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Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Patriot Portraits in American History, a Unit for Grade 1

This slide show is meant to give first graders an introduction to famous American historical figures. The four American Patriots presented here are George Washington, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Mercy Otis Warren. Each is remembered for his/her acts of patriotism during the American Revolution.

Patriot Portraits in American History,
Lesson Plan for Grade 1
by Kristen McEnaney

This online gallery allows you and your first grade students to explore the concept of Patriotism during the Revolutionary Period.

This slide show is meant to give first graders an introduction to four American Patriots by linking historical facts with the individual’s portrait, historical painting, primary document image, or artifact.

The four figures presented here are: George Washington, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Mercy Otis Warren.

Portraits and paintings were of key significance to this period as there was no photography yet. Any visual record of persons or events would need to be painted, drawn, or printed. These portraits and other artifacts allow young students to establish a visual link with the subject matter they are learning.


RI.1.3: Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
W1.1: Write opinion pieces in which [the student] introduce[s] the topic or name the book they are writing about, state[s] an opinion, suppl[ies] a reason for the opinion, and provide[s] some sense of closure.


1.2 Identify the current President of the United States, describe what presidents do, and explain that they get their authority from a vote by the people. (H, C)
1.5 Give reasons for celebrating the events or people commemorated in national and Massachusetts holidays. On a calendar for the current year, identify the months for Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Patriots’ Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day. (H, C, G)


Students will also learn:
-What it means to be a Patriot
-Identify 4 Patriotic figures of the American Revolution
-How to distinguish between fact and fiction
-Share their thinking with the group or a partner in the suggested discussions and support their thinking with information from the image or factual knowledge they already have

The content material in this online gallery is divided into five sections each pertaining to one American Patriot with an introductory lesson to the concept of Patriotism.

Preparing for the Lessons:
Slides should be shown on a projector screen. The students should all be sitting so that they can see the screen. They should also have a partner to “turn and talk” with for the discussion questions who is sitting in close proximity. If students have a “Quick Write” notebook or the like, you can have them write a short response to one of the discussion questions (one of your choosing or theirs) to jot down AFTER the discussions have been completed.

Lesson 1: The first slide introduces the concept of the word “Patriot”. In first grade, it is reasonable to think their strongest connection will be to the New England football team! Show the slide and read the definition of the term Patriot (stop to clarify and rephrase if necessary). Present the discussion questions one at a time and give students time to turn and talk with a partner to generate their ideas and rehearse their verbal responses. After a few minutes, have students return attention to the slide and ask kids to share out from their partner talks with the whole group. Be sure to ask each child who shares to explain the reason for their thinking to help them extend their ideas and develop their verbal expression.

* I would recommend reading John, Paul, George and Ben, by Lane Smith, to the class as a follow up to this lesson, or a preview before the next lesson.

Lesson 2: George Washington

Show the slide of the Portrait of George Washington. Share the information presented and elicit any schema the students may already have for George Washington. As you reach the discussion questions, have the students turn and talk as they did before and then share out with the whole group. As there are multiple questions, you need not call on each student for every question. Or you may notice that there is more interest for one question than another. Follow the lead of your class. For the final discussion question, you may want to chart their responses on a Venn Diagram comparing George Washington to the current president. Continue with the other slides of George Washington.

Lesson 3: Paul Revere

Show Paul Revere using the same procedure of showing the slide, sharing information, turn and talk for discussion questions, and whole group share. As you progress to the slide of the tile of Paul Revere on his ride, pause at the second discussion question to share the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem (included below) to the students. Then share with them a factual account of the event (also included below) and have students determine which parts of the Longfellow poem were fact and which were fiction. This is another opportunity for you to chart kids’ responses.

As you show the final Paul Revere slide (examples of his silver work) you can ask the students to draw and label the other items they believe Paul Revere would have made as a silver smith. The students can then show their pictures and share their thinking, noticing what common items many students drew and what types of items were not included. Students can share how they made decisions about which items would or would not have been made of silver.

Lesson 4: John Hancock

Show the John Hancock slides using the same procedure of showing the slide, sharing information, turn and talk for discussion questions, and whole group share. Show students a copy of the text from The Declaration of Independence (the text in its original language and spelling has been included below); you may consider reading aloud a portion of it. Have students look at the names of the other patriots who signed this historic document. Do they recognize any of the names (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson)?

Lesson 5: Mercy Otis Warren

Show the Mercy Otis Warren slides using the same procedure of showing the slide, sharing information, turn and talk for discussion questions, and whole group share. The first slide brings up the notion for kids that there are men and women who are patriots. The second slide leads up to a comparison of different acts of patriotism and challenges students to decide which of the four figures they consider the biggest patriot.

Culminating Assignment: Students will write a response to the opinion question about who they deem the biggest patriot with reasons to support their opinion (see Common Core Standard W1.1 cited above).


Most of the portraits, paintings and objects in this online gallery are on view at the MFA. I encourage you to visit the museum and walk through the new American Wing to explore more figures and artifacts from this era. I would suggest that this online gallery could be a part of a larger unit of study on American figures and symbols as further outlined in the Massachusetts State Frameworks (1.3 Identify and explain the meaning of American national symbols. (H, C) A. the American flag B. the bald eagle C. the White House D. the Statue of Liberty).

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