Role of Virginians in the Founding of the New Nation

Lesson 5: Thomas Jefferson: Religious Freedom

Time Estimated: 2 days



Students will:

  1. Recall, discuss, and build on prior knowledge of Thomas Jefferson and the early Jamestown settlement.
  2. Analyze and make connections between historical events and the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious, and the First Amendment.
    Apply this knowledge to present day freedoms.
  3. Write a summary of their learning.







  1. Hook: Ask students to recall Thomas Jefferson and his contributions during the American Revolution. Show his picture. Again use the website noted in Day 6. Have students brainstorm what they know and record this information on chart paper. Students and teacher will participate in the discussion to confirm, correct, or add to the information shared. Make inferences about Jefferson’s character based on information shared.
  2. Have students recall the first settlement at Jamestown and who ruled the colony. Confirm that the King of England was the ruler and he required his subjects to worship in the same church. Explain that Jefferson did not agree with this practice and believed that people should be free to worship as they please. Have students make connections between this belief and what Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote.
  3. Tell students Jefferson wrote another important document called the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. As the name infers it was first written for the Virginia Colony. It was written in 1777.

    Give students a copy of the document. Read the document and paraphrase its meaning. Have students discuss the document in their cooperative groups and develop a summary. Groups will report out and discuss by agreeing, adding to, or disagreeing with the statements until the group comes to a consensus.
  4. Can you make a connection to any other document we have studied? Students should be able to make a connection to the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Confirm the connection by looking at the First Amendment and reading it. Ask cooperative groups to consider the following questions:
    How does this law impact our lives today?
    What is its relevance?
  5. Have groups summarize the main point of the document and its importance to American citizens. Then have students individually write a summary. The written summary could be assigned for homework




Scaffolding will be done by the teacher to build background information so students can accomplish the given tasks cooperatively and independently. Reading and writing skills will be practiced throughout the lesson. Cooperative groupings will support differences in learning styles and abilities. Pictures will support visual learners.