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Old North, the Revolution, and a History Mystery

“Old North, the Revolution, and a History Mystery” is a three-part video program filmed onsite at Old North Church & Historic Site.  These videos are ideal for upper elementary school students (specifically 3rd and 5th grade history frameworks.)  Thanks to the generosity of donors, these videos and all supplemental activities, including access to the digital game “Two if By Sea” are available to teachers, parents, and afterschool programs free of charge. Simply fill out a brief interest form to receive the materials.


History Mystery is a three-part video series that explores the events leading up to the Battles of Lexington and Concord through the lens of Old North Church. Videos can be viewed in one sitting or as separate episodes.  Total run time is approximately one hour.

  • Part One: Colonial Boston, Old North and the Origins of the Revolution focuses on Old North and the events that contributed to increasing tension in colonial Boston;  Topics covered include:
    • Historical context
    • 18th century Boston
    • Seven Years War
    • Parliament’s taxes and colonial protests
    • Patriots and Loyalists
  • Part Two: The American Revolution and Paul Revere’s Ride further explores the events that led to the American Revolution and discusses the details of Paul Revere’s ride.  Topics covered include:
    • Boston Tea Party
    • Intolerable Acts
    • Sons of Liberty
    • Battles of Lexington and Concord
  • Part Three: Who Held the Signal Lanterns? guides students through source material as they build an argument while considering the role of context in the interpretation of historical events. Topics covered include:
    • Review of Paul Revere’s ride
    • Robert Newman and Captain John Pulling, Jr.
    • Bias
    • Analyzing sources including letters, speeches and plaques
    • Using evidence to support an opinion
  • Extension: “Two if By Sea” Digital Game turns students into history sleuths investigating case files of various historical figures to determine who hung the lanterns.  Click here to access the game.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will learn how Old North and Boston fit into the story of the American Revolution
  • Students will be challenged to build an evidence-based argument for the most likely “suspect” in the mystery of who held the lanterns on April 18, 1775.  
  • Students will be introduced to the concepts of context and bias in historical analysis

Highlights Applicable to Frameworks:

  • Students will learn about the diversity of political opinion in a colonial city like Boston, using Old North’s community as an example.


  • Locate Old North Church as an important site in Pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary history and analyze the role and significance of Paul Revere. (5.T2.2)

  • Explain the relationships and interactions between people, ideas and historical concepts to understand the importance of teamwork and the many ways people can be involved in civics. (5.RI.3)

  • Determine one or more main ideas of a primary source and cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary sources. (5.RI.2; RCA-H.1) 

  • Identify reasons for the American Revolution (including how Boston’s unique geographical and political situation shaped what happened).

  • Recognize cause/effect relationships and explain motivation for and consequences of decisions made in the past. 

  • Integrate information from several texts on the same topic to build an argument. (5.RI.9)

    • Students will have the opportunity to develop and practice numerous related skills, including:
      • Listening and comprehension skills
      • Responding to questions and making comments that contribute to discussion. (5.SL.1)
      • Drawing conclusions from knowledge gained from discussion. (5.SL.1)
      • Introducing an argument and supporting it with logical reasoning and relevant evidence. (WCA.1)
      • Evaluating a source, including distinguishing among fact, opinion and bias.
      • Empathy-building for views and opinions that differ from one’s own.

History Mystery is supported by the City of Boston’s Arts and Culture COVID-19 Fund and The Hamilton Company Charitable Foundation.

Bell Ringer’s Agreement: Reading a Historic Document

This lesson provides students with an opportunity to read, decipher, and analyze a primary source document from colonial Boston. It guides them through the unique issues these types of sources raise, utilizing the Old North’s original Bell Ringer’s Agreement ca. 1750. However, this lesson plan can be adapted to any historical document or primary source.

Lesson Plan PDF       Resources PDF


Meets the Following Common Core English Language Arts Standards:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI/RL.4.1 – Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when daring inferences from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2 – Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3 – Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why based on specific information in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.4/5.4 – Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI/RL.5.1 – Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI/RL.6.1 – Cite textual evidence to support analysis of why the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI/RL.6.2 – Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distance from personal opinions or judgments.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.4 – Present claims and findings, sequencing ideas logically and using pertinent descriptions, facts, and details to accentuate main ideas or themes; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 – Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 – Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summer of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.6-8.4 – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.6-8.6 – Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 – Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawing from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 – Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 – Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 – Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

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