From Colonies to States

From Colonies to States
Dolley Madison: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: One to two class periods


The story of how the 13 colonies became the 13 original states of the Union is, perhaps, a familiar one for students.  However, it bears repeating.  There were patriots in every colony willing to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.  But the battles did not end with the defeat of the British.  There were numerous fights in state legislatures and state constitutional conventions as the Constitution for the new republic was debated.  Dolley was a very young child at the time of the American Revolution.  During her life span, she saw the United States begin with the original 13 and then reach to the Mississippi and beyond. 


The purpose of this lesson is to impress upon students the risks that patriots in each colony took to support the rebellion against England.  The creation of a map of our original 13 states assists students in the development of a sense of the geography of the eastern part of the United States.    

Materials Required:

Blank map of the United States; state boundaries may be drawn in and the states may be labeled as well.   Access to the Internet.  Access to print reference materials.


1.  Divide the class into 13 groups, one per colony.
2.  Assign, or allow students to select, a colony.
3.  Have students research, for a brief report, the events surrounding their colony’s entrance into the United States.
4.  When all groups have concluded their research, have each report to the class.  Help students keep track of the order in which states were admitted.  Have students label the month and year of each state’s admission on their blank maps.  On the back of the map sheet, have students keep a list of the issues that arose in many state legislatures and Constitutional Conventions. 

5.  Assign a short paper in which students discuss the major issues surrounding admission and whether these are important concerns today.

Extending the Lesson:

Rather than a group assignment, individual students could select the colony of their choice.  If your community is located in one of the original 13 colonies/states, you could tailor this lesson to support your state’s history.

Sources & Resources:


          Colonies to States


This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.