What was everyday life like in colonial Virginia?

Lesson Plan

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Upper Elementary, Middle, High School



VS.4, VS.5, US1.5, US1.6, VUS.4, VUS.5

Demonstrating Comprehension; Comparing and Contrasting; Determining Cause and Effect; Using Information Sources; Organizing Information; Questioning and Critical Thinking Skills

This lesson also meets national standards for social studies.



First in groups, then later as a full class, complete a graphic organizer that provides information about the roles played by men, women, children, and the enslaved in Colonial Virginia.

Essential question:

What was everyday life like in colonial Virginia?


Featured Sources

Source ARunaway Slave Ad 1768

Source BThe Old Plantation, painting

Source C: Colonial Book on Animal Husbandry

Source DThe Prudent Housewife

Additional Materials

Life in Colonial Virginia Graphic Organizer

What was a woman’s role on a farm? Essay

What was the role of children on a farm? Essay

What was life like for slaves on a Virginia farm? Essay

What was a man’s role on a farm? Essay


Step 1: Ask the students what jobs they have at home. Discuss their jobs and those of their parents and other family members. Ask the students how these jobs might be different from those in colonial Virginia. Ask them to brainstorm how they think everyday life was different for whites and enslaved African Americans in colonial Virginia.

Step 2: Begin the lesson by telling students that most people in colonial Virginia at the time of the American Revolution lived on small farms. Divide the class into four teams. Explain to each that they will read and analyze a different Student Handout Packet (short essay, images, primary source) about the role of each of one of the following groups: men, women, children, or enslaved people in colonial Virginia. Tell them that each team will then report their findings to the class.

Step 3: Distribute a different Student Handout Packet to each team, along with a copy of the Graphic Organizer to each student. Instruct students to read their passage and look at the photographs. Suggest that students highlight keywords pertaining to the roles of their assigned groups as they read the passage. Have each team discuss among themselves the roles of their assigned group and record them in the appropriate section of the graphic organizer.


Have each student team select a member to present finding to the rest of the class. Instruct all students to add information on the other colonial groups to their graphic organizer as their classmates report. Use the question How was everyday life different for whites and enslaved African Americans in colonial Virginia? to help frame the students’ findings.

Extension Activity

Working alone or in pairs, have students create a blog post comparing life in colonial Virginia to life in Virginia today.