Boston Massacre Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Open your students' eyes to the realities of taxation and how abuse of this process led to the Boston Massacre. A video lesson provides the narrative and newspaper articles of the time to enable students to analyze public opinion.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • discuss taxation
  • outline the events leading up to and following the Boston Massacre


1 hour


  • photocopies of actual newspapers from 1770 reporting on the Boston Massacre

Curriculum Standards


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.


Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.


  • Begin by asking students to make a list of three things that they'd like to buy.
  • Now have the students list the sale price and the tax rate for purchasing that item (they may need to use the Internet to look these up).
  • Next, have the students attempt to explain why they are forced to pay taxes. Discuss and write key ideas on the board or poster paper.
  • Play the video lesson Boston Massacre: Colonists and the Declaratory and Townshend Acts, pausing at 3:25.
  • Now ask students to imagine that the rate of taxation on the items that they placed on their lists tripled. Discuss:
    • Would they still be willing to buy the item?
    • What if the item was necessary for one's health (e.g. medicine, food, water)?
    • How would they feel if they were being taxed at this triple rate, and there was no benefit?
    • Would they try to get around paying the tax? If so, how?
  • Play the rest of the video lesson.
  • Either separate students into groups or assign the following task to individuals.
  • Give each student (or group) one of the newspaper articles documenting the Boston Massacre and ask them to read and summarize the articles, looking for key information relating back to what was explained about the event in the video lesson. More specifically, is there any mention of over taxation or its relationship to the events of that night?
  • Finally, ask students to share what they've found in the articles.

Discussion Questions

  • What can citizens do if they feel that they are being excessively taxed by the government?
  • Can taxes be a good thing for citizens?


  • Have students analyze the drawing and notes of Paul Revere. Do they think that its purpose was inflammatory?
  • Have students research the tax rates of some luxury items throughout the world. Is it fair that the tax on these items are higher? Why or why not? How might this frustrate people?

Related Lessons

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.