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Colonial Newspapers and Communication


Today, news and information is available in many forms, including the spoken word, handwritten documents, printed pieces, radio, television, and the Internet. Of these modern forms of communication, only the written word, handwritten documents, and printed pieces existed in the eighteenth century. In this lesson, students will learn how printers and newspapers provided readers with essential news and information in the 1700s.



  1. Using the information provided in the Feature Article and the Eighteenth-Century Newspapers—Teacher Reference, introduce students to eighteenth-century newspapers.

    [NOTE: If desired, additional information may be accessed on the Colonial Williamsburg Web site at: and

  2. Give students the Then and Now Graphic Organizer. In the first column, have students read the prompts regarding twenty-first-century sources of information. Where the bullets are below each prompt, have them list four appropriate sources of modern information to accomplish the task. In each box provided, have students illustrate one of the sources of information/forms of communication they wrote next to the bullets.

  3. Have students brainstorm a list of the sources of information and forms of communication people use today. Record all responses on the board, chart paper, or the overhead for later reference.

  4. Give students the Virginia Gazette Excerpts. Display a transparency of the excerpts and read through them with the class. Give students 5 to 10 minutes to match the excerpts to the prompts in the first column of the graphic organizer. As a class, check the correct placement of the excerpts.

    [NOTE: There are more excerpts than prompts.] After the correct excerpts have been selected and their placements verified, have students cut them out and glue them to their graphic organizers.

  5. Facilitate a class discussion regarding the specific words and phrases in the excerpts supporting their connections to the prompts.

  6. Display an overhead transparency of the Print: “Habit d’Imprimeur en Lettres”. While students examine the image, ask them:
    • What is the man wearing?
    • What do the objects/tools he is wearing tell you about him?
    • What kind of work do you think he might do for a living?

    Using the Primary Source of the Month information for this eighteenth-century print, summarize for the class what objects and tools the man is wearing and what work he did in the 1700s.

  7. Give students drawing paper. Have them select one of the following assignments:
    1. Select a career that interests you. Brainstorm a list of the tools you would use in that career. Illustrate yourself “wearing” the tools of the trade you selected.
    2. Brainstorm a list of all the tools of communication you use every day. Illustrate yourself “wearing” those tools.

    [NOTE: Students may consult brainstorming list of communication tools from earlier in the lesson. They will select from this large list ones that are personally appropriate.]

This lesson was written by Martha Berner, elementary school teacher, San Diego, California, and Rachel Hull, elementary school teacher, Buffalo, West Virginia.