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Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: War of 1812

Grade Level: 4-12

Common Core Standards
RI.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
R.6-12.1. Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
R.6-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

Content Areas: Reading, Social Studies

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minutes

Learning Goals: Students will examine a document typical of the early 19th Century.


  1. Discuss how neither Britain or the United States were prepared for war in 1812. Britain was already fighting the French in Europe and the United States had almost no army or navy ready to fight. Privateers were one way to solve the problem.
  2. Introduce the word Privateer. Ask what the root of the word is: “private”. Ask if it sounds like any other words they know (e.g. volunteer, buccaneer, musketeer, etc.). Ask what they think the word might mean.
  3. Have students read the Privateer article independently, as a small group, or together as a class.
  4. Have students answer the questions independently or as a small group.
  5. When students have had a chance to answer the questions, have them share their responses. The teacher should correct any errors and resolve any disagreements.

Assessments: Collect and assess the accuracy of responses.

Materials/Resources: Privateer Article and worksheet

Special Considerations: The teacher may want to group weaker readers in a group with stronger readers.

Extensions: Students may want to look for Letters of Marque in digital records on-line. Students might be interested to research how private soldiers, “contractors,” “mercenaries,” are used in warfare today.