Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which Franklin himself called his Memoirs, is the unfinished record of his life written between 1771 and 1790. It has become one of the most well-known and influential autobiographies in history, and has been praised both as a historical document and a piece of literature in its own right. William Dean Howells declared that "Franklin's is one of the greatest autobiographies in literature, and towers over other autobiographies as Franklin towered over other men." (From
Curriculet Details
45 Questions
52 Annotations
3 Quizzes

In this 11th and 12th grade digital curriculum, annotations include links to images of the setting, iconic renderings of Benjamin Franklin, and explanations of literary devices such as foreshadowing and tone. Interactive videos support engagement and cover subjects such as foreshadowing and the life and times of Benjamin Franklin in colonial America. The Common Core aligned questions and answers address textual evidence and character development, along with the themes of education and self- control and determination. Our free online unit will increase student engagement with rich media annotations while supporting reading comprehension with questions and quizzes that are imbedded directly into the book.

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Chapter I

Prior to reading this biography, it would be useful to view the resources here to learn more about Franklin and his life.  (This annotation contains a link)
Remember to use the "Define" feature in Curriculet to look up unfamiliar words. You simply need to highlight the word and click "Define" to look up words. For example, do you need to look up the word "felicity"? 
Franklin starts his autobiography with a history of  
This is a map of England. The red area shows Northamptonshire, where Franklin's ancestors lived. (This annotation contains an image)
This is a picture of the birthplace of Franklin as it looks today in Boston.  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the main reason that Franklin's family moved to America? 
The image below shows the small minnows that Franklin references in this section. Minnows are tiny fish that are sometimes caught and used to bait larger fish.  (This annotation contains an image)
Who is Franklin describing in this highlighted passage? 
While thirteen children may seem like a lot by modern standards, women commonly had many more children during Franklin's time. Since many children died in early infancy, couples had large families to ensure that enough children survived into adulthood.  
During the time Franklin was alive, books were printed using a printing press. This was a labor-intensive process that allowed reading materials to be printed in large quantities. By today's standards, this process was slow. However, during colonial times, printing presses allowed for text to be distributed en masse. Watch the video here to see how colonial printers worked.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter II

What details in this chapter support the central idea that Franklin loved to learn? 
This image shows Cocker's book of Arithmetick that Franklin references. Imagine how much self-discipline is required to read such complex texts on one's own! (This annotation contains an image)
The phrase "I took a delight in it" illustrates which central idea of Franklin's biography?  
Based on this evidence, what can we infer about Franklin's brother? 
Visit the link below to read the entire first edition of the New England Courant.  (This annotation contains a link)
The words "libeling" and "satyr" show that Franklin had a tendency to  
Pay close attention to how Franklin survives this ordeal. Think about what this reveals about Franklin's maturity and grit.  

Chapter III

The image below is a primary source engraving of the Market Street wharf during the 1700s. This image would look familiar to Benjamin Franklin since he sailed into Philadelphia around the same time this was created.  (This annotation contains an image)
Franklin reveals that the structure of this chapter is more detailed to show readers 
Benjamin Franklin's first acquaintances in Philadelphia were people who loved to read. What does this fact reveal about Franklin? 
This is a portrait of Sir William Keith from Newcastle.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter IV

The way that Benjamin Franklin's brother greets him indicates that he is  
Benjamin Franklin is using the literary device of foreshadowing in the highlighted passage to show readers that he and his brother will one day reconcile. To learn more about foreshadowing, watch this quick video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Quakers are a group of people with Christian roots. Quakers played a significant role in colonial and early- American history. To learn more about Quakers, visit the site below.  (This annotation contains a link)
Franklin's friend Collins has a problem with ____________. 
The Socratic method is a method of teaching where the instructor asks the student many questions instead of lecturing. It was a style of instruction documented by Plato over 2,400 years ago. How might this method impact a student's education?  

Chapter V

During the period of time described in this highlighted section of the text, Franklin was a(n) ___________________. 

Chapter VI

What was the impact of Colonel French coming on board and showing Franklin respect? 
The image below shows the English Channel that Franklin refers to here. Traveling during this time period was a very uncomfortable experience. Notice how Franklin's description of the voyage corroborates this.  (This annotation contains an image)
Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist and mathematician who is best known for his laws of motion.  (This annotation contains an image)
During this time period it was common for people to keep a cabinet full of "curiosities." These were items that were talking points for visitors who came to their home. The image below shows a cabinet of curiosities from the 1600s. (This annotation contains an image)
From the phrase "meanly employed," the reader can infer that, during this time period, teaching was 
Saint Veronica was a saint who Catholics believe offered Jesus her handkerchief to wipe his face with when he was carrying his cross.  (This annotation contains an image)
Which statement best describes Franklin's opinion regarding swimming? 
Thevenot was a Frenchman who wrote about the art of swimming. Based on the information presented in the first few paragraphs of this site, what role did swimming play in America during this time period? (This annotation contains a link)
What does this detail reveal about Benjamin Franklin? 

Chapter VII

How is Franklin's boss treating him in this passage? 
In this chapter, Franklin is revealing that there is significant tension between him and his manager. To learn more about how to identify rising tension, watch the short clip below.  (This annotation contains a video)
This passage reveals that Franklin had  
The club that Franklin starts in this passage is  
Franklin earned the job printing for the House because 
Welsh people come from Wales in Great Britain. The map below shows the location of Wales. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz 1 

Chapter VIII

The image below shows money printed in 1779. This type of currency is similar to the currency that Franklin would have printed.  (This annotation contains an image)
Franklin's lifestyle can be best described as __________. 
What revolution is Franklin referring to? 
The image below shows the Philadelphia public library circa 1800.  (This annotation contains an image)
Read the following article about libraries in America. Would Benjamin Franklin agree or disagree with the author's thesis?  (This annotation contains a link)
Based on this evidence in the link above, do you think that Franklin was successful in attaining moral perfection? Why or why not?   
There are many sides to Benjamin Franklin. Click on the link below and read the passage where Franklin gives advice on choosing a mistress. Pay close to attention as you read, as you will need this information in order to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter IX

Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher. Click on the link below to learn more about Socrates. Why Franklin would have wanted to imitate Socrates?  (This annotation contains a link)
Franklin believes that 
Franklin takes very little time to sleep in his day. His time is highly structured and he keeps very busy. What do these small details illustrate about Franklin's character? 
The passage of the Bible that Franklin is referencing can be found below. What is the central idea of this passage? (This annotation contains a link)
According to this section of the text, Franklin's greatest flaw is 
Viz. is an abbreviation of "videlicet," meaning "it is permitted to say." Similar to "i.e.," it means "as follows" and serves as the beginning of a list or series. 

Chapter X

Watch the video below to learn more about Franklin's work called "Poor Richard's Almanac."  (This annotation contains a video)
How has Franklin changed since his early days as a printer? 
What actions does Franklin take to make amends to his older brother? 
This is a portrait of Colonel Spotswood, the governor of Virginia and the postmaster- general that Franklin refers to.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter XI

The term "Junto" refers to 
In the 1700s, there was very few government safety nets for orphans, the poor, and others who needed assistance. Much of the support for these groups of people came from private funds. 
Franklin compares Whitefield's voice to 

Chapter XII

Below is one of the many flags designed by Franklin.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Franklin refuse to give up his office? Does this support the reader's understanding of Franklin's character or provide a new version of his personality? 
Quakers have a strong tradition of opposing war and violence. What details from the previous passages in this chapter illustrate this belief? 
What does Franklin's establishment of an academy reveal about his values? 
Franklin's text titled "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania" can be found below.  (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter XIII

Franklin's desire to establish a hospital and an academy serve as evidence of his interest in  
The portrait below is of Dr. Thomas Bond, a friend of Benjamin Franklin.  (This annotation contains an image)
Benjamin Franklin traveled back and forth to Europe throughout his life. To learn more about his travels and his life in Europe, watch the clip below.  (This annotation contains a video)
Why did people avoid sweeping the streets? 
The Albany Plan of Union was a very pivotal moment in colonial America. To learn more about the historical significance of this meeting, visit the link below.  (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter XIV

Benjamin Franklin came up with this cartoon to illustrate what he believed would happen if the colonies did not unify. Use this image to answer the question below.  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the primary message of Franklin's cartoon? In what ways does Franklin use rhetorical strategies in this cartoon? 

Chapter XV

Use the Define feature to look up the word "obstinate." Then pick the best synonym from the list below. 
To learn more about the French and Indian War (also called the Seven Years War), watch the video below. Then, read on to learn about Franklin's interpretation of events around this time period. (This annotation contains a video)
Using text- based clues, what is a synonym for "temper" in this context? 
"Bohea do" refers to a kind of tea. 
Why did it take so long for Franklin to pay the owners? 
The phrase "infested by the enemy" creates a __________ tone. 

Chapter XVII

Presbyterianism is a sect of Christianity. Consider Franklin's relationship with religion. What have you learned thus far in the text? 
Franklin noticed that the Moravians appeared 
The Moravians are another sect of Christianity, founded in the 18th century. Using the link below, compare their beliefs with those of the Quakers. How are they similar? How are they different? (This annotation contains a link)
Franklin was an avid experimenter and is known for inventing the bifocals, lightning rods, and discovering many new features of electricity. To learn more about Franklin's inventions, visit the link below.  (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter XVIII

What does Franklin's interest in science reveal about his attitude towards learning? 
The image below is a famous image of Franklin flying a kite into a rainstorm to perform the experiment that he describes in this section. It is uncertain if he actually performed this exact experiment, but the iconic nature of the image remains.  (This annotation contains an image)
What made Franklin's book so popular? 
Quiz 2 

Chapter XIX

From this passage we can infer that the governor 
New York City was mostly farms and fields in the 1700, as evidenced in the image below.  (This annotation contains an image)
Which war is Franklin recounting? 
Notice the negative tone that Franklin uses to describe the general in this passage. To learn more about how authors develop tone, watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Stonehenge is a popular tourist destination in England today. Interestingly, it appears that it was a popular tourist destination in Franklin's time, as well. To learn more about why this site is so appealing to visitors, visit the site below.  (This annotation contains a link)
In this section, Franklin 
Pay attention to how the end of Franklin's autobiography foreshadows the upcoming American Revolution. 
"Viva voce" means "by word of mouth" in Latin. 
The proprietaries were __________  Governor Denny. 


Visit the link below to learn more about the experiment Franklin describes in this passage.  (This annotation contains a link)
Quiz 3