Boston Massacre – Primary Source Activities



Great way to learn about the Boston Massacre which would be one event that led to the American Revolution. Students will have a much clearer idea of how different primary sources could lead to different interpretations of history. This lesson works for History and English classes!

Zero prep! Google Doc is editable, if you desire to make some changes.

Materials include

  1. Four primary Source related to the Boston Massacre (two are photos)
  2. Historical thinking questions

How to use this activity

This activity should take at least one time period. If you are in the classroom, view the pictures and read the excerpts as a class, then discuss. Guide students to discover how the different sources could lead historians to different conclusions on what happened during the Boston Massacre. Then students answer the questions. If you are distance learning, then instruct students to read the documents by themselves and answer the questions. It is very self explanatory.

Alternative activity ideas:

  • If distance learning: students read primary source and complete the activities at home (could discuss on Zoom if possible)
  • Read the primary source as a class and then conduct a Socratic Seminar (use the activities as homework)
  • Read the primary source in pairs, then have a round table discussion (student led, but teacher prompts historical thinking questions); do activities in class or as homework
  • Read the primary source for homework, discuss in class; do questions in pairs
  • Students identify the H.I.P.P.O.S. (historical background, intended audience, point of view, purpose, other information, and so what?
  • Print the pages, annotate the primary source, take notes on the sides, and complete the activities
  • Students search for the testimonies at the solders’ court trials
  • Read primary source, then have a game show where the teacher asks questions (using the accompanying reading check questions) and teams have to race to answer the question (with some modification, could be adapted into a Jeopardy-like game)
  • After completing the primary source and questions, create a simulation so students can understand how the Puritans felt when John Winthrop gave his sermon

Students will be able to…

  • Understand more about the Boston Massacre
  • How propaganda influences movements
  • Think like a historian
  • Read, comprehend, and analyze primary sources
  • Improve their vocabulary
  • Improve their ability to read and analyze AP US History DBQ documents
  • Also useful for AP English students

Additional information

Grade Level

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Resource Types

Primary Source Activities, DBQs, Printables


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