Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

People of the Southern Colonies

Colonial History

K20 Center, Christine Cox

  • Grade Level Grade Level
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 120 minutes


This lesson compares the various roles that colonists played in the Southern Colonies. Students will begin by examining the economy of the Southern Colonies. They will then compare various roles within the Southern Colonies and will write a RAFT strategy prompt to share what they learned about the colonists.

Essential Question(s)

What role do colonists play in the community? 



Students participate in an I Notice, I Wonder strategy using a map of the natural resources in the Southern Colonies to discuss how the land and its resources had an impact on the people.


Students use a Card Sort strategy of colonial journal entries to begin exploring the different roles Southern Colonists played.


Students create a Venn diagram to explain the differences between slaves, slave owners, and indentured servants.


Students read a picture book about slave songs and discuss how slave songs were used to talk about masters, to share religion, and to explain how to run away.


Students choose a RAFT strategy prompt to write about the roles of the Southern Colonists.


  • Southern Colonies teacher slides

  • A book of your choice about slave songs. (See the Extend section for some suggested titles.)

  • Colonist Diary card sort (journal quotes and biographies) and envelopes for the cards

  • Notebook paper


Open the teacher slides and display slide 3, which shows a map of the natural resources/economies from the Southern Colonies. Organize students into small groups and have them use the I Notice, I Wonder strategy to make observations about the maps. Encourage students to make connections to what they might have previously learned about the colonists from the New England and Middle colonies.

Lead the conversation to discuss the roles that colonists played in the Southern Colonies.

After discussing, introduce the essential question: What role do colonists play in the community?


Pass out the Journal Quotes Card Sort cards and show slide 4. Have students read the cards and then organize them in any way that makes sense to them.

Have students use their quotes in a Think-Pair-Share strategy to determine what role each of the colonists played. When students share, they must explain their reasoning using some of the journal quotes.

Pass out the Biography Card Sort cards and show slide 5. Have groups match the journal entries with the biography they think they go with.


Show slide 6. Using what they have learned from the Explore quotes, have students create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting two of the colonists.

For an extra challenge, students can use a triple Venn diagram to compare all three.

After students have had some time to work, complete a short Gallery Walk. Ask students to view each of the other Venn diagrams and look for two or three things they can add to their own diagrams. When students return to their work, they should spend a few minutes updating their Venn diagrams with the new information.


Show slide 7. As a class, read a book about slave songs. Some options include:

  • "Like a Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song" by Cynthia Grady

  • "Freedom Song: The Story of Henry 'Box' Brown" by Sally M. Walker

  • "Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt" by Deborah Hopkinson

Discuss how slaves used songs for entertainment, making work easier, sharing religion, talking about their masters, and, sometimes, as directions for running away.


Show slide 8. On a sheet of notebook paper, have students respond to one of the following three RAFT prompts. Students should use details from the lesson to help write the pieces.

Role: Indentured Servant Audience: Contract Holder Format: Letter Topic: Terms of Service

Role: Slave Audience: Other Slaves Format: Poem or Song Topic: What life is like as a slave in the Southern Colonies

Role: Colonist Audience: Self Format: Journal Entry Topic: A Day in the Life