.

Make one copy of “The March In – A Reflection” per student.

Make one copy of “The March In – Secondary Texts and Maps” per student or per group of students.

Make one copy of “Survival Rubric” per student.


Students will use these sources and questions to investigate reasons for General Washington's choice of Valley Forge as a winter encampment.

Download The March In – Secondary Source Texts and Maps

Rubric for students to self-assess performance during the lesson and throughout the unit.

Download Survival Rubric

Learning module for teachers

Download March In


1. Ask students to answer the following question either in a discussion or on a piece of scratch paper: if your parents trying to pick a weekend camp site in the Valley Forge National Park for a camping trip in late December, what should they think about? What would you want to know about the site before setting up your tents?

2. Give students three minutes to brainstorm. Then, ask students to share their responses. Expect answer such as: it should be safe, it shouldn’t be dangerous, it should be near bathrooms, it should have a campfire and trashcans, no poison ivy, near a road or hiking trail, etc.

3. Explain to students that General Washington also had to pick a campsite in late December, but he couldn’t just Google different locations. General Washington had to use the information available to him to pick the best winter campsite for 12,000 continental soldiers. Today, you will investigate maps and texts to figure out why General Washington chose Valley Forge in Pennsylvania as his winter encampment. 

4. Ask students to make educated guesses or hypotheses why General Washington chose Valley Forge. List these hypotheses on the board.

5. Explain to students that they will investigate three secondary texts during the investigation. Hand out “Secondary Source Texts and Questions” to each student. Students may work individually, in pairs, or in small groups at the teacher’s discretion.

6. Give students 15 minutes to complete their research. Then, debrief the answers to the secondary text questions as a group. As students discuss the secondary texts, ask students to clarify, change, or add to their hypotheses on the board.

7. Put students in pairs or small groups depending on computer availability. If computers are extremely limited, an AV computer can be used to complete the next map investigation as a whole class.

8. After each pair, small group, or whole class has access to a computer, instruct students to turn to Map Skills and Strategic Decisions in the “Secondary Source Texts and Questions” packet.

9. Give students fifteen minutes to investigate the maps and answer map questions. Then go over the questions. As students discuss the maps, clarify, change, or add to their hypotheses on the board.

10. Students have now investigated four sources to identify reasons for General Washington’s choice. Hand out to each student “The March In – A Reflection”.

11. Give students fifteen minutes to complete the reflection. If time, ask students to turn their reflection into a written response.

12. For the entire unit, students will self-assess their own knowledge and performance at the end of each lesson using the survival rubric


Encampment – Site or location of a camp, usually for the long-term.

Forge – Place where metal is made.

Valley – A low area of land between hills, or mountains, typically with a river or stream flowing through it.

Gristmill – A building with equipment and machinery for grinding grain into flour.

Sawmill – A building with machinery that saws logs into lumber.

Assessment Materials

The March In – A Reflection

Students will identify and evaluate reasons for General Washington’s choice of Valley Forge.

March In - reflection

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

Generating, clarifying, and adapting hypotheses help support all learners in identifying reasons why General Washington chose Valley Forge as a winter encampment site.

Put students into mixed-ability groups for the secondary text and map analysis.

For the secondary text questions, put students into groups of three. Each student in the group can take a different text. The secondary texts get progressively more difficult (1 is the most simple and 3 is the most complex).

Enrichment Activities

Ask students to choose their own winter encampment site that differs from the choice by General Washington. Students should give reasons and evidence from the secondary texts and maps that support their choice.

Contact Information

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Last updated: May 21, 2015