Grade level:

10 (US History I)

Approximate Lesson Duration:

1-2 blocks

Unit/Lesson New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS):

SOC.6.1.12.C.1.b – Determine the extent to which natural resources, labor systems (i.e., the use of indentured servants, African slaves, and immigrant labor), and entrepreneurship contributed to economic development in the American colonies.

SOC.6.2.12.D.1.f – Analyze the political, cultural, and moral role of Catholic and Protestant Christianity in the European colonies.

Brief Summary of Cultural Competencies Related to the Unit/Lesson:

As early as colonial times, activists sought to support the rights of homosexuals.  For example, when Jamestown – an all-male colony – was founded, anti-gay laws were put in place almost immediately.  At the same time, slavery was established in the region.  Abolitionists opposed to the slave trade were often sensitive to the plight of homosexuals as well, and sought to end the oppression of both slavery and anti-gay laws.  These movements continued to align well into the Civil Rights era and beyond.

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)

How did anti-gay laws and slavery become hallmarks of colonies founded to escape persecution and oppression?

Enduring Understanding(s)

With the founding of the American colonies, freedom and rights were stripped from certain groups of people, including homosexuals and slaves.  Those opposed to the oppression of one of these groups typically advocated for the rights of the other as well.

Potential Misconceptions

Sodomy often has a criminal or negative connotation, but sodomy was commonly practiced in the colonies, as it was in Ancient Greece and throughout other civilizations and time periods.  It is important for students to understand that sodomy was banned in the American colonies primarily to promote procreation and secondarily to deter homosexual relationships.  The oppression of homosexuals in the colonies, however, took root because of these laws.

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

What is Expected?
  • List the intentional learning objectives on the board.

Students will be able to:

  • understand how and why homosexuality was prevalent during the founding and settling of the American colonies.
  • assess and explain why those opposed to slavery often advocated on behalf of homosexuals as well.
  • evaluate how and why the pursuit of civil rights for one group often leads to similar movements for other groups.

Today we will be working on…critically assessing why colonies founded on the idea of escaping oppression in Europe willfully oppressed various groups of people in the new American colonies.

What is expected?
How will we hook (Introduce this to) the students?
  • Activate thinking
  • Consider the language you will use to introduce the lesson (See example in the table)

Link to Engagement

Recently, we…discussed the reasons for the settlement of the American colonies, and how the settlements in the three regions – the New England colonies, the Middle colonies and the Southern colonies – were both similar and different.

Turn and talk to a partner about…what groups were oppressed by colonial settlers and why. (Answers should include Native Americans, homosexuals, indentured servants, slaves, etc.)

You are really beginning to understand the dichotomy and social stratifications created by early colonial American settlers.

Today, we’re going to dig deeper with a new focus. This focus is…the oppression of slaves and homosexuals in colonial America.

What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?

Students will need standard supplies, such as paper, pens, highlighters and Chromebooks. 

How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?
  • Students will understand that a number of groups were oppressed in the American colonies – even though the colonists were seeking freedom from oppression.  
  • Students will understand the various ways such oppression manifested and be able to see similarities and differences among various oppressed groups.
  • Often, the almost immediate ban on homosexuality in the colonies is overlooked, but it is an important aspect of both Colonial American and LGBTQ history.
  • Anti-gay laws played a significant role in the formation of colonial America.
How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?

At the end of the lesson, students should reflect on their learning by writing or journaling on the following:

  1. Why do you think there exists such a strong corrrelation between the abolitionist movement – and, later, the Civil Rights movement – and gay rights?
How will we tailor learning to varied needs, interests, and learning styles?

Follow all IEP/504 plan modifications.

  • Introduce key vocabulary before the lesson.
  • Work in small groups.
  • Level texts according to ability.
  • Provided guided notes, written instructions and/or scaffold outline.
  • Use visual aids.
How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?

Scaffold the Instruction

  1. Model
    1. Students will begin the class by reviewing the reasons for the settlement of the American colonies, and discussing how the settlements in the three regions – the New England colonies, the Middle colonies and the Southern colonies – were both similar and different.  This could be handled through a ‘Do Now’ style writing assignment or through an informal graphic organizer (on paper or utilizing a Chromebook).
    2. The teacher should then turn the conversation towards the topic of oppression, asking students which groups were oppressed by colonial settlers and why. The teacher should be prepared to discuss the experience of African slaves in America, indentured servants, Native Americans, homosexuals, etc.
    3. The teacher should then discuss movements against oppression in Colonial America and encourage discussion regarding the counterintuitiveness of this practice in the colonies.
  2. Guided Practice
    1. Break the class up into four groups and assign each group one of the following topics:
      1. How and why were anti-gay (anti-sodomy) laws justified in Colonial America?
      2. How and why was slavery justified in Colonial America?
      3. Who were key advocates against anti-gay (anti-sodomy) laws during the colonial period?
      4. Who were key abolitionists in the Colonial period and why did they support abolition?
    2. Students should work together to research their topic, then determine how to organize and present the material – poster, Google slides, etc.
    3. Once students have completed their assigned task, the first two groups (i and ii) and the second two groups (iii and iv) should begin to analyze and discuss what similarities they found in their research – ie. common themes, acts, people, etc.
    4. Students will then present their small group research to the class, allowing for questions and discussion.  Once the first two groups have presented their work, representatives from each group will take time to highlight significant overlaps or similarities they noted.  This will be repeated after the second two groups present their research.
  3. Independent Practice
    1. To conclude the lesson, students should utilize the timeline of LGBTQ history and the timeline of Black American history to choose another point in time in order to compare – and contrast – the struggle for Black rights and for LGBTQ rights during another period of American history.  Students should identify and cite at least two sources as they research their selected timeframe.  Students should also provide synthesis in their argument, illustrating a connection between the colonial period and their chosen time period.

Check for understanding:

(Formative evidence such as conferencing, group Q/A, teacher observation, exit-slip, etc.)
  • While introducing the lesson and material, a Socratic (Q&A) method can be employed to check for understanding and encourage higher-level thinking and evaluation of the material.
  • As students work on their projects, the teacher should circulate from group to group, helping students as they conduct their research – specifically with the identification and evaluation of appropriate sources.  
  • The teacher should ask questions of each group to guide their research and their work, and to help them think critically about the task at hand.
  • During the presentations, students should be encouraged to ask questions of one another, to seek clarification on the information being presented.
Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)


Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)

The guided practice portion of this lesson is based on a PBL model and should be evaluated using a PBL rubric, such as the one found here.


Download Lesson Plan PDF:


Colonial Dilemmas 89.08 KB 11 downloads

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