SBG in My History Classroom Part 5b: Assessing the Standards

(See Part 5a here. Everything earlier in this Standards Based Grading series is here. As always, I’d love feedback)

Project #6: French Revolution Newspaper Project

(Assignment adapted from The Student Centered Classroom Handbook by Bil Johnson; f

amily descriptions adopted from The Choices Program: The French Revolution, both of which are highly recommended)

Unit: The French Revolution

Essential Question: Do the ends justify the means? Is the pen truly mightier than the sword?


  • Writing Standards
  • Obtain historical data from a variety of sources, including: library and museum collections, historic sites, historical photos, journals, diaries, eyewitness accounts, newspapers, and the like; documentary films; and so on.
  • Interrogate historical data by uncovering the social, political, and economic context in which it was created; testing the data source for its credibility, authority, authenticity, internal consistency and completeness; and detecting and evaluating bias, distortion, and propaganda by omission, suppression, or invention of facts.
  • Identify the gaps in the available records and marshal contextual knowledge and perspectives of the time and place in order to elaborate imaginatively upon the evidence, fill in the gaps deductively, and construct a sound historical interpretation.
  • Freedom ain’t free
  • Winning the revolution doesn’t mean that the revolution has been won

You will be given “family” identities, with the characteristics of that family explained to you: that is, where the family is from, what its economic status is (how they made/make their money), what the family members’ political philosophy and religious background is, etc. The “family” group you will be affiliated with is that branch of the family that runs the prominent newspaper for your class in France. Each member of your “family” will have a role as an editor or reporter for the newspaper.

You will conduct staff meetings to determine how you will cover the stories you are presented with: What’s your lead story? What will you write editorials about? What will your columnists comment on? Will you have some letters to the editor? You should be able to clearly explain why you have made the choices you have.

Your Family/Newspaper Staff will receive a list of events that are the stories you have to cover for the paper. Remember, you are the most prominent newspaper for you class and, therefore, strongly represent the views of your part of society (based on your background as well).

You will be given deadlines for producing your newspaper and, on that date, you will receive copies of the other newspapers form the class and compare/contrast how stories were covered.

Each member of each Family / Newspaper Staff is expected to be totally familiar with every issue covered in that paper. Everyone is expected to keep a nightly “diary,” written from your family member’s point of view and due when the project is completed.

News Stories

First Edition

Second Edition

Third Edition

The Flour War

Storming of the Bastille

Declaration of the Republic

Day in the life of a Peasant

The Great Fear

King’s Trial & Execution

Day in the life of a member of the Bourgeoisie

Ending of Noble Privileges

War in Response to the Execution

Day in the life of a noble

Declaration of the Rights of Man


The Enlightenment

Women’s March on Versailles

The Great Terror

French Financial Crisis and Taxes

Decisions of the National Assembly on Veto and Religion

Death of Robespierre

American Revolution

Haitian Revolution

Thermidorian Reaction

Estates General

King’s Flight to Varennes

Rise of Napoleon

Tennis Court Oath

War with Austria/Prussia

Napoleonic Wars

The National Assembly

September Massacres

Political Policies of Napoleon

Family Descriptions
(Please note – we’re going to suspend reality in one way for this: everyone in these groups can read and write, even though that was not the case in real history )

A RURAL PEASANT FAMILY – You are from a Roman Catholic peasant family who works in agriculture about 50 km from Paris. You are expected to obey those who are “better” than you in society, and pay dues and taxes to local nobility, the church, and the king. Every member of your family lives a hard life, ofter filled with hunger and suffering. In your town, one in five die before reaching the age of one. Less than half lived to the age of fifteen. Poverty is your greatest challenge. You live in a one room, dirt covered house that you share with your goat and chickens. Even you work in agriculture, your nutrition tends to be poor. Your diet does not include meat—it’s too valuable to butcher—or even green vegetables. You are heavily taxed by a variety of sources. Since you rent land, you are expected to pay the land owner half of all crops that you produce. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church collects a tithe (a tithe is from the Old English word meaning one-tenth). You also pay fees to local nobility as well as other taxes. Your profit is only 15 to 20 percent of their crops and livestock.

AN URBAN PEASANT FAMILY – Because of your hard life in the countryside, your family recently moved to Paris. Paris, France’s largest city with a population of about 700,000 in 1789, grew by 100,000 during the eighteenth century. Like most of those people, your family is made up of poor, unskilled workers. The greatest challenge you face in the city in hunger. The main part of your diet is bread, for which you spend half of your wages normally. When prices are high, you might spend 75% of your wages on bread. Women in the family make about half as much as men. Because the women in your family are the ones who ofter are buying the bread, they are most likely to express their dissatisfaction with an increase in prices.

A BOURGEOIS FAMILY – Your Roman Catholic family is part of the largest group of well-off people in France, the bourgeoisie. In 1789, there were 2-3 million people in this class, making up about 10 percent of the overall population. Your family runs a shipping business, which grew tremendously between the reigns of Louis XIV (1661-1715) and Louis XVI. You specialize in importing sugar and coffee from the colony of Haiti in the Caribbean. You have noticed there are more and more people like you who are living decent lives, and are able to invest in land and new businesses. You family recently bought a new house and decorated it with silks and wallpaper produced in France. Your family can afford to wear fancy clothing and has servants. In order to advance your family’s status, the head of your family has bought a position as a judge. By paying an annual tax,you get to keep this office then pass it on to your children. Your family has invested in education for all your children, which they saw as a way to help future generations prosper.

A NOBLE FAMILY – As a noble, your family has the status and wealth that the bourgeoisie dream of. You have special privileges and are exempt from many of the numerous and complex taxes that the bourgeoisie and peasants have to pay. If you were accused of a crime, you are entitled to be tried in a special court and you cannot be drafted into the military. Your family owns a tremendous amount of land, from which you collect rent, fees, and taxes on those who use or live on the land. Your family has used its wealth to, overtime, gain political influence and power. Members of your family have served as senior advisors to the king.

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH – You are actually not a traditional family, but rather a group of clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church in France is both wealthy and politically powerful. By law and tradition, you, the clergy, are considered the most important group in France, ahead of the nobility. All of the king’s subjects are legally designated as Catholics and no one is permitted to practice any other religion publicly. Protestants, who numbered about 550,000, have no civil rights and are not tolerated except in the province of Alsace. About thirty thousand Jews lived in France and their rights are similarly curtailed.You play a very important role in the lives of ordinary people. The church is responsible for most of the education system and provides aid and charity to the poor. It runs almost all of the hospitals and orphanages as well. For the many poor people of France, the church provides vital services that they would not otherwise be able to afford. When life is filled with hardship, death, and uncertainty, the church also provides hope to peasants in the countryside. Priests bless crops and animals. Church bells are rung in the belief that they can prevent thunderstorms, which would spoil a harvest. The church also has an important administrative role. It keeps records of births, deaths, and marriages. It has the power to censor or suppress publications of which it does not approve. Government decrees or warnings are often issued through the church. The church owns about 10 percent of the land in France and earns revenue from the tithes it collected. While many French people love their parish priests, they resent the wealth collected from the tithes by higher- ranking clergymen, for example, bishops and cardinals. These higher-ranking clergy are appointed by the king and are often members of the nobility as well. The church and clergy pay no taxes of their own, but regularly give the crown a gift of cash. Positions of power in the church are usually controlled by nobles, many of whom see the church as way to increase their own family wealth.


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