Teach PA History
George Washington and the Beginnings of the French and Indian War
Equipment & Supplies
  • US wall map Overhead projector


Download and copy the combined worksheets and readings for this lesson.

Session 1: Reading a Picture–Who Are these People Anyway?

1. The French and Indian War was a struggle among three powerful groups–the British, French and Native Americans. The teacher should read the background information before beginning this lesson to understand why each group wanted to control the Ohio River Valley.

2. To introduce the students to the three powers, the teacher should display a transparency of Source 1: John Buxton print, "Domain of Three Nations".

3. Tell students that this is a contemporary interpretation of an historic event. The artist lives in the Pittsburgh region. Ask, "How do you think the author gets ideas to do a painting like this?" (He is interested in history and has done research on this period in history. He wants to generate questions in the minds of his viewers; he wants to make history come alive.)

4. Tell the students that they are going to learn how to "read" a picture. Ask them to look at the picture quietly for one minute. (The steps in reading a picture were adapted from "Reading A Photograph" by Susan K. Donley.)

5. Cover the picture and have students, in groups of four, list everything they remember about the picture. One student should be the designated writer.

6. Uncover the picture and have students look again carefully, correcting any mistakes and adding to the list.

7. Distribute pictures to each group of four students and ask the students to interpret the picture by answering the following questions:

  • a. Look at the title of the picture. Can you identify the three groups in the picture? (The British are wearing red coats, the French are wearing off-white.) To find the third group represented, have students use 9 small sheets of paper of the same size to cover the picture. Ask them to observe a small portion of the picture by uncovering one section at a time, writing what they see, then covering that section again. One ninth of the picture will be visible with each observation. Students should discover the shadow of the Native Americans shown in the bottom of the picture.

  • b. Where is this scene occurring? (In a forest, inside a building)

  • c. Who is the famous person in the picture? (George Washington)

  • d. How is he different from the pictures that you are used to seeing? (He is much younger and is wearing a Red Coat.)

8. Conclude the lesson by distributing the explanation of the print and short biography of Buxton. Have students read the bio and confirm Buxton's reasons for painting the "Domain of Three Nations." Read the explanation of the painting with the students to summarize and verify their interpretation.

Session 2: The Big Three Defend their Points of View

1. Display a US map and point out the Ohio River Valley. Ask students to speculate why each group was interested in gaining control of this region. Use the first two paragraphs in the background information for teachers to lead the discussion. Divide the class into three groups and appoint a leader for each group. Assign one of the three roles to each group – English, French or Native Americans. Distribute to each group Worksheet 1: Three Groups that Wanted To Control the Ohio Valley and Their Reasons for the group they will
represent – the French, the British or the Native Americans.

2. All group members should read the information, underlining phrases that support why they want to control the Ohio River Valley. After the reading and underlining, the group leader should ask students to state what they underlined. The leader should make one list of supporting reasons from his group.

3. Give each group time to plan a presentation. Each group will present their reasons in first person, from the point of view of the group they represent. To make it more interesting, the teacher might give each presenter a prop to use – Tri-cornered hat, feather band, off-white jacket, etc.

Session 3: Over the River and through the Woods to Visit the French We Go…

1. Begin this session by telling the class that they will learn more information about the picture they observed. To motivate the students, select two students from the class to role play the following situation:

Governor: I am Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. I need someone to take a message to the French. I have selected you. You will travel through the wilderness to tell the French to go away. Virginia's charter designated our western boundaries as the Pacific Ocean. The French must not be allowed to settle on our land.

George: I am just 21 years old, but I have spent time in the wilderness as a surveyor. I am strong and over six feet tall. I am an expert horseman too. I will go, but I will need a French interpreter since I cannot speak French, and some other people, too.

Governor: I will help you with your preparations and God Speed!

2. Divide the students into groups of four. Distribute Reading 1: Student Information on Washington's Trip (Session 3). Ask the students to read the information on Washington's journey from Williamsburg to Fort Le Boeuf.

3. As they come to a location that is underlined, they are to mark the points on the map with a fine tip colored marker, connecting the points to Fort Le Boeuf upon completion to form a visual picture. Students should work together in their small groups to map the trip on their individual maps (Worksheet 2: Map – Major George Washington's Journey 1753-1754).

4. At the end of this session, the teacher should lead a discussion on the information read and the map activity. Discussion questions should include: Why did Washington take seven men with him? (Two interpreters – French and Indian, a guide, a trader, and 4 servitors.) What are servitors (male servants)? Why did he stay eight days at Fraser's house? Why did he recommend a specific site to build a fort? Why did he meet with the Iroquois chief and the Delaware leader? What was Saint Pierre's reaction to his letter?

Session 4: Back to Virginia–Trials, Tribulations, and Very Few Triumphs

1. Teacher should begin this session with a discussion on Washington's reaction to the French decision. How would you feel if you had to return to Williamsburg with the decision? Tell the students that they will be working with a journal of George Washington today. Ask students to describe a journal. (Recorded events in which someone participated with the date and description of the event. They might use the example of someone going on vacation and keeping a daily account of places visited and activities.)

2. Tell students that they will be analyzing some of the entries from Washington's journey back to Williamsburg. Students should have the maps they used in the previous lesson and should locate Venango (Franklin, PA), which is where we will begin our analysis of the trip back home.

3. Distribute Worksheet 3: Analyzing the Trip Home student information sheets along with pages 13-15 of George Washington's Journal transcribed from The Maryland Gazette (available online).

4. Ask students to look at pages 13-15 to read a first hand account of Washington's trip back to Williamsburg. Begin reading with the students on page 13, paragraph 1. Ask them to identify where he was and problems that Washington encountered. (On a creek, canoe had been staved against rocks, ice had lodged in the water and they had to get out and carry the canoe.) Ask students to look at the activity sheet as you explain how they are to identify problems that were encountered for the rest of the journey.

5. Model the entry for the 23rd having students read the paragraph with you and identify the problems. Guide them in placing the information in each column on the chart.

6. Divide the students into groups of four and ask them to continue reading the journal, discussing problems with their group and recording them on the sheet.

7. Bring the class together to share the information. Summarize the information by reading with the class, information about the trip back from the student information sheet. Conclude by asking each student to reflect on the experiences Washington had. Upon his return to Williamsburg, Washington presented to the Governor, the letter from the French Commandant rejecting the offer and an "Account of the proceedings of my Journey." How do you think this would affect Washington's future?

8. Ask students to share their reflections then tell them that Governor Dinwiddie had his journal published and sent to Europe. Washington had made a name for himself. Now he would be known and called upon to lead.

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