Skip to main content

This integrated lesson connects the concept of informed civic agency to the life of George Washington as he changed from serving the British military in the French and Indian War to fighting against them in the Revolutionary War.  It allows students to see themselves as citizens that have the agency to solve problems in our world today. 

Lesson Narrative (5Es)

This learning experience is inquiry-based and built on the 5E model. Students will be engaged with a relevant scenario involving change. Students will then explore and explain the change in George Washington based on the primary sources they are given. They will film a 1-minute documentary that can be used to evaluate their understanding of the content. This leads students to relate the idea of civic agency to their own lives and respond to a journal prompt.  Finally, learning can extend as students consider the larger context Washington fits into and the larger context they fit into.

  • This learning experience can be modified to fit a range of grade levels.
  • This learning experience could fit one class session or be extended to fit multiple sessions.
  • This learning experience integrates reading, writing, speaking, listening, technology, social-emotional, and civics learning skills.
  • This learning experience has student web pages that can accompany the lesson or it can be taught solely with the documents in the lesson plan. These documents can be printed or students can simply use notebook paper.


  • Engage students with a relevant example of change and problem solving, such as creating rules that are fair for a recess game, starting a club to meet specific needs on campus, or switching from one local school to another. Ask why someone might make that change. Discuss.
  • Introduce compelling question: Why do people take action to solve problems?
  • Display the two portraits showing Washington serving the British and fighting against the British. Ask students what they see, think, and wonder.
  • Give students some context using the timeline and talk about the change Washington made.


  • Provide the three primary source excerpts and summaries for students.
  • Read excerpts and source summaries as a class and use appropriate scaffolds for the grade level.
  • Have students respond after each one using the worksheet or on paper by writing key words, drawing pictures, or writing a sentence summary.


  • Ask the compelling question relating to George Washington: Why did George Washington switch from fighting for the British to fighting against them?
  • Have students use their notes and computer camera app to record a 1-minute documentary. In this video, they will answer the compelling question in their own words and play the role of historian. Videos can be used as a formative assessment.
  • Ask the compelling question related to the individual: Why would I take action?
  • Have students write a journal response to the question. Other guiding questions to use are:
    • When is it a good idea to change my mind?
    • Why might I question decisions that are made for me in my school and community?
    • What problems can I be a part of solving?
    • How do I learn more about the problem I want to help solve?


  • Have students consider the larger context that Washington fits into and that they fit into. Ask:
    • How did George Washington’s actions relate to his community and others?
    • How do my actions relate to my community and others?

Student Portal

Students can explore the timeline to learn more about why George Washington changed from siding with the British to siding against them.

Explore the Timeline

Civics Connections: Civic Participation

This lesson focuses on the ideas of civic participation and civic agency. Both of these have definitions within the Educating for American Democracy Framework. Here are the specific civics components the framework lays out that connect to this lesson:

K-5 Key Concept: Participate in a community through building relationships, making change, and problem-solving.

Driving Questions:

History: HDQ1.2 A. Why and how do people take action in order to solve problems that affect them and others?

Civics: CDQ1.2 B. Why might you question decisions that are made for/in your community?

Design Challenge 1: Motivating Agency, Sustaining the Republic

DC1.1 How can we help students understand the full context for their roles as civic participants without creating paralysis or a sense of the insignificance of their own agency in relation to the magnitude of our society, the globe, and shared challenges?

Educating for American Democracy