The American Revolution was a seminal event in world history. Classrooms across the country delve into the events that led to the formation of the United States, signaled the beginning of the end of the British Empire and set the stage for the next 200 years of international politics.
To help illustrate how the colonies sought their independence and ultimately won it, EducationWorld has curated the following collection of videos featuring some of the brightest minds in the field discussing these pivotal events in history.
In addition to a description of each video, we include a suggested grade level and note its capacity for student engagement (“cool factor”).
Home of the History Channel, this site offers far more than just news and notes on the network’s stable of shows. Users are treated to a veritable cornucopia of news, features and video on happenings in history, archaeology and anthropology.
Grade level: Middle and high school
Run time: 3:59
Description: This video is a tremendous opening salvo to any lesson on the American Revolution. Current military leaders, former high-ranking Congressmen and television personalities like NBC’s Brian Williams discuss just a few of the themes to come out of the war. All of the commentary is interspersed between dramatic reenactments of the war. This clip is brief, but it grabs viewers’ attention and makes them want more.
Cool factor: Very high. The reenactments are produced in a way resembling big-budget Hollywood features. (Teachers should also be aware that Brian Williams uses the term “whoop-ass” in jest. Consider whether your students are mature enough to handle this.)
One of the most respected news agencies in the world, the BBC has won numerous awards for documentary and educational productions.
Grade level: Middle and high school
Run time: 3:06
Description: This video, a unique look at one of the American Revolution’s defining moments, features prominent attorneys from the U.S. and England debating the legality of the Declaration of Independence. While the mock trial is held in the spirit of friendship, the arguments for and against the document are made in all seriousness.
Cool factor: Moderate. It’s fun to see the participants poke fun at the event from a distance of 225+ years, but this is a straightforward examination of the document’s legality.
Source: Crash Course World History
Crash Course World History is a YouTube channel featuring short, fast-paced video lessons about world history. Videos move quickly, at times almost frantically, making them more like entertaining overviews of these topics than serious lessons. With that said, the information presented is sound and often contradictory to “legends” that are often accepted as fact.
Grade level: Late elementary, middle and high school
Run time: 11:27
Description: Here’s a look at life in Colonial America before, during and after the war. While light-hearted and fun, this isn’t a glossy examination of the conflict that will have everyone chanting “U-S-A.” Rather, real questions are posed as to whether the colonists were better off under British rule, and whether they had a grievance worthy of starting a full-blown war. Every conflict has two sides, and this clip explores both of them.
Cool factor: Extremely high. Pop culture references abound, and off-the-cuff remarks are both historically accurate and snarky. Numerous quick cuts and information bubbles disappear as quickly as they appear, so repeat viewings are warranted. (Given the video’s entertainment value, getting students to watch more than once won’t be a problem.)
Source: Schoolhouse Rock
Popular during the 1980s, Schoolhouse Rock attempted to teach children about a variety of subjects, from grammar to history. Every three-minute episode was set to music and covered only the broadest of ideas related to the given topic. The songs were catchy, in a way that only children’s songs can be.
Grade level: Elementary
Run time: 3:01
Description: The accuracy of the information is somewhat dubious, only because it is so broad. Pilgrims left Europe and came to America, where they decided they didn’t want to live under the authority of a king. There is little here beyond this simple theme, but for students too young to understand much more, this is a great tool for introducing the origins of the United States.
Cool factor: It depends on who’s watching. For the students, it would be relatively high. The song is catchy, and there’s plenty to take in visually. Teachers, however, may be begging for it to NOT be stuck in their heads.
Known for characters such as Charlie Brown and Snoopy, the Peanuts comic strip and franchise have been an American institution for decades.
Grade Level: Elementary
Run Time: 24:01
Description: This Is America, Charlie Brown is an eight-part animated TV mini-series, depicting events in American history with characters from the Charles M. Schulz comic strip Peanuts. As with the Schoolhouse Rock clips, this video is weak in the details, but certainly age-appropriate. What it lacks in historical depth, it makes up for in its ability to portray events so that younger students can relate.
Cool factor: Moderate. It’s fun to see the Peanuts gang involved in the beginnings of the U.S.A., but nobody has ever accused Charlie Brown of being “cool.”