Lesson Plan

The French and Indian War 1754-1763: What Were They Fighting For? - Unit 2

A mounted beaver
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
4.RI.1, 4.RI.2, 4.RI.3, 5.RI.1, 5.RI.2, 5.RI.3, 4.SL.1, 4.SL.1.a, 4.SL.1.c, 4.SL.2, 4.SL.4, 5.SL.1, 5.SL.1.a, 5.SL.1.c, 5.SL.2, 5.SL.4
Additional Standards:
National History Standards: K-4 Topic 2: 3A, 3B, 3D; K-4 Topic 3: 5A; US Era 2: 1B.  National Geography Standards: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 17
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

Guiding Questions: What were they fighting for?  Why did the American Indians fight?  Why did the British and French want access to the land?


Student Objectives: Students Will…
• List one reason the American Indians who lived in the Ohio River Valley became involved
• List one reason the French wanted to control the Ohio River Valley
• List one reason the British wanted to control the Ohio River Valley


This is Unit 2 from the teacher’s guide “The French and Indian War 1754-1763.” It includes one lesson plan:

  • “What Were They Fighting For?” has the students read about the motives of each of the three groups and do an oral report.

Critical Content: The American Indians living in the Upper Ohio River Valley used the land, forests and waterways to maintain a traditional lifestyle. They liked trading with the Europeans, but did not want them to settle their lands. The American Indians were fighting to maintain control of their land and their cultural future. The French claimed the Upper Ohio River Valley. They wanted to trade with the American Indians and control the area. The British also claimed the Upper Ohio River Valley. The British settlers wanted to farm the land, the British traders wanted to trade with the American Indians, and the British land speculators wanted to buy the land so they could make a profit selling it. It was clear there was going to be conflict. 

See the “Related Lessons and Educational Materials” section for links to the other units in the teacher’s guide.


The teacher should make copies of the student reading "What Were They Fighting For?" 


The downloaded lesson plan includes an introduction (p 43), teacher instructions (p 44), and three student readings (p 45-47).

Download Lesson Plan - What Were They Fighting For?

The teacher background covers from the beginning of the war to the beginning of the American Revolution. For this unit read page 17, What Were They fighting For?

Download Teacher Background: The French and Indian War 1754-1763

This color map is optional. It shows the French and British colonies and the disputed area. It also shows where the American Indian Nations lived and where French and British forts were located.

Download Map: Indian Nations and French and Indian War Forts 1754-1760

Lesson Hook/Preview

Everyone wants and needs things to survive and be happy. However, sometimes one person’s wants and needs differ from another person’s wants and needs, leading to conflict.  Write about one time you wanted something different than another person and what happened.


1. Download the pdf of the lesson plan which includes the teacher instructions and the student readings.

2. Download the teacher background from the Materials section and read page 17.

3. Divide the class into three teams. Assign to each team one of the three groups – French, British or American Indian. Give each student a copy of the student reading.

4. Have the students read the student reading and identify the reasons their group (French, British or American Indian) wanted to control the Ohio River Valley and what they needed to accomplish this.

5. Have the team make an oral presentation about what they learned about their group's wants and needs.

6. Have each student complete a graphic organizer listing the three groups, each of the groups’ wants, and each of the groups’ needs.

7. As a math extension, graph the population of each of the groups at the start of the French and Indian War using this information: British: 1.5 million people, French: 70,000 people, American Indians in northeastern North America: 175,000


Upper Ohio River Valley - the area drained by the rivers that flow into the Ohio River in what is now western Pennsylvania.

Neutral - When a nation or person does not support either side of a conflict.

Allies - People or groups that join together for a common cause.

Assessment Materials

Assessment Unit 2: What Were They Fighting For?

The assessment includes a competed graphic organizer, a graph, an oral presentation rubric, a graphic organizer rubric and a bar graph rubric.

Download the assessment document for information and three rubrics.

Assessment The French and Indian War 1754-1763 Unit 2: What Were They Fighting For?

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

The teacher can help struggling readers by reading the student readings aloud.

Enrichment Activities

Complete the Math Extension activity found in the lesson plan.

Additional Resources

Fort Necessity National Battlefield web site 

A Charming Field for an Encounter the park's handbook 

Becoming George Washington a curriculum about George Washington in the French and Indian War

Related Lessons or Education Materials

“The French and Indian War 1754-1763” Teacher’s Education Kit is broken into eight units and a Teacher Background section. Units 1 - 6 chronologically follow the war from start to finish, including how the war set the stage for the American Revolution.  

Links to the other units:

Unit 1: Who Were the People Involved?

Unit 2: What Were They Fighting For?

Unit 3: How Did the Conflict Begin? (This includes two lessons on George Washington)

Unit 4: How Did the War Progress?

Unit 5: How Did the Conflict End? What Were the Consequences?

Unit 6: How Did the French and Indian War Set the Stage for the American Revolution?

Unit 7: Biography Cards (there are nine American Indian, nine French, nine British biographies)

Unit 8: Primary Documents and Artifacts


French and Indian War Historic Sites in Western Pennsylvania

Contact Information

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Last updated: June 10, 2022