The Docs Heard 'Round The World

School House Rock Shot Heard Round the World America Rock



On the night of April 18, 1775, hundreds of British troops set off from Boston toward Concord, Massachusetts, in order to seize weapons and ammunition stockpiled there by American colonists. Early the next morning, the British reached Lexington, where approximately 70 minutemen had gathered on the village green. Someone suddenly fired a shot—it’s uncertain which side—and a melee ensued. When the brief clash ended, eight Americans lay dead and at least an equal amount were injured, while one redcoat was wounded...

The British continued on to nearby Concord, where that same day they encountered armed resistance from a group of patriots at the town’s North Bridge. Gunfire was exchanged, leaving two colonists and three redcoats dead. The British retreated back to Boston, skirmishing with colonial militiamen along the way and suffering a number of casualties; the Revolutionary War had begun.

The incident at the North Bridge later was memorialized by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1837 poem “Concord Hymn.” The opening stanza is: “By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”

The first shots were fired at Lexington, but the first documented occasion on which colonial minutemen were ordered to fire upon British soldiers (and did) was on the North Bridge at Concord. That was what many would point to as the first official act of outright treason committed by the colonists and marked the beginning of open, violent rebellion in Massachusetts.

Your job is to read through the available primary sources and determine exactly what happened at Lexington and Concord. Who fired first? How do you know? And how do you explain any sources which don't support your conclusions?

Shot Heard Round

One of the most crushing things about doing summer training online this year was having to sacrifice some of my favorite and most effective activities. I haven't found a meaningful way to do Causes, Triggers, Events, and Results in a long-distance format, nor did my "Oh No, Not Another Reading Strategy!" small group introduction to Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass pan out. I was especially distraught that there was no practical way to do any of the document activities of which I'm so proud and which have been so successful in class as well as with educators. I'm not saying none of these are possible, but I was unable to figure out a way to make them work in the time I had available.

(I know, you all feel so horrible for me right now. Clearly, my straight white male life is far more difficult and filled with suffering than others could even imagine. Boo, plus hoo.)

Still, I wanted to try to capture SOME of the benefits of a good document activity. I remembered references in some teacher book I'd read a few years ago to something similar involving the "Shot Heard 'Round the World." I did some poking around and found about a dozen variations of the activity, none of which quite fit what I wanted to do. The National Park Service has several of the better iterations for free on their website; the two I found most useful are available as PDF downloads from

Shot Heard Round Map

By way of introduction and skill-rehearsal, I added a "football game" document activity I lifted with only minor edits from an amazing AP World teacher and consultant named Jonathan Henderson. Several of his versions are posted to his website. I appreciate him not suing me for incorporating them; I think they set up the ‘legit’ part of the activity quite effectively. That’s no surprise - pretty much everything he shares is brilliant.

Because of time constrictions, I was only able to try the activity with one group, but they were amazing. I haven't used this version with students yet, and this one won't fit my current assignment anytime soon. So, if you decide to give this one a shot (no pun intended) as is or after making your own modifications, I'd love to hear what you did and how it went. I've intentionally decided not to offer too much else by way of "how" to run the activity, let alone offer a list of steps. As with any activity, how you use it depends less on knowing how I do and more on your style, your class, your goals, etc.

You should be able to easily make a copy for yourself which you can then edit as you see fit. I'd love to know how it goes.

The Docs Heard 'Round The World (Google Slides Link)

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