Lesson Plan:

Fact, Fiction, or Bad Memory

By Myke Allred


The Boston Massacre became a rallying point for those opposed to remaining British colonials. Because the incident was the subject of propaganda, there is a great deal of mystery and misconception about what really happened. How can we know what is truth and what is fiction?

In this lesson, students evaluate the events of the Boston Massacre by identifying bias (point of view) and motive for writing. They look, too, for “immediacy” in primary and secondary source material. By determining reliability of sources, they attempt to determine who is to blame for the Boston Massacre.

National Standards (National Center for History in the Classroom, 1996)

Grades K-4
This lesson addresses Topic 3 (History of the United States), Standard 4 (How democratic values came to be, and how they have been exemplified by people, events, and symbols). Under Historical Thinking it addresses Standard 2 (Historical Comprehension) and Standard 3 (Historical Analysis and Interpretation).

Grades 5-12
This lesson addresses Era 3 (Revolution and a New Nation), Standard 1 (The Causes of the American Revolution).

Time Frame

A brief writing period (10–15 minutes) and one 45-minute social studies period.


  • Document A: “Recollection of George Hewes” from James Hawkes’s A Retrospect of the Boston Tea Party (New York, 1834)
  • Document B: Excerpt from A Household History for All Readers by Benson J. Lossing (New York: Johnson and Miles, 1877)
  • Image of Boston Massacre


Bias – prejudice or preconception held by the author.
Motive – reason the source was created.
Immediacy – how soon after the event the source was created.
Accuracy – how closely the source describes what really happened.
Reliability – accuracy of the source, determined by considering bias, motive, and immediacy.
Corroboration – additional information used to determine accuracy.