American Revolution and Common Sense Primary Source Activities



Great way to learn about the American Revolution and the pamphlet that turned it into a war of independence: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. But this activity doesn’t just show the side of the patriots who wanted independence, it also includes a primary source by Charles Inglis who wanted the colonies to continue to be ruled by the British crown. These activities not only work for an American history class, but it also works for English reading classes!

Zero prep! Files are editable, if you desire to make some changes.

Materials include

  1. Primary resource: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense
  2. Primary resource: Charles Inglis’s The Deceiver Unmasked
  3. Primary source questions – short-answer questions
  4. Primary source questions – multiple-choice questions
  5. Summary and vocabulary
  6. H.I.P.P.O.S. worksheet

How to use this activity

Start the class with a discussion on the causes of the American Revolution. What were the causes? What were the results? Did all the colonists want to fight the British?

Then, read the primary sources as a class (or put the students into groups). Go over some of the major points and ideas in the text. For example, point out the reasons why Paine wanted to separate from Britain, and why Inglis did not. On the side of the primary sources, there is a space for students to take notes. Encourage students to annotate and take notes as they read.

Once the reading is done, start the activities. The first activity is to write a summary and define difficult vocabulary. Students can do this individually. The next activity includes primary sources questions (which includes short-answer questions and multiple-choice questions). You can choose to do this in class or as homework. The third activity is for students to recognize H.I.P.P.O.S. (Historical background, Intended audience, Point of view, Purpose, Other, So what?). This can be completed during the second session or as homework.

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?) then prepare group presentations
  • Students search for more primary sources from Patriots and Loyalists
  • Read the primary sources, then have a game show where the teacher asks questions (using the accompanying questions from the three activities), 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 sentiments of different people during the American Revolution

Students will be able to…

  • Understand more about the American Revolution
  • Comprehend Thomas Paine’s Common Sense
  • Comprehend Charles Inglis’s The Deceiver Unmasked
  • How print culture influenced the American Revolution
  • 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

8th, 9th, 10th

Resource Types

Primary Source Activities, DBQs, Printables


Colonial America


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