Who is Crispus Attucks? A Unknown Hero

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SWBAT determine a theme or central idea of a piece of text and provide an objective summary of how Attucks is an American hero during the American Revolutionary time period.

Big Idea

An Almost Forgotten Entry in Book of Revolutionary Period Records

Lesson Introduction

I remember being back in history class and wishing that time could just fast forward to lunch where I could get that one time in the school day to talk with my friends. Teaching from an interdisciplinary unit with Social Studies concepts can have many students wishing that time could fast forward. I want students to enjoy the connection that Language Arts and Social Studies has in bridging students’ understandings and perspectives on topics. This can be a daunting task but achievable if the right types of documents and tasks are being assigned to students. 

Bell Ringer

10 minutes

To hook students into a social conversation about this lesson, I ask them to get in groups and create a superhero that could have lived during the Revolutionary time period. Some teachers may want to gather a working definition of a super hero prior to students completing this activity. Since I don’t believe in boxing in creativity, I allow students to develop their own definitions of what a superhero looks and acts like. I will give students the option to either draw or write out the traits of their imaginary person. Students will share their heroes with the class.

Some superhero traits students might suggest are:

strong, brave, passionate about saving people/world, rebellious, unique, etc.

Information about Attucks

5 minutes

Crispus Attucks was an unknown seamen who becomes a man to remember. Many historians know little about this man which influences the accounts of his life stemming more from mere speculation than facts. Only a few students in my classes have heard of Attucks. One theory could be that it was rare to have an African American man recognized for his actions during a time period where slavery was prevalent. No matter the case, Attucks is known as the first figure to die for something he believed in.  

In today’s generation, students may not describe the actions of Attucks as being heroic. Although Attucks is credited as a leader in history, a debate rages for over a century that argues whether he was indeed a hero, patriot, or villain. No matter what the outcome, students have discussed the connotations or emotions that words evoke in our English language. In this lesson, “hero” is a word that has various connotations in meaning.

Students will watch this short clip about Attucks and jot down a few characteristics that could be inferred about this GREAT man.

Possible characteristics from the video revealed the following: brave, passionate, leader, strong, and a villain. Students' answers can vary depending on the information cited from the video to influence their thinking. While I did not do this step with each class, teachers can easily take this list and have students compare it to the super hero created in the warm-up activity. 

Independent Practice

25 minutes

Students will read the sample piece of folklore independently. Afterwards they will work on processing the information read in the selection by choosing a written or pictorial way to describe how Crispus is known as a hero. This expression by students will be placed in their notebooks (student work on Attucks).

The vocabulary of the article includes the words: confusion, furious, glance, harsh, lobster, respect, and serious. You will notice that these are common everyday words that many students use in their natural talk. With reading, it is important to include means of comprehending vocabulary used in the selection.  After students process the information, they will work in pairs to complete two three way ties on the vocabulary words of the selection. This comprehension strategy requires students to look at how three words connect through content or meaning. Students can share their finished products if time permits. It is nice to share these products whole group so similarities and differences can be shared on similar ties created in various groups of students.


5 minutes

Students will respond to the following prompt:

Does your superhero compare to Crispus Attucks’ actions during the Revolutionary Time Period? If you could have replace Attucks with your hero, would the events of the story change or stay the same?

The studying of Attucks allowed students to see how a hero of the American Revolution can also be categorized as a villain of this time period. Similar heroic characters from the warm-up activity included: strength, bravery, and passion. The difference included: having Attucks (or students' hero) and a group of boys initiating a ruckus with revolutionary soldiers to become legendary.