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Social Studies Resources for the 4th Grade Classroom: Colonial and Revolutionary Periods


With Thanksgiving a few days away, many of us are getting ready to enjoy the wonderful foods of our harvest, spend time with loved ones and reflect on the things for which we are thankful. We know that teachers are also busy creating social studies lessons about the significance of this holiday, especially the contributions of the different groups living in and travelling to the "New World" in the 1600-1700s.  This list of resources was compiled to help teachers and students learn, from a variety of perspectives, how the United States was created. 

Feedback is greatly appreciated. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions below!


Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jean Fritz and Hudson Talbott set the stage for European exploration into the new world with this picture book story of how Sir Walter Raleigh founded, then lost, the colony of Roanoke in the 1580s. With large, colorful illustrations.

Hudson by Janice Weaver. A compelling, beautifully illustrated introduction to the life, accomplishments (and failures!) of Henry Hudson. 

Who Was First? Discovering the Americas. By Russell Freedman.
Freedman’s enlightens readers as to the many possible discoverers of America. Perhaps a bit sophisticated for 4th graders, this text is highly recommended for educators or anyone interested in who may have traveled to America before 1492. has compiled a fantastic collection of resources on Dutch New York for students. Check out this video about Henry Hudson.

The complete list of Dutch New York resources from the Videos in Teaching and Learning (VITAL) program of WNET.

Native Americans and Slaves

The Iroquois by Emily Dolbear (part of the Scholastic True Book Series) is a great nonfiction resource for students.  

Anne Dalton’s The Lenape is a good introduction to the Lenape, their technology, religion and encounters with Europeans. For more information about the Lenape (or Delaware tribe), try The Delaware by Michelle Levine.

Fort Mose by Glennette Tilley Turner. This is the story of the first free black colony in the U.S. which was created by Francisco Menendez, an escaped African slave.

Slavery in Early America provides a good but brief look into the life of a slave in the New World. By Barbara Linde.

Phillis Sings out Freedom is a well crafted picture book that tells the story of Phillis Wheatley, her poetry, and its effect on George Washington and the American Revolution. By Ann Malaspina.

Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac with illustrations by S.D. Nelson. A great picture book introduction to this unsung American hero.

Black Elk’s Vision: A Lakota Story
A wonderful first-person account and biography of Black Elk, a medicine man of the Lakota tribe. By S.D. Nelson. Highly recommended. 


1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen E. Lange.
Archaeological evidence from Jamestown, America’s first colony, indicates new information about the lives and deaths of America’s earliest settlers. With vivid, didactic photographs.

The New Americans Colonial Times, 1620-1689. Besty Maestro looks at European immigration to North America.

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak is a book of Kay Winters’ poems written from the perspectives of different colonists living in Boston.

For information about the kinds of occupations colonists had, the Colonial People Series is worth a look. (Titles include, The Schoolmaster, The Barber, The Silversmith and The Farmer.)

Hasty Pudding, Johnny Cakes and Other Good Stuff: Cooking in Colonial America by Loretta Frances Ichord. Just in time for Thanksgiving!

John Smith Escapes Again! A National Geographic book by Rosalyn Schanzer. Students will enjoy learning about the life and travels of John Smith, who Schanzer describes as “America’s first genuine superstar.” With cartoon-style illustrations, students experience Smith’s adventures from his point of view.

Declaration of Independence

The Journey of the One and Only Declaration of Independence is Judith St. George’s humorous and airy look at the history of this American document. Fun facts, cartoony illustrations and simple text make this a good introduction for independent reading.

The Declaration of Independence: The Words that Made America uses primary materials to help students understand this revolutionary document. By Sam Fink.

American Revolution

The New York Colony by Kevin Cunninghan is part of the Scholastic True book series and provides a great overview on how the American Revolution affected New York  — including information on the indigineous people of the area and the European explorers that settled here.  Check out more “Colony" titles.

Magic Tree House Research Guide to the American Revolution is an engaging choice for student independent reading. 

Everybody's Revolution: A New Look at the People Who Won America's Freedom by Thomas Fleming is also recommended reading for students and teachers for a more complete view of who fought for America's freedom.

Victory or Death! Stories of the American Revolution by Doreen Rappaport & Joan Verniero.
Eight short stories detail accounts of the American Revolution from the perspective of those involved — including the less celebrated (Native Americans, women, and those of African descent.) Engaging and accessible with index, timeline and glossary. Stories could be read aloud or used as supplemental independent reading. Highly recommended.

Rosalyn Schanzer spent more than two years creating George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides. The result is an engaging picture book that compares and contrasts the lives and beliefs of George Washington and King George III and the role each played in the American Revolution. With wonderful illustrations, real quotes (explained with “quote sources” at the back of the book) and an Afterword, this fantastic resource demonstrates there truly are two sides to every story. Highly recommended.

The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution by Jim Murphy.
Murphy’s attractive picture book tells the story of General Washington’s army through their defeat of the British at Trenton and Princeton. Battle maps, timeline, and websites for further reading are included.

Lynne Cheney’s When Washington Crossed the Delaware is a more simplified version of General Washington’s story. 


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Bonus Points

Those We Don’t Speak of: Indians in The Village Author: Lauren Coats, Matt Cohen, John David Miles, Kinohi Nishikawa, and Rebecca Walsh Source: PMLA, Volume 123, Number 2, March 2008, pp. 358–374 (17) Abstract: American literary studies has shown that the symbolic exclusion of Native Americans from the Puritan and early national imaginaries was an essential component of the making of an American identity. This argument builds on reading practices that stress literary-historical contextualization. Our essay considers how M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village (2004) addresses the continuing relevance of Native American exclusion from the national imaginary not by faithfully representing “history” but by layering its narrative with multiple historical registers. Realized through editing, cinematography, and set design, these registers—seventeenth-century Puritan, turn-of-the-twentieth-century utopian, and “the present”—are stage-managed by a group of idealistic elders who wish to protect their community from the evils of the world outside. While most critics have reduced The Village to an allegory of post-9/11 United States political culture, we propose a viewing of the film as parable that marks historical collapses and exclusions as the limits of utopia. (LC, MC, JDM, KN, RW) Keywords: dramatic arts; film; American history; absence; Native Americans; Shyamalan, M. Night (1970- ); The Village (2004) DOI: 10.1632/pmla.2008.123.2.358 ISSN: 0030-8129 You do not have access to the full-text PDF. Click here for subscription information.

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