Whiskey Rebellion Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

This lesson plan explains the Whiskey Rebellion and its role in early America. Students will read a text lesson on the topic, do a real-life simulation for context, and then show their understanding with a fun activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain why colonists were resistant to new taxes
  • define excise tax and explain why it led to the Whiskey Rebellion
  • provide details of the Whiskey Rebellion
  • describe how and why the Whiskey Rebellion ended


1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.1

Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.2

Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3

Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.


  • Copies of the lesson Whiskey Rebellion Lesson for Kids: Definition, Summary & Facts, one for each student
  • Copes of the lesson quiz, one for each student
  • Mini candy bars
  • Tokens to use as currency, or fake money from your math manipulatives
  • Off-Broadway production clip of Hamilton in which the Whiskey Rebellion is addressed, found with a simple search

Key Vocabulary

  • Excise tax
  • Distillery
  • Whiskey Rebellion

Warm-Up and Preparation

  • Tell students you are going to set up a candy store. Each candy costs one token and they earn one token for a simple achievement, such as coming to school.
  • Give each student three tokens and allow them to purchase one piece of candy for now. Let them know you'll be selling more in a bit.
  • Break students into small groups and ask them to share their current understanding and prior knowledge about taxes. How do they work? Who pays? How much are they?
  • Share as a whole group, discussing the different types of taxes briefly as well as how tax money is used.
  • Tell students the candy store is open again, but this time one piece costs three tokens because you have to put a tax on them. How does this make students feel? What do they think of taxes?

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