No Series: Making the French Revolution Meaningful

Making the French Revolution Meaningful

Lesson Objective: AP students experience the era and dynamics of the French Revolution
Grades 9-12 / European History


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does having students "create identities" help them understand the experience of the revolution?
  2. What is the purpose of the menu?
  3. How does the use of newspaper articles and other documents contribute to the lesson?


  • Private message to Corinna Lallier
Thank you so much!
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  • Private message to Margot Goldstein
How do they create their identities?
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  • Private message to Christie Elizabeth
I LOVE everything about this concept!! I want to implement it right away in my 10th grade history class...only problem is I'm not sure my particular classes can handle the level of reading comprehension or the level of application and "putting yourself in another's shoes" as the kids in the videos do so well of. Any suggestions?
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  • Private message to Kristi Kemmer
YES! I can't thank you enough for being so willing to share. I love lessons like this. As a new teacher to the AP World course it is so helpful. This is exactly the kind of lesson and creativity I enjoy sharing with my students.
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  • Private message to Caitlin Hummel
I am a student teacher and am teaching special needs students about The French Revolution next week. Your lesson plan and ideas are awesome! I am so excited to use this lesson with a few minor modifications/adaptations to my high school students. I really like how this is not the typical lecture and take note lesson plan. Great job on creating a unique, engaging, and overall fun lesson plan! I took your advice in creating a list of French name and professions for the students to choose from as guidance, as well as potential ideas for the start of The French Revolution. I'm so happy I stumbled upon this website, it is awesome :)
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  • 01:00:00 Title open
    01:00:03 DUNKEL: My name is Josina Dunkel and teach AP European History at Stuyvesant High School in New York

    01:00:00 Title open
    01:00:03 DUNKEL: My name is Josina Dunkel and teach AP European History at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. I call today’s lesson Café Liberté. Its’ really about how the French Revolution moved into a more radical period.
    01:00:18 DUNKEL: For preparation for the class students read from their textbook about this period in French history. Yesterday in class they crafted identities for participants in the French revolution. They were really creative and, um, strangely specific.
    01:00:35 BOY 1: I'm Jean George. I'm a bread baker and starch patriot.
    01:00:39 Girl 1: My name is Jeanine. Jeanine, I'm sorry I have to improve my French accent. And I am the wife of a coffee importer.
    01:00:47 DUNKEL: This period I feel is typically sort of glossed over. We go from the regicide to the terror, but there’s a period where the French people are really grappling with what the next step is and there’s a lot of pressure on their revolution. So I wanted to really highlight that from a personal perspective.
    01:01:03 DUNKEL: Welcome to Café Liberté. I will be your host for today and um today you are all patriots. The year is 1793.
    01:01:17 DUNKEL: The students are pretending to be participants in the French Revolution so as they came in I gave them a tricolor patriotic French Revolutionary cockade. And then I also created the menu for the cafe. So it's instructions for the kids so that they knew what they were expected to do, but presented in a way that made them think that, you know, maybe we're doing something a little bit different. The kids were broken up into groups and then they’re looking at the news. Which are documents, proclamations from the government, or, um, you know individual reactions to these events.
    01:01:55 GIRL 2: You see those pamphlets there? Those are actually made in my shop and my business is just growing. And it’s not just about the business; it’s business for a good cause.
    01:02:05 DUNKEL: Especially when you have students look at these documents from the perspective of someone in that time period, it really reminds them about how important looking at a real document is.
    01:02:18 GIRL 3: To have these like opposing thoughts in the articles as well really helps us either prove or go against our arguments.
    01:02:23 GIRL 1: Like, all of these articles definitely added to it, they were interesting, they provided us not only with textual information, but it also gave us pictures to interpret.
    01:02:32 GIRL 4: It’s helpful to have a lot of different sources because then we can see, OK, maybe there aren’t so many benefits.
    01:02:40 DUNKEL: They’re thinking from the perspective of a French person who is encountering this as news, not as something that happened hundreds of years ago. And then in their smaller groups they’re discussing what this meant for them.
    01:02:53 GIRL 1: I am the wife of a coffee importer. The success of the revolution will definitely lead to, most likely, the deduction of taxes on imported goods, which will help my husbands personal revenue.
    01:03:05 DUNKEL: Especially when you have students look at these documents from the perspective of someone in that time period, that they’re forced to analyze it. They’re not told what to think about this period. They’re given the evidence for themselves and then they come up with a conclusion.
    01:03:20 BOY 2: Our occupation is not really what counts, it’s mostly that we’re representing the middle class who is really the people who are speaking up during the revolution.
    01:03:28 DUNKEL: The more that the students are really thinking about the material, the more intellectually developed they become.
    01:03:46 BOY 2: In my role I would support the Jacobins, because I’m sort of a middle class artisan, who are the kind of people who have enough money to be successful, but not peasants who have a long way to go. Um, but on the other hand, under the old regime they would have been- they didn’t have much of a voice.
    01:03:52 DUNKEL: I also want them to understand how revolutions develop and how change happens in society.
    01:03:59 GIRL 4: And so I am completely in favor of the public education that will come as the result of this republic, but at the same time, I do sort of miss the nobility a little bit because they were my patrons.
    01:04:10 DUNKEL: So I give them like 25 minutes and then, then we discuss it as a whole group and I try to piece out some of the more major historical themes.
    01:04:22 DUNKEL: So as French people, what do you think is next for our revolution?
    01:04:29 GIRL 2: We really need to focus on who we are as a government. We need our own national identity before we go and try and make other countries follow our lead, because we don’t have a lead.
    01:04:39 GIRL 5: The nobility were sort of living beyond their means and the right- the common people didn’t have the means to support themselves at all.
    DUNKEL: OK But-
    GIRL 5: So I think in order to sort of fix the problems of the French revolution they also need some kind of a stable government, which is why some people were trying to advocate for free trade and more economic stability.
    01:04:58 GIRL 6: After a revolution it can be so much easier for really extreme governments to come into power that perhaps might end up being even worse than what we just, you know, got rid of. So we have to make sure that we set up a government that’s stable and good for the country and is what we asked for.
    01:05:15 DUNKEL: The goal of history is to get the average student to be really aware of the diversity of human experiences and how societies develop.
    01:05:25 CREDITS

School Details

Stuyvesant High School
345 Chambers Street
New York NY 10282
Population: 3328

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Josina Dunkel


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