Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer is an educational program that includes both an in-school theatrical presentation and this on-line curriculum guide containing facsimiles of primary source historic documents, background essays, and lesson plans developed by classroom teachers.

We have designed this program to be a three- to five- day unit, including the in-school performance.  You will find, however, that the website contains much additional material that you are free to use in many other ways. 

We have divided the lesson plans into three levels:  basic (5th grade), moderate (8th grade), and advanced (11th grade).  However, you may wish to mix and match these plans depending upon the cognitive abilities of your own students.  Please feel free to change and to work with this material in any way that suits you and your students.

Lesson Plan Matrix

We recommend that you use this program in the following ways:


Basic Level
Lesson Plans
Moderate Level
Lesson Plans
Advanced Level
Lesson Plans
 Day 1 – Introduction What’s the Oldest Thing in Your House? The Life and Times of Isaiah Thomas Discovering Isaiah Thomas
Day 2 – The Show Performance of Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer in your school Performance of Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer in your school Performance of Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer in your school
Day 3 – Follow-up activity The Apprenticeship of Isaiah Thomas Stamps and Bullets: the American Revolution The Revolutionary War on Trial
 Day 4 – Follow-up activity Dateline: Thursday, May 4, 1775 Pressing the Point  OR  Wheels, Keels, and Words Dispatches from the Past
Day 5 – Follow-up activity Reading and Writing 18th Century Style Lessons from the Past: Reading and Writing Time Travel:  Transportation and Communication Then and Now

The Theatrical Presentation

Professional actor Neil Gustafson will come into your school and perform Isaiah Thomas – Patriot Printer.  This performance is approximately 30 minutes long with a question and answer session following. Please allow 40-45 minutes.  During the presentation, “Isaiah Thomas” brings a portfolio of documents from his own collections.  Throughout the performance, he refers to these documents and reads selections from them.  All of these documents are included on this site.  The documents referred to in the show are:

A Note on Vocabulary

Throughout the show, "Isaiah" will use vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to your students. He uses language that would have been common in 1812 when the show it set, but may no longer be so common now. Here is a list of vocabulary that should help students understand Isaiah's performance and some of the primary source documents included on this site. Each lesson plan also includes a list of vocabulary words pertaining to that particular lesson.

Tips on Using Primary Source Materials in the Classroom

First, have your students look at the document without reading it.  Ask such questions as:  Is it handwritten or printed, or both?  What does the type look like?  What size is the type?  How much white space (blank area) is on each page?  Have them examine the type and look at the size, amount.  Are there any illustrations?  Why do these illustrations look the way they do?  Why are there no photographs; little, if any, color, etc.?

Because of the lack of pictorial materials, colonial printers would use type in illustrative ways.  Look for the use of capital letters, various sizes, italics, and bold faces of type. 

In the 17th century sometimes the letter “s” was printed with what is referred to as a “long s”.  This looks similar to an “ f ” except that on the “long s” the horizontal cross-stroke projects only to the left.  In italic typeface, the "long s" has no cross-stroke at all. Generally, but not consistently, this was used to distinguish between the pronunciation of the short “s” from the long when the letter appeared in the middle of a word.  It is also important to understand that spelling and punctuation were often quite arbitrary in this time period.  All English printers used the long “s” until 1749; thereafter it is used intermittently before being discarded entirely in the 1790’s.

Once you have examined the document as an artifact, have your students read the document to determine what facts they can derive from it.  These include: who created it; when and where it was created; and who was the intended audience.  At this juncture, you will want your students to interrogate the document, looking for evidence of point of view, bias, and misinformation.  Once these are determined, ask your students to postulate on why they think this document is important.  Finally, you can ask them to do a series of hypothesizing exercises such as writing a response, imagining how the audience responded to the document, illustrating the document, etc.