Shays' Rebellion Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

With this lesson plan and materials from, you'll have everything that you need to help your class understand the implications of Shays' Rebellion on Early American History.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lessons students will be able to do the following:

  • Describe Shays' Rebellion - the causes and effects of the rebellion.
  • Analyze how weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation led to hardship for individuals


30 minutes, plus 30 minutes for activity

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Terms

  • Daniel Shays
  • Shaysites
  • Regulators

Warm up

Review with students the role that money and taxation had played in starting the American Revolution, then ask them to consider this lesson using the lens of the importance of money to states, governments, and individuals.


Read the lesson Shays' Rebellion: Definition & Summary, building a timeline on the board with each new event as it happens in the text. Afterwards, discuss the following items in class.

  • Given that much of the power was in urban eastern Massachusetts, how do you think that affected attitudes towards helping farmers?
  • How does this resemble today's debates about debt and foreclosures?
  • Ultimately, do you think that more government was the right answer? Why or why not?


Divide your class into groups and assign them the following topics to consider. Afterwards, discuss the small group findings with the larger class.

  • Do you think that Shays would have revolted had he known the consequence would have been more governmental power?
  • Was there a more effective way to be found to pay off debts?


  • Ask students to link what role taxation and economics has played in other conflicts.
  • Compare and contrast this to the Whiskey Rebellion

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