Colonial America: The Original 13

Colonial America: The Original 13
Martha Washington: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Three to four class periods


The first colony in what would become the United States of America was founded at Jamestown, in 1607, 124 years before the birth of Martha Washington.  Over the next few years, 12 other colonies were founded, which, after the Revolutionary War, became the first 13 states in the new nation.


Students who participate in this lesson will learn about the origins, purposes, and people that were involved in the founding of the original 13 colonies through Internet research, and the preparation of a PowerPoint or paper presentation on one of the colonies.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; PowerPoint or other presentation program, or art supplies, including tag board, paints, markers, etc.


1.  Begin the lesson by showing the class a map of the original thirteen colonies. 
2.  Divide the class into six groups, assigning each group the task of researching the initial history of two colonies (the sixth group will have three).  Questions to be answered include the following:

  • What year was the colony founded?
  • Who was involved in the founding of the colony?
  • Where was/were the first permanent settlement(s)?
  • When was the original Charter granted, and by whom?
  • When did the colony become a state?
  • What is the current state motto, symbol, nickname, and flag?

3.  When this research is completed, have each group prepare a PowerPoint presentation or poster that includes all the findings for the questions above.
4.  Provide time for students to share their findings with the whole class.
5.  Conclude the lesson with a discussion of the similarities and differences among the colonies, and some speculation on whether or not those differences are still observable and meaningful.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by engaging students in a Colonial Symposium, in which the information they have collected for this project is enhanced, expanded, papers prepared and discussed in a more formal way, and shared with the whole school.

Sources & Resources:


Hakim, Joy.  Making Thirteen Colonies, 1600-1740, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Taylor, Alan.  American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.


Original 13 Colonies (Interactive map)<a href="" target="_blank"> </a>

Early History of the 13 Original Colonies

General Charters of the Original Colonies


This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.