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In the Classroom > Picturing America Lessons

Paul Revere's Ride: the Story, the Hero, the Truth

Lesson created by: Deerfield Teachers' Center Staff

Grade Level: 3-5


3-A Grant Wood, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Grant Wood (American, 1892–1942), The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931. Oil on Masonite; H. 30, W. 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm): The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1950 (50.117) Photograph © 1988 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art © Estate of Grant Wood / Licensed by VAGA, New York

Other Resources Needed for this Lesson


Students will understand that artists and writers depicting events from the past make deliberate choices about what facts to include or not, and how accurate to make their creations based upon the purposes they want their pieces to serve.

Focusing Statement

Students will examine Grant Wood's painting, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" for hints about the story depicted in the painting. They will then glean more of the story from excerpts of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "Paul Revere's Ride". In addition, students will discuss why the artist might have chosen to make the scene appear dreamlike and they will examine discrepancies between what really happened during Revere's ride and what the poem and painting illustrate.

Background Information

Grant Wood (1891-1942) is best known for the widely recognized painting, "American Gothic", clearly one of America's most iconic paintings. Born and raised in Iowa, Wood chose to primarily depict the landscapes and simple, hard-working farmers of the rural Midwest. Much of his work, completed during the Great Depression, lifted people's spirits. He was classically taught in Chicago and studied the great art of Europe during four overseas trips he made in the 1920's. Wood rejected the prevailing European abstract approach to painting in favor of the clarity of the 15th c. Flemish master Jan van Eyck, which he adapted to his Midwestern subjects. In addition, Wood chose to illustrate at least two iconic American stories, in "Parson Weems' Fable", referring to young George Washington, and "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." Grant Wood's American Regionalist style has been very popular, as it is easy to grasp and understand.

Examining Expressive Content

Teacher: before telling students the title of the painting, show them "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Grant Wood. Ask:

  • What do you see?
  • Where do you look first on this painting? Why? What did the artist do to make you want to look there first?
  • Where is the action happening? What did the artist do to draw your eye to those spots?
  • What are all of the humans doing?
  • What ties the scene together and helps your eye to see all parts of the picture?

There's a story happening in this picture and we'll be finding out more about it.

  • Does the story take place during the day or at night? What did the artist do to let you know that?
  • Did the story take place a long time ago or in modern times? How can you tell?
  • What do you think is going on? Why might the rider be riding through town so fast? How do you know that he is riding fast?
  • What else would you like to know?

An artist named Grant Wood painted this picture in the 1930's, remembering a story that happened a long time ago. Even though the story is true, the artist wanted it to seem like a dream.

  • What looks real? What doesn't look very real? What did Mr. Wood do to make the picture look that way?

Suggested answers to these questions

Teaching Plan

  1. Teacher: read aloud Excerpts from 'Paul Revere's Ride' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for the Grade 3-5 Lesson. Discuss any vocabulary that might be unfamiliar to students. Grant Wood titled his painting, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called his poem, "Paul Revere's Ride". Ask:
    • What more do you know about the story now? Let's make an outline on the board of what happened. (Teacher- you can fill in the following information: Revere was asked to ride from Boston to Concord to warn two important members of The Sons of Liberty and the general public that the British Regulars were marching to Concord. These other two members were Samuel Adams and John Hancock.)
    • What did Mr. Longfellow mean when he said the following? "The fate of a nation was riding that night; / and the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, / kindled the land into flame with its heat."
    • The story and poem give us information about a very big important event that was about to start. What was it? The attack that Revere warned people about marked the start of the Revolutionary War.
  2. Both Longfellow and Wood left out some important facts about Paul Revere's ride. First, he did not ride alone. William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott joined him along the way to help spread the warning. Second, Revere did not make it all the way to Concord. British soldiers found and arrested him. Revere was questioned at gunpoint about where he came from and where he was going. He told them he had alarmed the countryside and he knew a lot of American soldiers were coming to stop the British. The soldiers took him to Lexington and let him go free. He heard the first shots being fired but he couldn't see who fired them.

    Longfellow might have known these parts of the story when he wrote his poem but if so, he chose not to include them. Why might he have decided to make it seem as if Paul Revere made the ride and delivered the warnings without anyone else's help?

    Grant Wood probably learned the story from Longfellow's poem and might not have been aware of what really happened. He said that as a kid he liked to pretend that he was galloping around his countryside in Iowa warning people about a pretend tornado that was coming. He then imagined that everybody was very proud of him for his bravery and for saving so many lives.

Suggested answers to these questions

Putting It All Together

Look at the painting again.

  • Now that you know the story behind it, what more might you say about why Mr. Wood wanted his painting to look like a dream?
  • What more do you see or understand?
  • What else would you like to know?

Extension activities:

  • create a poem or additions to Longfellow's poem that include the extra information that Longfellow left out.
  • create a diorama of a scene from Revere's ride based on what really happened.


Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

Grade 3 Concepts and Skills
2. Observe visual sources such as historic paintings, photographs, or illustrations that accompany historical narratives, and describe details such as clothing, setting, or action.

3.5 Explain important political, economic, and military developments leading to and during the American Revolution
C. the beginning of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord
E. Revolutionary leaders such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere

Grade 5 Concepts and Skills
3. Observe and identify details in cartoons, photographs, charts, and graphs relating to an historical narrative.
5.17 Describe the major battles of the Revolution and explain the factors leading to American victory and British defeat.
A. Lexington and Concord (1775)

Massachusetts Art Curriculum Framework

Observation, Abstraction, Invention, and Expression. Students will demonstrate their powers of observation, abstraction, invention, and expression in a variety of media, materials, and techniques.

Critical Response. Students will describe and analyze their own work and the work of others using appropriate visual arts vocabulary. When appropriate, students will connect their analysis to interpretation and evaluation.

Interdisciplinary Connections. Students will apply their knowledge of the arts to the study of English language arts, foreign languages, health, history and social science, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering.

PreK–12 STANDARD 5: Critical Response By the end of grade 4 students will:
5.1 In the course of making and viewing art, learn ways of discussing it, such as by making a list of all of the images seen in an artwork (visual inventory); and identifying kinds of color, line, texture, shapes, and forms in the work.

Common Core Standards

English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Literature
Grade 3

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

Grade 4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.7 Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.

Grade 5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.7 Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

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