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John Winthrop and the Puritans

Lesson Plan

Created by Virginia Steiner, Hiland Middle School/East Holmes Local, Ohio

John Winthrop


Grade Level:



one full class period, with an assignment the night before and one after the period

Content Standards:  

Students use materials drawn from the diversity of human experience to analyze and interpret significant events, patterns and themes in the history of Ohio, the United States and the world.
Benchmark D:  Describe the effects of interactions among civilizations during the 14th through the 18th centuries.
Grade Level Indicator: 
2.  Describe the political, religious and economic aspects of North American colonization including:
a.  Reasons for colonization, including religion, desire for land and economic opportunity
People in Societies:
Students use knowledge of perspectives, practices and products of cultural ethnic and social groups to analyze the impact of their commonality and diversity within local, national, regional and global settings.
Benchmark B:  Analyze examples of interactions between cultural groups and explain the factors that contribute to cooperation and conflict.
Grade Level Indicator: 
1.  Trace the development of religious diversity in the colonies, and analyze how the concept of religious freedom has evolved in the United States

Primary Sources: 

Two documents by Puritan leader John Winthrop:  "Reasons for the Plantation in New England" and "A Model of Christian Charity." The texts are included in PDF files below. (The versions used here are taken from "Reasons" (which includes objections)

Instructional Steps

1. Students will be reading and interpreting two of Governor John Winthrop’s documents as referenced above.  In the first document, Reasons for the Plantation in New England, students will analyze the nine reasons Puritans had for immigrating to New England, as well as analyzing the 10 objections given against the Plantation of the Puritans.  Using only the last two paragraphs of A Model of Christian Charity, students and teacher will discuss the meaning of John Winthrop’s message to the Puritans.  
2.  Students will be given a copy of Reasons for the Plantation in New England and the worksheets as an assignment for the next day.  First students will read each of the nine reasons that justify why the Puritans came to New England and rewrite each reason in their own words on the worksheet provided.  Students will also read the ten objections made against the Plantation of the Puritans and summarize each on the worksheet.
3.  During class the next day, students will discuss their interpretations of the nine reasons that Puritans came to New England and add ideas as shared by their classmates.  The ten objections will also be discussed, with students sharing their interpretations. While discussing each objection, students will skim the answers given in rebuttal and determine whether they think each objection is a strong or weak one and label each as such. 
4.   This activity will be done together in class. Students will be given a copy of the last two paragraphs of Governor John Winthrop’s A Model of Christian Charity (see worksheet).  First, the first sentence’s meaning will be discussed.  Then the students will list the five suggestions given as to how the Puritans can succeed in New England. In the next three sentences students will find and then list the three points that Winthrop says will be the proof that the Puritans know they are being successful. Students will read the rest of the first paragraph and write why this portion of Winthrop’s speech has become so important for generations of Americans.  Finally, students will read the last paragraph and answer the three questions on the worksheet, then the class will share their answers.


Students will refer back to the nine reasons Puritans had for coming to New England and create a list of the most to least important reasons for the migration.  (#1 will be the most important reason and #9 will be the least important reason)  
Students will then write a two-paragraph explanation of their choices.  Paragraph one will explain why they listed numbers one and two as the most important reasons for migrating to New England.  Paragraph two will explain why they listed numbers eight and nine as the two least important reasons for migration to the new world.  Each reason must have two explanations. This assignment is due the next day.
Scoring should focus on the prioritizing done of the nine reasons and then the two paragraphs of explanation written by the student.

Materials needed

Documents and worksheets: