Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
America Will Be

Life in New England in the Early 19th Century

Objective: Students research aspects of daily life in New England between 1800 and 1830, then write journal entries reflecting and incorporating what they have learned.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
5 hours over 3-4 days

Building Background:
Discuss with students what daily life was like for many citizens of New England between 1800 and 1830. Most people were farmers or tradespeople. There were few large cities. Tell students that they will will be researching daily life in New England during this time period and using this research to write a journal entry.

What To Do:

1. Divide students into four (if the class is small), or eight (if the class is larger) research groups and assign each group one of the four seasons. The winter groups will research daily activities and life that took place in the winter, the summer groups will research activities and life that took place the summer, etc. Remind students that their research is limited to the years between 1800 and the 1830, and to the region of New England.

2. Help each group choose a specific occupational focus for their research (farmer, ship builder, teacher, etc.).

3. Have each group work together to subdivide and assign specific research topics: work, recreation, clothing, food, etc. Encourage groups to be organized and clear about who is researching what, and to take clear and complete notes while researching.

4. Send students to the library to find information about life in New England between 18001830. One good source is "Everyday Life in America, 1790-1830" by Jack Larkin. Also:

Old Sturbridge Village

This site, created by the living history village Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, offers a virtual tour of houses, shops, and farms, with detailed information and an interactive map. The site also has a section of frequently asked questions about aspects of daily life answered by the museum's researcher and historian.

5. Have groups reassemble and share the information they found. Remind students that they will be writing journal entries based on what their entire group has found.

6. Distribute copies of the Life in the Early 19th Century worksheet. Have each student write his or her own journal entry for a day in 1800 or 1830, dated to reflect his or her research group's assigned season. Tell students that the entry can focus on any aspect of daily life, and encourage them to include specific details.

7. Have students share their journal entries, in date sequence, beginning with the earliest and ending with the latest. They can do this by reading them aloud, or by combining them into a book, which can be copied for each student.

Ask students to discuss how daily life between 1800 and 1830 was similar to and different from daily life today.


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