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teacher's guide

the eight ectivities described below encourage middle and high school students to explore Franklin's world and accomplishments.

Download all 8 lesson plans This guide is designed to take advantage of the educational information in the three-part PBS series BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (PBS airdate November 19-20, 2002), directing teacher’s to specific sections of the series relevant to the lesson plan. The lessons engage students with a media-rich environment that employs video, DVD, computers, and the Internet in addition to more traditional print resources. The lesson plans are flexible, allowing teachers to adapt the instruction to their particular needs. PreK-12 teachers may videotape the series and use it in the classroom for one year. (For more information on teacher resources to accompany PBS programs and on PBS extended taping rights for educators, please visit the PBS TeacherSource Web site.)
Activity 1: If Poor Richard Had a Computer
As a prolific writer and publisher, Franklin is probably best known for Poor Richard’s Almanack. Using research tools on the Internet and in the library, students will explore the origins and history of almanacs and learn about standard features of historic, as well as current, almanacs. Students work in cooperative groups to share their knowledge and to create a web-based “e-zine” almanac.

Activity 2: Calling All Volunteers
Benjamin Franklin’s practicality combined with his strong sense of duty made him a model of good citizenship. For example, he founded the first public library and helped organize volunteer fire-fighting clubs and a public hospital in his hometown of Philadelphia. In this activity, students identify a need in their community and then plan a project to address the need. This activity will encourage students to work in groups and to volunteer time in their community.

Activity 3: New and Improved
Franklin has been called the “patron saint of advertising” because he used the media of his time—newspapers, broadsides, letters, pamphlets, and word-of-mouth—to sell products and ideas. Students explore some of the advertising methods used in colonial times and compare those techniques to modern advertising.

Activity 4: Meet My Alter-Ego
Like many of his contemporaries, Ben Franklin used pseudonyms for some of the letters and essays he published. Each of these noms de plum had a distinct personality and were written from a unique point of view. Students learn about Franklin’s pseudonyms, create pseudonyms for themselves, and write letters or essays from the point of view of their invented persona.

Activity 5: Being Better
Throughout his life, Benjamin Franklin tried to find ways to improve himself intellectually, morally, and physically. Students research and learn about some of the self-improvement methods that Franklin designed or employed, and then create and follow their own self-improvement plan.

Activity 6: Superstition vs. Science
Franklin’s scientific understanding was limited by the collective knowledge of the period, much of which was based on superstition, religion, and folk wisdom. Students study some of the common scientific theories of the colonial period, compare those ideas and theories to what we know today, and report their findings.

Activity 7: Invention Convention
Many of Franklin’s scientific inventions came out of his ability to see a need or problem and then come up with a solution. Sometimes he made improvements on other people’s inventions. Students become inventors by identifying a problem or need, and inventing a solution.

Activity 8: Hit ’em with a Broadside
In the colonial period, “broadsides” provided inexpensive information and entertainment to the masses, like television, radio, and the Internet do today. Broadsides were a single sheet of paper that generally contained print on one side only. Students research the history of broadsides and create a broadside of their own, satirizing or commenting upon some local or current event.

Download all eight lesson plans.


copyright 2002 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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