Mayflower Compact Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

Introduce students to the Mayflower Compact and the more abstract terms of social contract and compact, and get the students involved in creating their own.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the Mayflower Compact
  • Identify vocabulary terms like social contract and compact
  • Identify why the pilgrims left for North America
  • Work together to form a classroom compact


1 hour

Key Vocabulary

At the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able to identify and define the following vocabulary terms:

  • Mayflower Compact
  • compact
  • social contract
  • pilgrims

Curriculum Standards


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


  • Show the first part of the video Mayflower Compact: Definition, Summary & History. Stop it at 50 seconds.
  • Write the words 'social contract' and 'compact' up on the board. Write down their definitions underneath each term. Ask the students to write down the terms.
  • Hold a short class discussion on these abstract terms. Ask them:
    • What do the terms 'compact' and 'social contract' mean to you?
    • Can you think of any other examples of social contracts or compacts?
  • Continue playing the rest of the video.
  • Hold another short discussion, asking your students:
    • Why was something, like the Mayflower Compact, beneficial to the pilgrims?


  • Break the students up into groups of equal number, 5-10 students per group. Ask the students to imagine they are the pilgrims first landing on Plymouth Rock. What rules/laws would they make? Why?
  • After 20 minutes of discussion, ask each group to present their compact. If compacts are long, ask each group to present their five most important laws.


Have the students write down their group's laws. Distribute copies of the Mayflower Compact. Ask students to compare and contrast how their laws differ from those in the original Compact. Have them write a 1-2 page report documenting the differences and similarities.

Related Lessons

Plymouth Colony: History, Facts & Religion

Governor William Bradford: Writings & Role in the First Thanksgiving

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