Creating a Colonial Newspaper

Grades: 7-8

Subjects: Social Studies, journalism

Concepts: Role of newspapers in Colonial America and today

Skills: Compare/contrast, research, writing, presentation

Materials: Posterboard, resources on Colonial history

Time: 3-4 class periods

Focus Questions

  • What was the role of newspapers in colonial America?
  • What were some key events, people or issues in pre-Revolutionary New Hampshire and Colonial America?
  • How did changing colonial attitudes facilitate the outbreak of the American Revolution?

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify 2-3 important people, events and issues during the French and Indian War time period
  • Compare and contrast events, people and issues that occurred in New Hampshire with the larger US History timeline: 1730s-1763
  • Explain how in the “road to revolution,” colonial newspapers helped foster a sense of identity
  • Describe how newspapers were the main source of information during the colonial era

Rationale and Background
Connection to the NH Framework Proficiencies

Introductory Activity

Have current print media - newspapers, magazines, tabloids (appropriate, of course) – available to students as they come in to class. Give them time to look over the headlines, pictures, stories. Then initiate a discussion about media in today’s society. Ask questions like: what purpose does it serve? Does it go too far? Not far enough? What about TV, radio etc.? Finally, transition the conversation into a comparison with colonial times. Show the primary document of a colonial newspaper [for samples go to Internet sources like the Library of Congress, for a New Hampshire sample access the New Hampshire Gazette at the Tuck Library; this paper was published in Portsmouth from 1756-1889.] Have students compare and contrast "media" then with what students are familiar with today. Ask: What would it be like to have one newspaper as opposed to the many sources of information we have currently? What difference would that make in effecting and shaping people’s opinions?

Instructional Resources or Materials

Instructional Procedure

  1. Explain to students how in the colonial period newspapers, pamphlets and leaflets, produced from hand-operated printing presses, were an important source of information. Describe how the class is going to work in teams to produce colonial newspapers of our own. Explain to students that the class’s newspapers will be different in that students will be required to use images and draw maps – a newspaper technique that came much later in history [if any students are interested the teacher could have a discussion of the impact of technology on media here. A Google search on the “impact of media on society” will yield results covering probably every aspect of this issue].
  2. Assign students to groups of four or five.
  3. Distribute the Assessment Guideline (PDF). Discuss the requirements of the project.
  4. Tell students that their goal will be to produce the front page of a colonial newspaper during the mid 1700s. Than have each person in the group takes on a role to ensure accountability. Some potential roles are:
    1. Facilitator (leader, takes direction from teacher, reports on group progress, makes sure everyone has a role and stays on task)
    2. Writer(s) (each team will want to collaborate to produce three articles, but one person may take the lead with this task)
    3. Artist (draws the art work for the front page) including headlines, map, etc.
    4. Editor (spell and grammar checker)
    5. Fact checker and layout (this person can help with research and designing the page)
  5. Give students class time to research the articles, maps and images for their front page. Determine the amount of class time needed by how much students already know of the time period and how advanced their research and writing skills are. Bring them to the library or provide resources in the classroom for them to research the information before writing their articles and designing their newspapers. So that students can make the NH connection, provide documents and books on New Hampshire History (see list of resources) and include information on Fort No. 4 the reconstructed French and Indian War fort located in Charlestown, NH (see the resources in this curriculum). If time permits, bring students to the Tuck Library in Concord so they may view early original newspapers or access the microfilm of early newspapers, i.e. New Hampshire Gazette.
  6. Guide the students’ work by circulating among the groups, meeting with team facilitators, assuring that each student has a role and is contributing on par with the rest of the group members. Occasionally, review the rubric so that teams do not leave anything out. Collaborate with the librarian to get sources for students.

Concluding Discussion questions

  1. Have each group present their poster explaining the research behind each item they included. Ask team members their reasons for choosing the events, people etc. and what was interesting about them. As an extension activity, have each team come up with ten questions based on information from their poster, distribute those questions to the rest of the students. In a scavenger hunt atmosphere have the class circulate among the posters discovering the answers to each question. These questions can form the basis of a class test or quiz.
  2. Discuss with the class the task of printing each paper by hand and how newspapers were the main source of information whether one was literate or not. Describe how they were passed around and read in public gathering places.
  3. Solicit from students reasons why and how life on the frontier gave colonists a new sense of identity, separate from the British Crown. Students will probably talk about the independent attitude needed to live far from established towns and the courage it took to bring one’s family to these frontier areas.


Each poster will be graded based on the Assessment Guideline (PDF).

Curriculum Modifications/Extension