13 Colonies Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this Study.com lesson to teach your students about the 13 colonies. This lesson plan will help to teach students about life in the shoes of a colonist, the colonial economic system and how Enlightenment played a role in the colonies.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe life in the 13 colonies
  • explain the colonial economy and mercantilism
  • analyze the influence of European Enlightenment on the colonies


  • 1 hour. The optional extension activity can take up to an additional hour.

Key Vocabulary

  • Mercantilism
  • Enlightenment

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.4

Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.


Introduce the Concept of Colonialism

  • Begin by having students imagine there is a space mission to a new planet and that your class has been chosen to go.
  • Use storytelling to mimic the colonists' experience. For instance, you might say, 'You leave your home planet, travel across the galaxy, and start a new life in a place that is still in the early stages of development. The friends you once had back home no longer think of you as part of their society.'
  • After depicting this imagery of galactic colonialism, ask the class the following questions and discuss the answers together:
    • What would it be like to travel to this new place?
    • How would we be able to survive?
    • What are some challenges? Some benefits?
    • What types of systems would we need to create to be successful?
  • Connect this imaginary experience with those of the American colonists.

Watch the Video

  • Begin watching the video lesson The 13 Colonies: Life, Economy & External Influences.
  • Pause at 1:55. Ask and discuss:
    • What was the original intention for the economic system and structure of the 13 colonies?
    • How were the Southern and Northern colonies alike and different?
    • What importance did land ownership have to colonists?
    • What role did freedom play to the lives of the colonists?
  • Play the remainder of the video. Ask and discuss:
    • How did mercantilism impact the colonists' way of life?
    • What impact did enlightenment have on the colonists and the future of the United States?
  • Have students write an imaginary narrative of a day in the life of a colonist.



  • Divide students into three groups, one each for the Northern, Middle, and Southern colonies.
  • Show students the video The 13 Colonies: Life in Early America.
  • Have students take notes on the lives of colonists, paying special attention to their assigned region.
  • After the video, provide students with crayons and a large piece of paper, and instruct them to draw a depiction of life in their specific colony--Northern, Middle, or Southern. For instance, the Northern colonies might be filled with huge mills and small villages lining a river, whereas the Southern colonies might have a few vast plantations and many more men than women.
  • Have the groups present these depictions to the class. Discuss and analyze.

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