Reign of Terror Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teaching the Reign of Terror with your students? Use this lesson plan to examine the phase in history. Watch a video, define terms, discuss events, and follow up with an engaging activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the Reign of Terror
  • explain historical events related to Reign of Terror
  • summarize timeline of Reign of Terror
  • investigate how reporting of historical events impacts public response and view


  • 45 minutes for lesson, plus additional time for activity


  • Access to or samples of resources related to terrorism events - primary and secondary documents

Key Vocabulary

  • Reign of Terror
  • Legislative Assembly
  • National Convention
  • King Louis XVI
  • Committee of Public Safety
  • Georges Danton
  • Maximilien Robespierre
  • Girondins
  • Law of Suspects
  • Watch Committees

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

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.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9

Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.


  • Connect students to learning and engage by asking them to respond to the question 'What is terrorism?' in writing. Share answers and discuss.
  • Tell students they will be learning about a period in French history referred to as the Reign of Terror. Preview or pre-teach vocabulary.
  • Show the video lesson The Reign of Terror in the French Revolution: Definition, Summary & Timeline.
  • Ask students to take notes or provide transcripts of the lesson for students to highlight.
  • After the video, create a timeline of events of the Reign of Terror. Record on the board and have students copy into notebooks.
  • Discuss:
    • What does the phrase 'Desperate times call for desperate measures' mean? How does it relate to the Reign of Terror?
    • Describe how the events in the summer of 1792 resulted in the Reign of Terror.
    • Why was the Anti-French Coalition formed? How did France react?
    • How did the Committee of Public Safety contribute to the Reign of Terror?
    • Describe how Robespierre's ideas resulted in terror.
    • What was Robespierre hoping to achieve? Did he?
    • How did the Committee of Public Safety benefit France?
    • Explain Robespierre's claim that the ends justified the means.
    • What events led to the end of the Reign of Terror?
  • Check for student understanding and clarity.


  • Return to the question 'What is terrorism?' Compare previous answers to the events of the Reign of Terror and discuss.
  • Brainstorm recent acts of terrorism. Have students consider how these acts are the same and different than the Reign of Terror.
  • Ask students to consider the reporting of history on the events themselves. For example, how does the way an historical event is written determine pubic understanding of the event?
  • Instruct students to choose one act of terrorism to investigate. Locate several primary and secondary resources describing the event from a variety of perspectives. Write about how the event's retelling shapes the event.
  • Allow students class time to complete, or assign for homework.
  • Share work as a class. Discuss and evaluate.


  • Have students create a three-dimensional timeline of events using art mediums. Display in classroom.
  • Research the life of key people in the Reign of Terror. Write expository essays.
  • Use our related lesson to investigate the phases of the French Revolution.
  • Use our related lesson to compare and contrast the French and American Revolutions.

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