Life in the Thirteen Colonies

Designed for 4th through 6th grade students, this lesson describes what life was like in the early colonies. Students will learn about and describe aspects of the early colonial society. They will discuss different roles between men and women. They will talk about what natural resources colonists used to survive. In addition, they will discover what life was like for children. They will also learn about slavery and why slaves were brought to America.

Life in the Thirteen Colonies helps students recognize how much society has changed. They will see how many areas of life are different, such as fashion, people’s rights, and architecture. Students can compare their lives in modern society to the lives of the colonists. They will determine whether or not it was better 200 years ago.


What was it like to live in the late 18th century? Life in the Thirteen Colonies teaches students what life was like for earlier settlers. Students will compare their own lives to those of the colonists. They will learn about the different roles of colonial men and women of society. They will discuss how many aspects of life have changed in the last 200 years. Building supplies were difficult to get, for instance. As a result, most homes were made of wood repurposed from clearing land to make farms.

Students will quickly discover how different life was during the late 1700s. The way people traveled, dressed, and acted greatly differs from modern society. They will learn what it was like for children to go to school. They will even learn that boys as young as six would go to work! Throughout the lesson, students might just get a glimpse of what it was like to live in the thirteen colonies.

What Life in the Thirteen Colonies includes

The content pages describe in depth a few aspects of colonials times. They discuss the clothing styles of men and women, pointing out differences even among the colonists themselves. They describe how people traveled and what their houses were made out of. Specifically, they point out what children’s lives were like in the mid-1700s as well.

Students will also learn about how slavery started in Jamestown Colony in 1609. The lesson discusses the suffering of those slaves. It describes slavery as “one of the most tragic events in American history.”


The activity requires students to answer questions based on the reading passage. Students will have to demonstrate critical thinking in answering some of these questions.

An option for another activity is to have students research colonial fashion prior to the lesson. They can recreate the styles and wear them to class to kick off the subject.


Students will fill in a Venn diagram to compare and contrast their life with the people in colonial times. The practice worksheet will further solidify students comprehension of the topic.


The homework assignment requires that students write a story from the perspective of a colonial child. They will use the information they learned in the lesson to describe what they might see or do. They can talk about the clothes they wear or the places they live.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies

State Educational Standards

NCSS.HIS.2.6-8, NCSS.HIS.D2.HIS.1.6-8, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3 – 6.3

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.