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Download this lesson plan and its components to your desktop computer. You can save these files to your desktop computer, then edit them, print them, or email them to your class. When you open these files on a handheld computer, they are automatically converted to handheld versions.

Download Lesson Plan

Download Background Questions

Download French Revolution Discourse Frames (See Instructions for help importing content into Discourse.)

Download French Revolution Web Guide

Download Research Guidelines

Download Problem-Solution Frames (desktop computer version only)

Download Flowchart (desktop computer version only)

Download Evaluation Rubric

Revolution is in the Air!

If Marie Antoinette had never said "Let them eat cake!" what would have happened during the French Revolution? Challenge your students to learn what was and what might have been as they predict different outcomes of the French Revolution during this simulation activity.

Grade Level(s)

Curriculum Area
Social Studies, English/Language Arts

Time Required
3-5 class period

Standards Connections
Materials/Resources Needed
Teacher Preperation
Introducing the Lesson
Student Activities
Wrap-Up and Evaluation
Extension Activity

Standards Connections
  • National Standards:
    • Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS)/ Standard 6: Power, Authority, and Governance
    • Standards for the English Language Arts (NCTE/IRA)/Standard 7: Conducting Research and Standard 8: Using Technological and Informational Resources
  • State Standards:
    • Maryland School Performance Program
      1. Social Studies/ 3.13 Students demonstrate understanding of the causes and consequences of political revolutions in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
      2. English/ 3.12.2 Research. Students use clear research questions and coherent research methodology to elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources using available library, electronic, and human resources.
      3. English/ 3.12.3 Revision and Evaluation of Writing. Students improve the style, sentence variety, controlling perspective, precision of word choice, and tone in light of the purpose, audience, and formality of the context. Students self-edit and refine writing using knowledge of standard English conventions of language and appropriate print and nonprint resources (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus, spell-check software).
    • See www.explorasource.com for more state standards connections.
  • District Standards (fill in your own)
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Students will:
  • Explain the immediate causes of the French Revolution.
  • Analyze the social, political, economic, religious, and intellectual causes and results of the French Revolution.
  • Analyze the historical impact of the French Revolution.
  • Draw conclusions about the consequences of revolutions and how they can be avoided.
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Materials/Resources Needed
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Teacher Preparation
  1. Review the electronic downloads and revise as needed. You may want to locate more pictures in print materials depicting the social classes in 18th-century France.
  2. Use the link provided in the French Revolution Web Guide to find and download a free copy of A Tale of Two Cities in eBook format. You may want to email or begin beaming this to students before the day you plan to start the unit in class since it can be time-consuming to transfer large eBooks.
  3. Consider assigning the Background Questions as homework the day before the start of the unit. Make sure that the Background Questions document matches the information about the French Revolution explained in students' textbooks or other available resources.
  4. Divide students into four mixed-ability cooperative learning groups.
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Introducing the Lesson

  1. Once students are in their cooperative groups and have all their Electronic Handouts, ask them to open the French Revolution Web Guide and cut and paste the URL for each of the paintings into Pocket Internet Explorer so that they can view them on their handheld computers.
  2. Students should discuss the pictures and answer the following questions with their groups:
      a. What are the differences that you see between the three Estates in France? When answering this question, think in terms of economics, education, entertainment, and standard of living.
      b. If you were a member of the Third Estate (commoners), what types of grievances might you have against the other two estates? What types of grievances might you have against the monarch, Louis XVI?
      c. Why does the Cardinal look so wealthy? Where does he get his money?
  3. Discuss students' observations and conclusions about the pictures as a class.
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Student Activities

Activity 1: Background Information
Grouping: Four cooperative groups
Materials: French Revolution Web Guide, Background Questions, A Tale of Two Cities eBook
  1. Review the answers to the Background Questions with the class to ensure that everyone understands the basic facts about the French Revolution. Be sure to make connections between the assignment and the picture activity above.
    Tip: Use Discourse so you can assess how all students answered the homework questions, not just those that volunteer to read their answers aloud.
    1. Download the French Revolution Discourse Frames and import them into your copy of Discourse Teacher.
    2. Open the French Revolution lesson you imported. Ask your students to open Discourse and connect to your computer.
    3. Make sure you are in Response view by clicking the Response button, then Publish Frame. As students answer the question, you can "spot check" their answers when you click the Frame Response button. If you see an answer you would like to share with the class, right click on it and choose Response to Class Display with name or Response to Class Display.
  2. Students should have read Chapter 22 from A Tale of Two Cities, which describes the anger the Third Estate felt prior to the Revolution, as part of the Background Questions assignment. Discuss the following (these questions are also included in the French Revolution Discourse Frames):
      a. What were the causes and effects of the peasants' unrest?
      b. If you were a peasant prior to the Revolution, how would you have dealt with your grievances?
      Tip:Did you know that you can take notes directly in Microsoft Reader? Tap and hold the text and select Add Note. Once you've entered your comments, select done. Tap the "T" icon in the left margin to read a note.
  3. Ask students to formalize class responses to the discussion questions in the introductory activity as well as the questions about the eBook by writing 4-6 sentences in Pocket Word. If necessary, this assignment can be completed as homework.

Activity 2: Estate Research
Grouping: Four cooperative groups
Materials: Research Guidelines, French Revolution Web Guide
  1. If you haven't done so already, distribute the Research Guidelines to students (via beaming or email), and assign everyone an "Estate" and a role in their group.
  2. Have students begin their research with the purpose of answering the questions with as much detail as they can find. You may want students to start their research using the French Revolution Web Guide, and then progress to the filtered Web search on mindsurfnetworks.com so that they have an opportunity to practice finding legitimate sites on their own.
  3. Ask the different "Estates" to share their perspectives on the situation in France. Consider having a quick debate to allow each group to present its position.
  4. Group managers should beam their research findings to the other groups so that every student has a copy of each group's work.

Activity 3: French Revolution Simulation
Grouping: Four cooperative groups and whole class
Materials: Flowchart (hard copies)
  1. Distribute hard copies of the Flowchart for students to use to develop a model simulation, similar to a "pick-your-own-adventure" book. At each decision point on the flowchart, there must be two choices. Students will project what might have happened during this time period based on their understanding of the four major groups involved in the French Revolution.
  2. Allow students time to brainstorm a four-level flowchart containing a representative set of events. Then, as a class, compile the final version of the flowchart using the best ideas from each group.
  3. Ask students to complete the Evaluation Rubric in Pocket Excel to assess their group work. The rubric automatically calculates the total points as students evaluate each criterion. Collect the rubric by having students either beam or email it to you.
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Wrap-Up Activity and Evaluation
Grouping: Individual, peer editing partners
Materials: Final Flowchart from previous day, Problem-Solution Frames (hard copies)
  1. In this activity, students will use Pocket Word to create a fictional account of a conflict someone might have experienced during the French Revolution.
      a. Tell students to create a character from any of the Estates in France.
      b. In their first-person narrative, they should describe a major conflict that the character experienced.
      c. The assignment should be at least two paragraphs long and should describe at least one conflict with specific details from the character's life. Students should describe their character and the conflict in the first paragraph and explain how the character plans to resolve the conflict in the second paragraph.
  2. After you have distributed the Problem-Solution Frame, provide students with class time to brainstorm their ideas. Students should then draft the assignment using Pocket Word.
  3. Consider allowing students to beam their drafts to a partner for peer editing.
    Tip: On color handheld computers, students should color code their peer edits to track changes.
  4. Have students save their final versions using "FrenchRev_[student name]" and collect it by having them either beam or email it to you.
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Extension Activity
Grouping: Small Groups
Materials: Modified copies of handouts from above activities
  1. Use simulations to help students grasp the complexities of conflicts in more recent times. You can expand this activity by having groups of students research and write flowcharts about other conflicts, such as:
    • Russian Revolution
    • China's Revolution
    • Holocaust
    • Post-World War II causes of the Cold War
    • Vietnam War
    • Korean War
    • Bay of Pigs Invasion
    • Arab-Israeli conflict
    • International illegal drug trade
    • Nuclear Arms Race
    • South African interracial relations
  2. Once students have created flowcharts for their topics, consider having them present the information to the class in a slide show, as a Web page, or in any other format they can devise!

*Lesson plan provided by Cindy Schnaar and Lin Storey, teachers from River Hill High School in Howard County, Maryland.
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