Shays’ Rebellion – Inquiry Based Learning – C3 Framework


Social Studies education has undergone (and is still going through) a revolution in teaching practices.  The idea of teaching History through the authentic process of inquiry has completely revived my curriculum and my approach in the classroom.  I’ve found my students to be more involved and engaged, and simply more interested.  The inquiry process works particularly well with the middle school age.   These students are naturally self centered, so they love to express and argue their own viewpoint.

Since the inquiry process is so new to the Social Studies classroom, there are very few inquiries that even exist, and of those, only some are actually designed for middle school students.  Further, many inquiries don’t seem to have been written with a real school classroom in mind.  Obviously, this has proved challenging when trying to develop a curriculum centered around inquiry.

As I’ve grown to understand the inquiry process,  I’ve designed several inquiries for my classroom.  I’ve worked very hard to combine content knowledge with the inquiry process, so that the inquiry process adds to the learning experience rather than take time away.  I’m working to revise and add to each inquiry I create so that I can offer them to you through  This is the first of several inquiries I’ll be offering for you to try.

This inquiry focuses on Shays’ Rebellion.  This rebellion encouraged the call for a Constitutional Convention in 1787.  However, the rebellion itself is often only mentioned as a footnote to the story of the Articles of Confederation.  I think that’s a mistake.  With this inquiry, the students investigate the reasons for Shays’ Rebellion and the response.  At the end of the inquiry, the students design a monument for Daniel Shays, and with this monument design, the students must think about longstanding themes in U.S. History – freedom, rebellion and  heroism.  My students were all able to come up with unique ideas for their monuments, ones that really explored why Daniel Shays rebelled, and the implications for his rebellion.

This inquiry includes three formative lessons – ones that review content and practice Common Core skills.  The summative assessment includes project directions, scaffolding questions, and a rubric for assessment.  The unit is linked with the NYS Social Studies framework, Common Core Anchor Standards, and the Social Studies Practices for NYS.  I created this lesson plan in a style similar to those written and posted by  You can preview the inquiry plan on teachers pay teachers.  It’s titled Inquiry Unit Plan – Shays’ Rebellion – The Articles of Confederation.  Check it out and let me know what you think!



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