K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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  • Families in colonial North Carolina: In colonial families, the father had absolute authority over his family, and wives and children were expected to do as they were told. And everyone, even young children, worked to sustain the family.
  • Marriage in colonial North Carolina: In the colonial period, how and when people got married depended on whether they were indentured servants, slaves, free laborers, or wealthy people. Many marriages were informal and validated by the community rather than by a legal license.
  • Graphic organizer: Marriage in colonial North Carolina: This graphic organizer will aid students' comprehension as they read an article about marriage in colonial North Carolina.

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These teaching suggestions will help you discuss the article “Families in Colonial North Carolina” with your class and will provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of the reading. The activities will encourage students to think critically about the text and to develop historical empathy.

Student handouts

Graphic organizer: Families in colonial North Carolina
Open as PDF (20 KB, 1 page)
Venn diagram: Families in colonial North Carolina
Open as PDF (19 KB, 1 page)


  • Preview activity. Ask students to write a short description of a “typical American family.” Ask a few students to share what they have written. Lead a short discussion about the difference in the concept of family in today’s society. Now ask them to share how they think families today are like those of families in the colonial period.
  • Using the Venn diagram and graphic organizer to record their thinking, have students watch the video and read the article. The answers for the graphic organizers will vary. You may choose to have the students work individually or in groups.
  • Place the students in five groups. Have each group design a short scene of a typical day (or choose a particular situation) in colonial North Carolina by using the reading and their graphic organizers. Then have each group act out their scene for the rest of the class. After all have presented, lead a discussion about the different experiences of the families that were represented by the skits.
  • Discuss similarities and differences between the characteristics of a colonial family and modern families. Why have some of the differences occurred in the last 200 years? How have courts and the government assisted in changes? What has stayed the same? Why do you think these have not changed?
  • Have students read (or re-read) the article “Cherokee Women” from the Prehistory module of the digital textbook. Have a discussion about the differences between family life in the Cherokee culture and in the European colonial culture. How did these differences complicate understanding between the two groups?
  • Writing activities:
    • Write diary entry for a day from the point of view of either a father, mother, or a child.
    • Have students write three diary entries for the same day; one from the father, one from the mother, and one from a child. This will allow students to examine the same day, and events from the same day, from three different viewpoints. This practice of examining multiple perspectives will be good practice for later discussion.
    • Have students work in groups to write up a list of household chores that would have needed to be completed each week in a colonial household. Then have them decide who in the family would complete each of the chores.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.C.1 Understand how different cultures influenced North Carolina and the United States. 8.C.1.1 Explain how exploration and colonization influenced Africa, Europe and the Americas (e.g. Columbian exchange, slavery and the decline of the American Indian populations)....

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 8

  • Goal 1: The learner will analyze important geographic, political, economic, and social aspects of life in the region prior to the Revolutionary Period.
    • Objective 1.07: Describe the roles and contributions of diverse groups, such as American Indians, African Americans, European immigrants, landed gentry, tradesmen, and small farmers to everyday life in colonial North Carolina, and compare them to the other colonies.