Mayflower Compact


With our Mayflower Compact lesson plan, students learn about the Mayflower Compact, including what it was and why it was significant. Students also learn about the Pilgrims and their trip on the Mayflower to provide context for this lesson.

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 form the class into two groups, Saints and Strangers, and have them discuss, debate, and write a new Mayflower Compact.

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What our Mayflower Compact lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Mayflower Compact introduces students to the Mayflower Compact, which many historians believe is the precursor to the Declaration of Independence and the first document establishing democracy in the world. The lesson includes a summary of the Pilgrims trip on the Mayflower from Europe to the New World as well. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to define the Mayflower Compact, explain its purpose and its future impact on democracy in the United States. 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 orange 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.

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. One optional addition to this lesson is to have your students compare the compact to the U.S. Constitution. You can also have them  memorize the Mayflower Compact. To add additional context to the lesson, you can discuss the impact religion may have had on settlements in America, including the original colonies. You could plan a Mayflower Compact Day on November 9th. You could also have your students list the advantages and disadvantages of the Compact for the “saints” and for the “strangers”. Finally, you could form the class into two groups, Saints and Strangers, and have them discuss, debate, and write a new Mayflower Compact.

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.


Voyage to America

The Mayflower Compact lesson plan includes three content pages. The lesson begins by asking students why they might want to leave their homes and start a new life. There are many possible reasons why someone would want to do this. Today, you could get on an airplane and arrive at your new destination very quickly. You could get on a ship and be there in a few weeks. However, in England in the 1600s, some people decided to leave Europe for North America. Today, we call these people the Pilgrims.

102 people traveled on a ship called the Mayflower. Two groups traveled on this ship, known as the Saints and the Strangers. The Saints, who we call the Pilgrims today, were a religious group often called the Separatists. They wanted to separate from the Church of England. King James, the leader of England at this time, threatened the Puritans and they first traveled to Holland to practice their religion.

They spent 11 years in Holland before deciding to travel to North America to have religious freedom. There were 41 Saints. Joining them were 51 Strangers, who did not seek religious freedom. Instead, they wanted to make money. They included skilled workers, like tradesmen, craftsmen, laborers, indentured servants, and orphans. There were children on the ship, including eleven girls and nine boys. In addition to these two groups, there were about 25 crewmembers and live animals like dogs, sheep, goats, and poultry.

These two groups differed in many ways. They had different levels of education, religious beliefs, social structures, political views, and more. But they did have the 66 day trip on the Mayflower in common.

Originally, the Pilgrims were planning to make the journey on a ship called the Speedwell, but the ship needed repairs so the two groups ended up on the same ship. The trip was 3,000 miles and took 66 days and the two groups experienced a lot of tension during the journey.

The Strangers thought that the Saints were sanctimonious, or overly holy and self-righteous. The crew also found the Saints annoying. The Strangers provoked the Saints because they did not want to follow their beliefs. The Saints, on the other hand, wanted all of the passengers to follow their religious practices. Tensions remained high between the two groups throughout the journey.

The living conditions on the ship were also not great. There was little space and little privacy. The first half of the journey went well, but there were many storms and rough seas during the second half. This nearly caused the Mayflower to shipwreck.

Two people died on the journey, and one was born. People suffered from diseases and seasickness. It was not a pleasant journey for anyone. However, they did realize that they needed to come together before they arrived in North America to avoid conflict once they were there. They decided to create an agreement about their future life together.

Coming Together

These people didn’t know anything about the new and unexplored land they were traveling to. They didn’t know what natural resources they would have, what the climate would be like, who could already be there, and how safe they would be once they got there. There was no law, government, or shelter waiting for them. Based on these facts, they decided to come together to form a temporary government.

Some of the Strangers wanted a life without rules or laws, but realized that working together with the Saints was a smarter plan. The two groups decided to create a covenant, or agreement, before arriving.

They had no king, president, or leader, so they decided to use the pact as a binding agreement between the groups. This meant that no one could break it. It was a formal, signed document that would help the settlers govern themselves. They called this document the Mayflower Compact.

The Mayflower arrived in Cape Cod, in a town now called Provincetown, on November 9, 1620. Before they left the ship, however, 41 men signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11th. This established their temporary government.

The lesson then includes the text of the Mayflower Compact, which is three paragraphs long. A man named William Braford, who had a university education, likely wrote the document. It was short and few people had any issues with it. By signing the document, they established a self-government, created order, and helped the Pilgrims survive the start of their time in North America. This was the first example of a New World constitution, and we still view it as the cornerstone of democracy, the American government, and the U.S. Constitution.

The Pilgrims wrote the document by and for themselves. This foreshadows the principle that government should be by, of, and for the people. This is one of the main ideas of democracy today.


The Mayflower Compact 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 review and discuss eight questions related to the text of the Mayflower Compact, writing out their answers on the worksheet. They will also share some of their responses with the class.


The practice worksheet asks students to first match terms with their definitions. They will then answer ten questions about the lesson material.


For the homework assignment, students will first read the text of the Mayflower Compact and rewrite it in “regular” English. They will then review the text again and will determine what was odd about where the Pilgrims actually landed and where they wanted to land in America. Finally, students will imagine that they and their classmates need to leave the country and establish a new colony on an uninhabited island. They will list 10 basic rights that they would use to protect the citizens of the colony.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the activity worksheet, 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

State Educational Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.4, CCSS.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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Mayflower Compact

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