Ultimate Lesson Plan for Teaching the 13 Colonies!

curriculum & lesson plans for history teachers the 13 colonies
Ultimate 13 Colonies Lesson Plans for any Grade Level

With the right lesson plans, teaching students about the 13 colonies can be an exciting and educational experience for both the teacher and the students!



The original colonies of North America laid the foundation for what would eventually become the United States. However, with such a vast topic, it can be challenging to create engaging and effective lesson plans that capture the attention of students. This article aims to provide history teachers with a comprehensive guide on how to create successful lesson plans for teaching the 13 colonies, including best practices, tips, and tricks for creating instructional slide decks (Google Slides and PowerPoint presentations), using primary sources, and integrating critical thinking skills into the curriculum.



Ultimate Guide on Lesson Plans for Teaching the 13 Colonies (Colonial America)



When teaching students about the 13 colonies in Colonial America, having a well-structured lesson plan is crucial to ensuring that they have a comprehensive understanding of the topic.


Screenshot from one of my presentations on Colonial America - included as part of my 8th Grade U.S. History Curriculum Bundle!



Here are some best practices for creating lesson plans that can help students learn about the American colonies:


Begin with an Overview of Colonial America

Start the lesson plan by providing your students with a brief high-level history of Colonial America. Explain to them things like Colonial America was the period between the 16th and 18th centuries when the British were establishing colonies in North America. It is also essential to highlight that the original thirteen colonies were all established during this historic time period.


Divide the Lesson Plan into Three Sections:

  1. New England Colonies (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island)
  2. Middle Colonies (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania)
  3. Southern Colonies (Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia) 


 Slide from my AMAZING 5th Grade Social Studies Curriculum!




Download a FREE WEEK of lesson plans HERE!




I strongly recommend using PowerPoint and or Google Slides to create all of the presentations (instructional slide decks)

  1. Use the slide deck to present various important information and facts about the colonies, such as their founding date, why they were founded, who founded them, the major settlements, the climate, nearby natural resources, and the people who lived there
  2. Make sure to incorporate primary sources and historical documents, for example, if putting together a lesson about the Pilgrims, make sure to reference the Mayflower Compact


Encourage Critical Thinking

To promote critical thinking among students, consider using activities like venn diagrams or even something as simple as a crossword puzzles! These activities can help students compare and contrast the different colonial regions and reinforce their understanding of the material.


Highlight Key Figures of American History

When teaching about the colonies, it is essential to highlight the major figures that played a role in shaping American history. For example, you should discuss the roles of William Penn, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, James Oglethorpe, Lord Baltimore, and Thomas Hooker in the development of the colonies.


Cover Daily Life in the Colonies

In addition to providing information about the colonies' political history, it is important to discuss the daily life of the people who lived there. Discuss important topics such as the type of agriculture, cash crops, small farms, large plantations, rocky soil, and fertile soil.


Slide from one of my engaging presentations on Colonial America - included as part of my 8th Grade U.S. History Curriculum Bundle!


Discuss Colonial Governments and Religious Groups

You'll also want to make sure to include information about the colonial governments and the different religious groups that settled in the colonies. Your students should be taught about the Salem Witch Trials and how religious freedom was a major influence on the establishment of the colonies.


Deliver the Lesson Plan to the Whole Class

Delivering the lesson plan to the whole class can help foster a sense of community and provide an opportunity for students to learn from one another. You can use activities like class presentations or group discussions to encourage participation and reinforce learning.


Timeline Worksheet all about the Colony of Virginia - included as part of my 8th Grade U.S. History Curriculum Bundle!



Tips and Tricks for Teaching the 13 Colonies:

Make Comparisons

Comparing and contrasting the different colonies can help students understand the unique characteristics of each one. Ask your students to consider factors such as geography, economy, and social structure when making comparisons.


Use Maps

Maps can help students visualize the locations of the 13 Colonies and their relationships to each other. Encourage your students to create their own maps of the colonies, labeling important cities, natural features, and other key points of interest.


Bring in Outside Experts

Consider bringing in guest speakers or experts to talk to your students about different aspects of colonial life. This could include historians, archaeologists, or reenactors who can help your students gain a deeper understanding of what life was like in the colonies.


Use Multimedia Resources

Incorporating multimedia resources, such as videos, podcasts, and interactive websites, can help engage students and provide a different perspective on life in the colonies.


Explore the Impact of Colonialism

Encourage your students to think critically about the impact of colonialism on the indigenous populations of North America. This can help them understand the complexities of colonial relationships and their long-term effects.


Photo Analysis Worksheet included as part of my incredible 5th Grade Social Studies Curriculum!



Highlight the Role of Women

Women played an important role in colonial life, but their contributions are often overlooked in traditional narratives. Consider incorporating stories of colonial women into your lessons to help your students understand the diverse experiences of people living in the colonies.


Connect with Modern Issues

Help your students connect the history of the 13 Colonies to modern issues by discussing the ongoing impact of colonialism, indigenous rights, and other topics relevant to American society today.


Use Role-Playing Activities

Role-playing activities, such as simulations of colonial life or debates about colonial policy, can help bring history to life for your students and encourage active engagement in the learning process.


Encourage Creative Expression

Encourage your students to express their understanding of the 13 Colonies through creative projects, such as writing historical fiction, creating art, or filming documentaries. This can help your students engage with the material in a meaningful way and develop a deeper understanding of the topic.




  • Spending more time on teaching and less on lesson plans

  • More time on nights and weekends to share with friends and loved ones

  • No longer endlessly searching for amazing lesson plans and resources  


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Thanks so much for reading!

-Jillian (a.k.a. the "Lesson Plan Guru")  



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