13 Original Colonies


Our 13 Original Colonies Lesson Plan teaches students about the 13 original colonies of the United States, including the characteristics and founders of each. Students also compare and contrast the colonies with each other.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to have students compare and contrast the original colonies to the states that exist today.

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What our 13 Original Colonies lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: 13 Original Colonies identifies the 13 original colonies of the United States, the characteristics and founders of each, as well as other related information. As students compare and contrast the colonies, they develop their critical thinking skills and written expression. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify the 13 original colonies of the United States, characteristics of each, founders of, and other related information. The students will be able to compare and contrast the colonies. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The supplies you will need for this lesson are internet access, colored pencils, paper, and the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For an additional activity, you could assign each student a specific colony to research and present to the class. You could also have students compare and contrast the original colonies to the states that exist today. You can invite a historian to speak to your class about the 13 original colonies. If you’d like to plan a field trip, you could visit a historic location within one of the 13 original colonies. You could also plan a “Colony Day” across all subject areas and work related to the 13 original colonies. Finally, you could use the practice or homework pages as a quiz.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


What is a Colony?

The 13 Original Colonies lesson plan includes five pages of content. The lesson begins by explaining that we still have colonies today. Colonies are areas of land or a region under the full or partial control of another country. They are usually located far away from the country that controls them. Today, we sometimes call colonies territories instead. The United States has several territories, including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and ten more.

The original 13 colonies of the United States in the 1600s were on the east coast, from New Hampshire to Georgia. England controlled these colonies, but settlers from all over Europe arrived to start new lives.

The British Empire established these colonies to expand their empire. The English wanted to find wealth and create jobs and trading ports in the Americas. People from Europe established all of these colonies, but each was unique. Religious groups, people looking to find religious freedom, or people looking for new opportunities to trade and make a profit founded many of these colonies.

We can divide the 13 original colonies into three regions: New England Colonies, Middle Colonies, and Southern Colonies. The lesson includes a chart that lists the year of the founding of each colony, the name of the colony, its abbreviation, and who founded it.

New England Colonies

The name Connecticut comes from a Native American phrase that means “river whose water is driven by tides or winds.” They kicked Thomas Hooker out of Massachusetts. He then founded Connecticut. The colonists here wanted more freedom and financial opportunities. The colonists murdered and banished the Pequot Indians, the indigenous people, between 1636 and 1637.

Puritans John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley founded Massachusetts. The first Pilgrims, 41 English colonists, settled in Plymouth. Massachusetts had the first written government in the Americas. They played a large role in the Boston Tea Party during the American Revolution.

John Mason received the land for New Hampshire to plan a new colony. He sent settlers to create a fishing colony. It had been a part of Massachusetts.

They originally called Rhode Island “Roodt Eyelandt,” which meant red island because of the red color of the clay found there. Roger Williams, the founder, fled to Providence after they banished him to England from Massachusetts. His settlement grew and become Rhode Island. It was the first colony that guaranteed religious freedom to its citizens. Williams founded it on the separation of church and state. People recognized it for its independence. It would later be the last colony to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Middle Colonies

The Dutch wanted to establish trading posts and colonies everywhere they could. A man named John Hudson explored the area that would become Delaware in 1609. They later named the Hudson River after him. By 1611, the Dutch set up fur trading with the local Native Americans. Delaware had been part of Pennsylvania until 1703.

The leaders of New Jersey promised settlers many benefits for colonizing the area, including a representative government and freedom of religion. This meant that the colony grew fast. They granted 400,000 acres to Baptists, Quakers, and Puritans. From 1674 to 1702, New Jersey split into East and West Jersey.

Four English warships hoping to take over the town threatened the area that we now call New York. The people of New York surrendered without fighting because the English allowed them to keep their businesses and commercial rights. The English government renamed the town. They named it after James, the Duke of York.

King Charles II gave William Penn, Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, a land grant. He created it to allow for freedom of religion. He wanted to protect himself and other Quakers from religious persecution. By 1700, Pennsylvania was the third largest and riches colony in the Americas. The Quakers created and signed the first written protest against slavery, in 1688.

Southern Colonies

Georgia was the last of the 13 colonies to be created. They founded it 50 years after Pennsylvania. Its founders originally settled it for British prisoners who owed money, called debtors. They wanted to prevent the prisons from overcrowding. King George II wanted to use it to protect South Carolina and the other Southern colonies from Spanish invaders. They named the colony after King George II. Plantations and slavery became major parts of its economy.

Cecil Calvert, also known as Lord Baltimore, founded Maryland. He wanted a colony to make money, and to create a place for Catholics to live without persecution. They named Maryland after Henrietta Maria, queen consort of Charles I. Out of the original settlers, only 17 were Catholic. The other 123 passengers were protestant indentured servants. The colony sold tobacco as one of its most profitable crops.

North Carolina’s first settlement was in 1587 in Roanoke Colony. However, they didn’t officially found the colony until 1663. John White arrived at the colony with 120 settlers. They included his daughter and wife, who gave birth to the first English person in America. The people at the Roanoke Colony disappeared three years after arriving. King Charles II gave the colony to eight of the men who helped him regain control of England. This “Lost Colony” of Roanoke was in the area that is now North Carolina.

The people who settled North Carolina had problems and eventually decided to split the area into North and South Carolina. South Carolina became one of the wealthiest colonies out of the original 13. It had more Revolutionary War battles than any of the other colonies.

Jamestown, in the colony of Virginia, was the first settlement in the Americas. The founders created it intending to gain wealth. They also wanted to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. They originally called the colony Colony and Dominion of Virginia. It gave them a source of fertile land. They grew a cash crop, tobacco. They chose the area because they could defend it easily, as water surrounded it on three sides.

More About the Colonies

The colonies existed until the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. They protested against the taxes the British required them to pay. Each colony had their own self-government during colonial times. They only allowed white men to vote for the governor of the colony. The population grew to 2.5 million by the year 1775. Most of the colonists were British, but some were German or Dutch. Each of the 13 original colonies had its own identity. They founded each one for a unique reason. Most of the colonies had several things in common: they wanted freedom from the rule and taxation of the British; freedom of religion; and the opportunity to find a home for themselves and their families.


The 13 Original Colonies lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will work with a partner to complete the activity worksheet. Each pair will create a “Colony Booklet” where they use the internet to research facts about each of the colonies. They will trace the outlines of each colony, label it, and include some town and cities from this time period. They will also include a cover page and title.

Students can also complete the activity worksheet on their own, instead of with a partner.


The practice worksheet asks students to first match the fact to its colony. They will then list each of the New England Colonies, Middle Colonies, and Southern Colonies.


For the homework assignment, students will first list the colonies by abbreviation, alphabetically, by year founded, in order from north to south, and from the students’ favorite to least favorite. Next, they will answer several questions about the lesson material.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.10

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Good material

Quite entertaining and understandable for kids

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13 Colonies

It was effective, an extra piece/project to use while studying the Original 13 Colonies; however, upon research the students found a few answers were incorrect on the matching part and also on the listing of the colonies alphabetically, by year, north to south, etc. I live in Maine, so Maine wasn't a state then (part of Mass) so we start the north to south order using NH. But that's no big deal....I did enjoy the project - made a few adaptations and the kids were enthused.

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Great Supplement

As a Special Education teacher, I haven't had great access to the curriculum I needed, or the grade level my students needed, but Learn Bright has been a really good source to find what I need to help supplement my curriculum. Thanks!!

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13 Original Colonies

The documents provided useful information for my students.

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great experience