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Differing Views of the Great Awakening

Created By: Paul Hohulin, Centennial High School (Champaign, IL)
Content Area: U.S. History

Illinois Learning Standards Achieved

Standard Achieved

Activity that Meets this Standard

16.A.2b: Compare different stories about a historical figure or event and analyze differences in the portrayals and perspectives they present.

16.A.4b: Compare competing historical interpretations of an event.

Students will write summaries of the articles and evaluate the perspectives.

Lesson Overview:

The Great Awakening had an immense impact on colonial Americans. In this lesson students will look at some primary sources written by individuals during the Great Awakening. The primary sources deal with firsthand accounts of individual preachers and more generally with the Great Awakening movement as a whole. The accounts that the students will read will represent a number of different perspectives and portrayals of the movement. The perspectives will give a glimpse of the view of the New Lights (those who promoted religious revival) and the conservative Old Lights (those who criticized the movement and felt that common people were being led astray). Students will write summaries of the articles and evaluate the perspectives.

Read the following accounts:

  1. George L. Walker Describes a Preacher
  2. Timothy C. Cutler Writes a Fellow Clergyman
  3. The Dangers of Religious Fervor - Charles Chauncey
  4. Religion of the Heart - Jonathan Edwards


Students will read the accounts and take notes on their impressions of the writers' viewpoints. Students will answer the following questions and then write a summary of all the accounts:

  1. What was the Great Awakening?
  2. What was the appeal of the Great Awakening preachers?
  3. What were the methods of the Great Awakening preachers?
  4. How do each of the writers view the preachers and the movement?
  5. How was the old religious order in the colonies challenged by the preachers?
  6. Write a summary of all the accounts of the Great Awakening. In the summary include your own analysis of the movement.