Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Understanding Loyalists and Patriots

American Revolution

Susan McHale, Sarah Brewer, Jessica Hightower | Published: June 2nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 8th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2 class period(s)
  • Duration More 90 minutes


In this lesson, students will analyze primary source documents to understand the motives of those who supported, opposed, or chose to remain neutral prior to the American Revolution. Students will apply their knowledge of colonists' motivations to open-ended scenarios and then write from the perspective of a loyalist, patriot, or neutralist.

Essential Question(s)

As the American Revolution began, why did some colonists choose to rebel while others remained loyal to England? How do the various viewpoints of colonists contribute to our understanding of the the American Revolution?



Students recall the events of the Boston Tea Party using prior knowledge. They will speculate whether all colonists were happy about this event.


Students examine primary source documents to construct an understanding of the motives of loyalists, patriots, and those who chose to remain neutral prior to the American Revolution.


Students discuss the motivations of loyalists, patriots, or neutralists and present their findings to the class from primary sources.


Students read a scenario of a colonist prior to the American Revolution and determine whether that colonist was likely to be a loyalist, patriot, or neutralist.


Students choose a short RAFT writing assignment and write as if they were a loyalist, patriot, or neutralist.


  • Document Sets 1, 2, & 3 for Students

  • SOAPS note organizer (attached, 1 per student)

  • Loyalist, Patriot or Neutral Activity Scenarios (attached)

  • Loyalist, Patriot or Neutral Activity Answer Key (attached)

  • Lesson slides (attached)

  • Poster paper and markers

  • RAFT handout (attached, 1 per student)


20 Minute(s)

To begin the lesson, display the title of the lesson on slide 2. Introduce slides 3 and 4 to explain the lesson objectives and the essential question that students will be exploring today. Display slide 5 and ask students to recall what they remember about the Boston Tea Party. Call on volunteer students to share what they know or can recall.

After students have shared the basic facts about the Boston Tea Party, display slide 6 and ask students to consider what might have happened the next day after the event. Were all colonists pleased about the Boston Tea Party? Why or Why not? Give students a moment to think about an answer to this question and have them share this answer with a partner using the Think, Pair Share strategy. Once partners have discussed their thoughts, ask for volunteer pairs to share their answers.

While still in pairs, ask students to discuss together and then match the vocabulary term to their definition on slide 7. Give students a moment to discuss their answers. Call on volunteers to share their answers and their reasoning. Correct any misconceptions among the three terms.

Inform students that today they will be exploring the motivations of loyalists, patriots, and those who chose to remain neutral (you might call them "fence-sitters" or "neutralists") through a collection of primary source documents.


25 Minute(s)

Group Jigsaw Activity: Arrange students into small groups of 3. Give each group either Document Set #1, Document Set #2, or Document Set # 3 and everyone a SOAPs handout. Tell students that they will be using the jigsaw strategy with their assigned set. There are three documents in each set and each student in the group should read just one. As they read, they are to fill out their individual SOAPs note organizer. Display slide 9 that explains the directions to the group.

After they have read their assigned document and completed the SOAPs organizer, have students share the document that they read with their group and their SOAP notes about what they discovered.


40 Minute(s)

This should begin Day 2 of the lesson.

Have students begin in their original working groups of three to review their individual SOAPS document. Review slide 7 of the terms of Loyalist, Neutralist, and Patriot if needed. Tell students that each document set contains one primary source each from a loyalist, a neutralist, and a patriot. Display slide 10. Ask students to determine who wrote their document-- a loyalist, a neutralist, or a patriot? If students are undecided, let them confer with their group to determine a choice. Allow five minutes to finalize their decisions.

Reassign students into groups of four that are purely loyalists, neutralists, or patriots. Dependent on class size, you will have multiple groups of the same type of colonists. This remixing is called an expert jigsaw. Ask students to discuss and share their SOAPS information with the new group. Allow about ten to fifteen minutes for this discussion.

Pass out poster paper or chart tablets and markers to each group. Display slide 11. Ask groups to create a poster about the stance of the colonists--patriots, loyalists, or neutralists. Groups may be as creative as they wish but must address all the questions on slide 11. Allow 15-20 minutes for groups to create their posters. Hang posters around the room by clustering loyalist posters on one wall, neutralists on another wall, and patriot posters on still another wall.

Call on each group to present the information on their posters. Paraphrase some of the colonists' motivations after the loyalist, patriot, and neutralist groups share their findings.


20 Minute(s)

Pair students with a new partner. Make copies of the Patriot, Loyalist, or Neutral Activity, found in the attachments. There are eight scenarios about colonists, A through H. Cut each scenarios into an individual strip and pass out one strip/scenario to each pair. Display slide 12. Have partners work to determine if their assigned colonist would be a loyalist, patriot, or remain neutral based upon their previous knowledge gained. Remind students that they must provide an explanation or reason for their decision.

Call on pairs to volunteer their reasoning for each colonist's scenario, starting with the scenario of Colonist A. Each scenario is also displayed on slides 13 through 20. Some pairs may differ in their answers for the same colonist, so allow for discussion of differing viewpoints and rationales. Note: A teacher answer key is provided but allow for any reasoning that demonstrates understanding of the topic.


The completed SOAPS note organizer and the poster presentation can serve as assessments for this lesson.

Optional: If a further evaluation of the knowledge gained is needed, a RAFT activity is provided as an individual student assignment. This writing assignment should take approximately twenty minutes. Slide twenty-one states the directions.

Pass out the RAFT activity handout, found in the attachments, to each student. Ask students to choose ONE of the RAFT scenarios and write as if they were a loyalist, patriot, or neutralist.