Tea Party

Teachers' Edition: Grades 3-6 (Lesson Plans)

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Key concepts:  Boston Tea Party vs. Tea Party 2009, Preamble of the Constitution, constitutional concepts of “originalism” vs. “living document,” Section 1 Article 8 of the Constitution, Grassroots Activism, Social Media in Elections

Duration:  Multiple activities are provided; depending on which activities you choose the lesson may be one 45-minute session to three 45-minute sessions.

Goal:  Students will understand how political movements are created, organized and influence American politics.

Objectives:  Students will compare and contrast the Boston Tea Party of 1773 with the Tea Party movement of 2009, learn the Preamble of the Constitution, compare and contrast the constitutional concepts of “originalism” and “living document”, understand Section 1 Article 8 of the Constitution, understand grassroots activism and how social media is changing campaign strategies.

Essential Question:  Americans have been participating in political protests since the beginning of our country’s history.  How has the organization of political groups and their actions evolved over time?

Common Core Standards

Key Ideas and Details

  • RH.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RH.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions
  • Craft and Structure

  • RH.6-8.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • RH.6-8.10. By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently
  • 21st Century Skills


    The Tea Party Movement 2009 PowerPoint contains multiple resources and activities so you can pick and choose according to your class, which items would be most appropriate. Depending on your choices, you can complete the lesson in one session or up to three sessions.  

    Pre-work for Session One:

  • Print out organizer if needed
  • Check to make sure you are able to access the Tea Party Movement 2009 PowerPoint’s links from your school’s computer system
  • Session One:  (Tea Party Movement 2009, Boston Tea Party, Tea Party Beliefs, Preamble)

  • After introducing topic and essential question, explain to students that they will be completing the organizer comparing and contrasting the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and the Tea Party Movement of 2009 throughout the lesson. Some parts of the organizer will not be able to be completed until all sessions are finished. NYT Graphic
  • Review origin of Tea Party name. Video clip of Rick Santelli’s comment and multiple Boston Tea Party videos clip are included as links on the PowerPoint.

    CNBC Rick Santelli’s Tea Party comment from 0 seconds to 2 min 30 seconds
    CSNBC clip

    Boston Tea Party 1773  (Choose links as needed)

    Tea Party - Schoolhouse Rock - No more Kings 3 minutes

    The Boston Tea Party Takes Place - December 16, 1773  30 seconds

    The Boston Tea Party 4 minutes

  • Introduce Tea Party beliefs (1. Close adherence to Constitution- Members commit to learning Constitution) decide on what type of presentation you want your students to complete for the Preamble exercise (Oral, ASL- American Sign Language, PowerPoint, etc.).
  • School House Rock - Preamble (America Rock)  3 minutes

    ASL Translation of the Preamble to The Constitution of the United States of America 1 min
    The preamble in sign language!  1 minute

    Pre-work for Session Two:

  • The students will be reading primary sources about constitutional concepts.  Preview and scaffold vocabulary or choose groups so that each group has a strong reader.
  • Session Two:  (Constitutional concepts of “originalism” and “living document”)

  • Have students read individually or as groups the primary source, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent for the Supreme Court case BROWN, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL. v. ENTERTAINMENT MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION ET AL, PAGES 38 to 42. It has Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas explaining his understanding of originalism which matches with the Tea Party belief.  (1. Close adherence to Constitution—“originalist” view)
  • As a counterpoint have students read individually or as groups the primary source, IT IS A CONSTITUTION WE ARE EXPOUNDING Collected Writings on Interpreting Our Founding Document, Foreword by Laurence H. Tribe PAGES 142 TO 146.  It has Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall explain his understanding of the “living document” concept.
  • Students will then write at least three paragraphs about the “originalism” concept of the Constitution and the “living document” concept of the Constitution.  In the first paragraph explain what the “originalism” concept is.  In the second paragraph explain what the “living document” concept is. In the third paragraph compare and contrast the two constitutional concepts.
  • Session Three:  (Article 1 Section 8 of Constitution, Grassroots Activism and Social Media)

  • Introduce Tea Party beliefs (2. Less government, lower taxes, balance budget)
  • Either individually or in groups, students will review Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.  After they read the students will list ten government agencies that are not included in Article 1 Section 8 and answer the questions: “If you were president, is there any government agency that you would eliminate to save money?  Why or why not?” 
  • If students need to see a list of government agencies a link is provided here.
  • If time is available have a discussion on how different students pick different agencies to cut or not to cut.  How can a consensus be reached?
  • Introduce Tea Party beliefs (3. Grassroots activism, using elections to reach political objectives and using town meetings or tea parties to organize) The 2010 Massachusetts Senate election is discussed.
  • The use of social media is presented in the link “How Scott Brown Friended, Tweeted and LOLed His Way Into The Senate from Epicenter”. After reading the link students will write a paragraph about how using social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is changing the way future election campaigns will be handled. How does social media help grassroots organizations compete with more well-funded organizations?
  • Students will reflect and then compare and contrast the ways citizens from different centuries have participated in political issues after reading the primary source of George Hewes about his actions at the Boston Tea Party and watching the Scott Brown Volunteer in Fitchburg account.
  • George Hewes—first person account of Boston Tea Party

    Scott Brown Volunteer in Fitchburg

    Alternative Exercise:

    *Compare Tea Party Movement to Occupy Wall Street Movement
    See the previous lesson from HNN about Occupy Wall Street in Historical Context as reference material. Use organizer from NY Times Learning Network learning.blogs@nytimes.com

    NYT Graphic

    Materials Needed:

    Non-tech: paper, poster board, colored pens and/or pencils


    Teacher needs to have computer access to Internet.
    Links are provided on the PowerPoint if students have access.
    If students do not have access, teacher will need to make paper copies.


    Conservative: Holding to traditional attitudes and values. 

    Grassroots Activism- A grassroots movement is politics at a local level. It is usually spontaneous and has many volunteers in the community that give their time to support  a local party.

    Libertarian- “One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.” from the freedictionary.com

    Living document- concept that the Constitution will need to change with the times.

    Minor- A young person, not an adult

    Originalism- concept that the Constitution needs to be interpreted based on what the original writers intended it to mean.

    Social Media- web-based and mobile technologies that create interactive conversations.

    Uphold the law- to carry out the law as it is written.

    Additional Reference Links (not included above or in PowerPoint):

    Boston Tea Party Historical Society- site contains pictures and facts

    Boston Tea Party Historical Society- play about original Tea Party

    No Time for Tea (3-5 Grade)

    U.S. Constitution

    Other Tea Party Lesson Plans:

    *The Life of the (Tea) Party: Comparing Social Protest Movements By DINAH MACK and HOLLY EPSTEIN OJALVO

    *The Tea Party Movement- C-SPAN

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