Great Cities of the World: Williamsburg, Virginia

Great Cities of the World: Williamsburg, Virginia
Letitia Tyler: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: 2-3 class periods

Required Documents
Group Work Task Cards


John Tyler was elected Vice President of the United States in 1840 as the running mate of William Henry Harrison. He is probably most notable as the Tyler on the back end of Harrison’s famous campaign slogan, ”Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.”  His wife Letitia Tyler was living away from her husband during his vice presidency in their home in Williamsburg, Virginia when she received the news that her husband John had become the 10th President of the United States following the death of Harrison.             Williamsburg, Virginia, is the location of the Tyler Plantation named “Sherwood Forest” which is still owned by the Tyler family today. The grounds are open to the public to visit as well as the house, which remains the longest frame house in America at over 300 feet. John Tyler named his home “Sherwood Forest” in reference to his reputation as a political outlaw.              Sherwood Forest is by no means though the main attraction in Williamsburg, Virginia. The city has become a Mecca of historical and tourist activity. Colonial Williamsburg is home to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which operates the world’s largest living history museum. The restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World is a place to interpret the origins of the idea of America, conceived decades before the American Revolution. The Colonial Williamsburg story of a revolutionary city tells how diverse peoples, having different and sometimes conflicting ambitions, evolved into a society that valued liberty and equality.


Students who participate in this lesson will be able to navigate an informational website and locate required information; to successfully conduct research using the Internet; and to present the findings of their research to the class and use the website to help convey this information.

Materials Required:

Internet access; an LCD Projector for the YouTube video and projecting the website; a set of Group Work Task Cards (attached to the lesson).


1.  The teacher will begin this lesson by showing the class the YouTube video entitled, "Colonial Williamsburg Orientation Video" (see below). This video lasts 5:03 and gives a very good overview of the activities available to visitors to the restoration of Williamsburg. The idea is to give the students a visual representation of the place they will be researching.

2.  The teacher will then split the students into small groups. These groups could be mixed ability groups or any other configuration the teacher finds useful. The teacher will then project the Williamsburg website - -- and browse through the various areas that will be assigned to students later in their group work portion of the lesson.

3.   Each group will be given a Task Card.  There are five Task Cards with this lesson.  If there are more than five groups, then more than one can work on the same task.  The Task Cards all contain tasks that can be completed using the "History" tab on the Williamsburg website. The Cards cover the following categories: People, Places, Life, Trades, and Clothing.  Once the tasks are completed, each group will present its findings to the class, using the wesite as a visual aid.

Extending the Lesson:

The most obvious extension to this lesson would be to actually schedule a trip to visit Colonial Williamsburg. This however may not be cost effective. Another possible extension would be to have the students create an advertisement or a brochure about Colonial Williamsburg. This could be done using such programs as Microsoft Publisher or Photoshop.

Sources & Resources:

Learning Standards:

Preparing America's Students for Success (Common Core as Adopted/Adapted in the States).


Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg: 3rd ed., 2008.


First Ladies Biographies: Letitia Tyler

Sherwood Forest, Home of President John Tyler and Mrs. Tyler

Colonial Williamsburg Orientation Video


Credits:  This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.