On the French Frontier 1700-1800

Teachers The Convoy Lesson Plan

Grades: 6 - 9
Subjects: Social Studies and Language Arts
Concepts: Deeper understanding of colonial life, society and economics
Skills: Problem solving, imaginative thinking and public speaking
Can Use With: Side by Side, Maps and Objects
Materials: Scenario, Character Descriptions, Background information, Map of the Route
Time: Two weeks

Print this section for easy reference.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this activity, each student will be able to:

1. Describe the hardships of life on the French frontier
2. Explain the importance of waterways during colonial times
3. Conceptualize the economic system that interlinked the Illinois hinterland with New Orleans


Students will simulate the activities surrounding the convoy of 1752 and the convoy itself by creating characters based upon people within the community of Kaskaskia. Running between New Orleans and the upper Illinois French communities, the convoy of "bateaux" carrying luxuries and news from Europe was the most important link between people of these rural communities and the outside world.

Procedure: Week One

  1. Select groups
  2. Students write character descriptions
  3. Students begin journal
  4. Groups load their bateaux
  5. Groups choose what to order from New Orleans
  6. Class determines time table for the convoy

Split your class into groups of 5 to 6. Each student will choose one of the following character roles (You may have to assign them character roles in advance, and girls may have to play masculine roles):

Character Description

Learning objective: To engage students in original research for a specific purpose.

Once students have selected a role, they will need to do additional research about their characters before they can write character descriptions. "At Home on the French Frontier" provides lifestyle information in:


Learning objective: To give students a place where they can practice imaginative thinking without the fear of ridicule by other students.

Set aside a time, each day, for students to write in their journal, or assign it as homework. Their journals should describe the daily life of their characters in the settlement or on the convoy--their thoughts and feelings. The journal should not be graded. Its privacy should be respected. Let students know that they will have the opportunity to share their journal entries with classmates if they want to. Some groups might open their meetings by reading excerpts from their journals. This is something you should let students decide as a group.

Loading the Bateaux

Prior to beginning this activity, students should have read the background information on the convoy. If you are limited by the number of computers in your classroom, print out the background information and make copies for students.

Each character makes a list of things to take on the voyage
As a group of characters or village

After each group has decided what its bateaux will be carrying, the group should draw an image of this bateaux with a list of its contents. These boats will be placed on a map of the river route. You can devote a section of the blackboard to the map or have the class create a blow-up of the map showing the route from the upper settlements to New Orleans. Students place their boats by the settlement of Kaskaskia.

Group Choice

Students need to decide what supplies their characters would ask the captain to bring back from New Orleans for their family.

Discuss the relationship between the colonies and New Orleans: why did they need each other to exist? How might the villagers of Kaskaskia have viewed New Orleans? Can students find a present day comparison? How would the villagers have paid for the goods from New Orleans?

Discuss why some of the characters had the choice to stay in the village or to go on the convoy and why some of the characters did not have a choice.

Creating a Time-table

Depending on how much class-time you want to devote to this project, come to an agreement with your students about how many days it will take to get down the river. Have students decide how long it will take the bateaux to make it to New Orleans and how many days each move of the convoy will signify. The simulation involves six crisis--three in the village and three on the convoy. The crises are spaced ten days apart, from the departure of the convoy to its arrival in New Orleans. The simulation has the convoy arriving between three to four weeks.

This is a good time to discuss the following themes:

Week Two: Starting the simulation

Learning objective: to engage students in the lives of people living on the French frontier through collaborative learning, role-play, and problem solving.

The simulation consists of six crises--three occur on the convoy and three occur in the village of Kaskaskia. Each crisis provides students with a moral dilemma that they must solve as a group. Students are asked to consider both the positive and potential negative outcomes of their final decision.

Narrator: The events leading up to the crises on the convoy are narrated through the skipper's log of Pierre Riviere. The events leading up to the crises in the village are narrated through the journal of Father Watrin, the priest for the village of Kaskaskia. You may decide to become the narrator and create your own events and crisies. A perfect way to extend the role-play would be to take your class back up the river from New Orleans to Kaskaskia.

Organization: You may decide to have some groups look only at the set of events for the convoy or the set of events for the village and share their problems and solutions through oral reports.

After the groups have made a decision, ask them to explore the positive and negative aspects of their decision.

Extending the Convoy

Letter writing

Each character is part of a family group. This letter should be written by the character to a member of his or her family and should explore the drama of daily life. Students can create a dramatic event involving their character--whether they be on the convoy or at the settlement--and write about this event to a loved one. The letter should reflect an awareness of the hardships of life on the frontier.

You can allow students to choose one or more of these activities to collaborate on as a group:

Expert Groups

This is an effective way to extend the convoy activity. Students will choose an area or theme to research. Some of the themes around which expert groups can be formed deal with village life or the convoy and will depend on which simulation the student selects:

Describe the village (if group chooses Kaskaskia) Describe landscape (if group chooses Convoy) Describe transportation

As students become experts in their area of research they can share their knowledge through oral reports or informal question/answer sessions with classmates.

Assessment: What Have I Learned?

As a way to wrap up the simulation, have students share their thoughts on what it has been like to participate in a simulation: what did they learn about themselves, about each other, about working in a group, and about the French frontier through the simulation? Hold a class discussion on this topic or have students jot down their thoughts on paper.


© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96