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In the Classroom > Unit Overview
Lessons: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15

The Second Turn, 1780-1820
Lesson 13: Dress, Dance, and Games (1780-1820)

Unit Central Questions: In This Lesson:

What do primary and secondary sources teach us about the characteristics of "everyday life" of individuals living in Deerfield at the four turns of the centuries?

What do these characteristics reveal about changes in the town since its beginning as an English settlement?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas
Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3

Lesson Length

Activity 1- 30 minutes

Activity 2 - 30 minutes

Activity 3 - 30 minutes plus homework time

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

The leisure activities during this "turn" (from 1780-1820) were characterized by a desire for a sense of refinement, which was also reflected in dress and manners. Over the course of this turn, clothing styles changed rapidly and significantly. With greater wealth more Americans could afford the ever-growing variety of consumer goods, enabling them to pursue their increasing desire to be seen as "refined."

For more information, read:
Teacher Background Essay: Children's Amusements in the Early Nineteenth Century

Teacher Background Essay: Early Nineteenth Century Fashion

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Intended Learning Outcomes


1. Students will have knowledge of the clothing of the time, and they will understand what dress can tell us about work, status, and wealth.
2. Students will understand the role of leisure activities such as dancing, music, and games.

Students will be able to:

1. Extract information from clothing, dance customs and games, and be able to make logical inferences about manners of the time.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read Teacher Background Essay: Children's Amusements in the Early Nineteenth Century and Teacher Background Essay: Early Nineteenth Century Fashion

2. Copy images for students

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

1. Teacher Background Essay: Children's Amusements in the Early Nineteenth Century

Teacher Background Essay: Early Nineteenth Century Fashion

2. Sequence of images of woman in period dress and poses, moving from underclothes to fully dressed, with accompanying labels. See the "Dress up" activity.
3. Images of historic clothing and people of all ages in various kinds of dress.

4. "Games at the Second Turn," - game instructions (and materials needed to play the games)
6. "Rules for Dancing" from 1803
7. Dancing Master caricature.


1. Student notebooks
2. Game materials

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Activities Materials in Context

Activity 1
A. Dress

1. Distribute sequenced pictures and labels of woman in 19th century clothing, eliciting comments on what students are seeing. Be sure they notice both what she is wearing and how she is standing.
2. Give a brief background talk about the clothing and manners of the turn based on Teacher Background Essay: Early Nineteenth Century Fashion.
3. Instruct students to write their reactions to the pictures and labels. Have them make comparisons to modern-day wear, including comfort, practicality, style and modesty.
4. Distribute pictures of historic dress.
5. Ask students to note the dates of the pictures and place them in chronological order.
6. On the board or on a flip chart page, make a simple matrix, with two columns down and two across. At the top of one vertical column write "before 1800," and on the other write "after 1800." The horizontal columns should be labeled "women" and "men."
7. Have students describe the characteristics of the clothing seen in each picture. Make notes in the appropriate column on the matrix. (Think about hem and sleeve lengths, fit (tight or loose), waistline level, necklines, accessories, the amount of skin showing, overall silhouette.)
8. Discuss the poses in the pictures.
9. Instruct students to write a paragraph describing clothing and postures (choosing a male or female of any age from the period).
10. Ask volunteers to add sketches of clothing to the class timeline for the second turn.







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See the "Dress up" activity.




Student notebooks

Images of historic clothing:

Activity 2
B. Games

Teacher Note: Prior to this activity, select the games you would like your students to learn, and assemble any necessary materials. If construction of materials is necessary, decide whether you will do this or ask students to do it as part of the lesson.

1. Tell students that both adults and children played games. Aside from being fun, some games taught values of cooperation, competition, and proper behavior.
2. Select two or more of the games and teach them to the students.
3. Break students into groups, and assign each group one game to play. Rotate, so that each group can try every game.
4. Hold a brief discussion about the games, including whether they teach cooperation, competition, or proper behavior and how they differ or are similar to games today. Would the students play these games with their friends today? Why or why not? Discuss what might have amused children in the early 19th C. as opposed to today.

Homework Assignment for Activity 2:

Have students make up a game, describe the game they made up, write the rules, make or assemble the materials, and be prepared to teach it to others.

Follow-up to Activity 2:

Break the class into small groups and have students teach their games to others.

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"Games at the Second Turn,"

Activity 3
C. Dance

1. Distribute the caricature of the "Dancing Master." Ask for volunteers to assume the postures of the dance master and the children he's teaching. Ask why they were asked do this. What can be learned from this activity?
2. Ask students what is going on in the picture. Discuss what the people are wearing, how they are standing, what they are doing.
3. Distribute the "Rules for Dancing" from 1803.
4. Read through as a class. Use the following questions to guide a discussion about the rules.

  • When was this written?
  • Was it meant for adults or children?
  • How were students supposed to dress, and what were they asked to bring?
  • What were students forbidden to bring or do? Why do you think this was the case?
  • What kind of music did they feel was appropriate for dancing? Why do you think this was so? Look up the meaning of "hurdy-gurdy" and "tabor". What can these rules tell us about manners and values of the time?
  • How are these dance customs different from dance customs today?
  • Why do you think these rules were written?
  • Why do you think parents sent their children to dancing schools? Why do you think children wanted to go?

Homework for Activity 3:
Ask students to imagine that they are young people from 1800. Have them write a story describing getting dressed and ready for a social gathering, either a dance, or a party where games will be played. Describe the clothing that they are putting on, the activity they will take part in, and how they will behave. They might want to pretend to be worried about possible misbehavior on someone's part, and the consequences.


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Dancing Master caricature


"Rules for Dancing" from 1803














Use the paragraphs about clothing (from Activity 1), student-generated games (from Activity 2), and paper assignments (from Activity 3) to assess the degree to which individual students have achieved the intended learning outcomes.


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