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Declare the Causes: The Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence: July 4th 1776.
Library of Congress
Complaints! Complaints! Students have been known to complain at times. (So have their teachers.) Even the Founding Fathers of our country indulged in gripe sessions. In fact, a list of grievances comprises the longest section of the Declaration of Independence; however, the source of the document's power is its firm philosophic foundation. Through the lens of the human propensity to complain, you can encourage students to recognize the principles, motivations, and precedents that underlie the Declaration of Independence. Help your students understand the development of the Declaration as both a historical process and a compositional process through role play, creative writing, an introduction to important documents and a review of historic events.
What precedents exist for specific elements in the Declaration of Independence, both in previous documents and in historical events?
How is the Declaration structured?
Describe and list the sections of the Declaration of Independence and explain the purpose of each.
Give an example of a document that served as a precedent for the Declaration of Independence.
Identify and explain one or more of the colonists' complaints included in the Declaration of Independence.
Demonstrate an awareness of the Declaration of Independence as a historical process developed in protest of unfair conditions.
Lesson Plan Details
Opponents of the Stamp Act of 1765 declared that the act—which was designed to raise money to support the British army stationed in America after 1763 by requiring Americans to buy stamps for newspapers, legal documents, mortgages, liquor licenses, even playing cards and almanacs—was illegal and unjust because it taxed Americans without their consent. In protesting the act, they cited the following prohibition against taxation without consent:
"No scutage [tax] ... shall be imposed..., unless by common counsel..."
The source? The Magna Carta , written in 1215, 550 years earlier. American resistance forced the British Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act in 1766. In the succeeding years, similar taxes were levied by British Parliament and protested by many Americans. The American Revolution brewed in a context of Americans' concern over contemporary events as well as awareness of historic precedents. Mindful of both, the framers created the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, in which the colonies declared their freedom from British rule.
NCSS.D2.Civ.1.3-5. Distinguish the responsibilities and powers of government officials at various levels and branches of government and in different times and places.
NCSS.D2.Civ.2.3-5. Explain how a democracy relies on people’s responsible participation, and draw implications for how individuals should participate.
NCSS.D2.His.3.3-5. Generate questions about individuals and groups who have shaped significant historical changes and continuities.
NCSS.D2.His.4.3-5. Explain why individuals and groups during the same historical period differed in their perspectives.
Review the lesson plans. Bookmark or download and print out any materials you will use. Make copies of a transcript of the Declaration for every student. You may wish to provide students with a copy of the Written Document Analysis Worksheet , available through the Educator Resources section of the National Archives website, to guide them as they review primary source documents.
Activity 1. Complaints, Complaints...
Discuss with students that you have overheard them, at times, make various complaints about the treatment of young people. Complaints not unlike those motivated the Founding Fathers at the time of the American Revolution. Give the students a short time in small groups to list complaints they have about the treatment of young people. The complaints should be of a general nature (for example: recess should be longer, fourth graders should be able to see PG videos, etc.). Collect the list. Choose complaints to share with the class, so you can guide the discussion to follow. Save the lists for future reference.
There are moments when all of us are more eager to express what's wrong than we are to think critically about the problem and possible solutions. There is no reason to think people were any different in 1776. It's important to understand the complaints of the colonists as one step in a process involving careful deliberation and attempts to redress grievances. Ask questions to help your students consider their concerns in a deliberate way. WHO makes the rules they don't like, WHO decides if they are fair or not, HOW does one get them changed, WHAT does it mean to be independent from the rules, and finally, HOW does a group of people declare that they will no longer follow the rules?
Activity 2. So, What are You Going to Do About It?
Ask the students to imagine that, in hopes of effecting some changes, they are going to compose a document based on their complaints to be sent to the appropriate audience. As they begin to compose their document, they should consider the following questions. (Note to the teacher: The following questions correspond to the sections of the Declaration, as noted in parentheses, which will be discussed later. This discussion serves as a prewriting activity for the writing assignment.)
- To whom would you send your complaints? Why? What reasons would you give for your decision to write out your complaints? (Preamble)
- What makes you think your complaints are worthwhile? Aren't there good reasons why things are the way they are? Why should things as they are be changed? Would it be possible to summarize the thinking behind your desire for change in a single sentence? (statement of beliefs, or the thinking behind the complaints)
- Is there anything in particular the reader should notice about your complaints? Is there anything you need to keep in mind to make sure your audience understands and appreciates your complaints? What kinds of events inspired your complaints? (the list of complaints)
- Have you already tried to make any changes in the treatment of young people? In what way? (prior attempts to redress grievances)
- Is it possible to say in a single sentence what it is you really want to happen? It would take time to change the system to accommodate all of your complaints. What should happen right away? (Declaration of Independence)
- Who would be willing to sign his/her name to this list of complaints even if it were going to be seen and read by many people? (the signatures)
Activity 3. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America
The Declaration of Independence was created in an atmosphere of complaints about the treatment of the colonies under British rule. In this unit, students will be given the opportunity to compose a document based on their own complaints; however, the resulting "declarations" might be more convincing if based on some models already proven effective.
The above video from Schoolhouse Rock is entitled "Fireworks" and focuses on the Declaration of Independence. Provide every student with a transcript of the Declaration . There is no need to do a close reading of the entire document at this point. The immediate goal is to understand the structure of the document and the basic intent of each section. Discuss the Declaration with students, using the following section-by-section questions help students relate this overview of the Declaration to the previous discussion.
- Preamble: the reasons for writing down the Declaration (from "WHEN, in the Course of human Events" to "declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation."). What reason(s) did the Founding Fathers give for their decision to write out a declaration?
- Statement of beliefs: specifying what the undersigned believed, the philosophy behind the document (from "We hold these Truths to be self-evident" to "an absolute Tyranny over these States"). What beliefs did the Founding Fathers declare they held?
- List of complaints: the offenses that impelled the declaration (from "To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World" to "unfit to be the ruler of a free people"). What are a few of the complaints? Are any specific events mentioned? If not, is the information given sometimes sufficient to figure out to which events the complaints refer?
- Statement of prior attempts to redress grievances: (From "Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren," to "Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.") In what way(s) did the framers claim to have already tried in addressing the complaints?
- Declaration of independence: (From "WE, therefore" to "and our sacred Honour.") What will change in the colonies as a result of the Declaration?
- The signatures: Which signers do students recognize?
Activity 4. When, in the Course of Human Events ...
Working alone or in small groups, students draft their own declarations. The transcript of the Declaration of Independence will serve as a model; student documents should contain the same sections. They should start with their reasons for writing (preamble), as discussed above. Tell students they can model their statement after the Preamble to the Declaration. For example, they can begin with the words "When, in the course of human events ..."
Activity 5. What Experience Hath Shown
After a session of work on their declarations, introduce to students the idea of earlier documents that set a precedent for the Declaration. Let students know that the committee members who drafted our Declaration (John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia) were aware of documents from earlier years. Some of these documents served as models as the committee members wrote the Declaration. Perhaps seeing precedents for the Declaration will help students in composing theirs. Ask students to work in small groups to review some of the earlier documents and find common features between the historical documents and the Declaration. If desired and appropriate for your class, this would be a good time to read the entire Declaration. Students should look at the historical documents for similar structures (the document has a preamble, for instance) or phrases or passages that relate to the Declaration. As they read the excerpts, students should refer back to their transcript of the Declaration of Independence. Students should not attempt close readings of the documents. Instead, they scan key passages for similarities. (If you wish, you could have students locate documents on their own, using The Avalon Project At The Yale Law School website, accessible through EDSITEment.) The following documents are available through The Avalon Project unless otherwise noted.
- The Magna Carta (June 1215). Of structural interest is the preamble and the last section (#63). What differences and similarities do the students notice? Section 1 and Section 12 also have relevant content. The National Archives website features a translation of its 1297 copy of the Magna Carta and videos about the document's conservation and encasement .
- The First Charter of Virginia (April 10, 1606). A relevant section begins "And we do also ordain, establish, and agree, for Us, our Heirs, and Successors, that each of the said Colonies shall have a Council" and ends "pass under the Privy Seal of our Realm of England;" a statement of the colonists' ability to pass laws. Also of interest is the section beginning, "Also we do, for Us, our Heirs, and Successors, DECLARE" to "any other of our said Dominions."
- The Mayflower Compact (November, 1621).
- English Bill of Rights (1689) for comparison to the list of grievances (such as quartering troops, a standing army, suspending of laws).
- The Royal Proclamation (October 7, 1763) issued at the conclusion of the French and Indian War. Look at the section beginning with "for the security of the Liberties and Properties" and ending with "and call General Assemblies."
- The Resolutions of the Continental Congress , also known as The Stamp Act Congress (October 19, 1765). Especially relevant is the list of complaints (such as the complaint beginning "That the only representatives of the people of these colonies...").
- The Articles of Association (October 20, 1774). For comparison to the list of grievances, look at the passage from "the present unhappy situation of our affairs is occasioned by a ruinous system of colony administration" to "whenever a wicked ministry shall chuse so to direct them." Students should also look at the statement beginning "To obtain redress of these grievances."
- The Virginia Declaration of Rights (June 12, 1776), written by George Mason. Especially pertinent are the first three sections.
Guide to Independent Searches for Precedent Setting Documents The Avalon Project contains many relevant documents and is fully searchable. Students can search for terms such as "rights" or "taxes" or "standing armies" within the Colonial Charters, Grants, and Early Constitution collection listed in the pull-down menu on the search page. Students should be aware that search results will include documents created after 1776, which are irrelevant to the task at hand. The Avalon Project website has amassed a list of documents under the title The American Constitution: A Documentary Record , including forerunners to the United States Constitution. There you may find additional relevant documents. Of special interest are the sections "The Roots of the Constitution" and "Revolution and Independence."
Activity 6. Share and Declare
Once student groups have analyzed the historical documents that preceded the Declaration of Independence, ask them to share their findings with the rest of the class. In what ways were the earlier documents similar to the Declaration? You may wish to create a display of the information students have uncovered. For example, on a large bulletin board, center the text of the Declaration. Highlight relevant excerpts. Use a colored strand of yarn to lead from each Declaration excerpt to a posting of the name and date of a related document. Classes with the necessary technology, skill, and computer access can do this same exercise on the computer, creating hyperlinks to the precedents. Students should continue to work on their declarations, either during class or as a homework assignment. They can use what they learned through the study of relevant documents created before the Declaration as a guide for the information they wish to include in their documents. By this time, students should be working on the statement of beliefs and the complaints section of their declarations.
Activity 7. Eighty-Six It: Changes to Jefferson's Draft
Now students can look at some drafts of the Declaration. Every class should view actual images of these drafts with corrections written in Jefferson's handwriting. Some classes might benefit from a closer look at the kinds of changes that occurred. The committee and Continental Congress are said to have made a total of 86 changes to the document. American Memory has a collection of Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789, containing many historic documents, including images and transcripts of original copies of various drafts of the Declaration. Students may be especially interested to view an image of a fragment of the Declaration and a transcript of the earliest known draft of the Declaration . You can also access an image and transcript of a later draft of the Declaration via this page at the Founding Documents section of the National Archives website. Reading just a small portion of the later draft will demonstrate the significant changes that took place as the Congress worked on the Declaration. Did the final version improve on the draft? If so, how? Students should continue to work on their declarations. They should be nearing completion of a first draft, including a statement of prior attempts to redress grievances, and a declaration of independence. Take some time to discuss the writing process within the student groups. How did they proceed? Did they ever go back and make changes? What kinds of changes? Did more than one person have input?
Activity 8. Publish and Declare
Now, the student groups should complete and present their "declarations." If typed on a computer, these can be printed out in an appropriately ornate font. The paper can be stained using tea to give the appearance of age. Students should sign the document on which they worked. If students have access to the necessary technology, they can create hyperlinks from sections of their computerized declaration to specific precedents in the Declaration. Students should now reflect on their experience writing a declaration and the process that created it. What part of their own declaration would they say most resembles the 1776 Declaration of Independence? Which complaint? Which part of their beliefs? What changes did they make in the course of writing their documents? How did the group decide how to proceed? Student declarations should be posted and, if practical, sent to the intended audience (parents, principal). For a culminating activity, the documents can be read in class in ceremonial fashion. The documents' reflection of the structure of the Declaration will help the teacher assess the success of the activity.
- Have students conduct research into the historical events that led to the colonists' complaints and dissatisfaction with British rule. What were some of the specific complaints? After reviewing the complaints, the students look for specific events related to the grievances listed. They can use their own textbooks and other sources available at school. The historical events students choose could also be added to the bulletin board by connecting an excerpt of a particular complaint to a brief, dated summary of an event. The complaints relate to actual events, but the precise events were not discussed in the Declaration. Why do the students think the framers decided to do that? (Someone might notice that, in the fragment of the early draft discussed below, the complaint referred to a specific event.) Would the student declarations also be more effective without specific events tied to the complaints?
- This unit can serve as a model for studying any of our nation's important historical documents. A study of the Constitution could begin with a role-play in which students imagine themselves marooned on a desert island, with little hope of rescue. Working in groups, students should come up with the 10 most important concepts for ensuring harmonious living in the new community and write them down in a list. After the initial round of listing, ask some "what if," "what about" and "what would happen" questions to help cover their omissions. Then post the revised lists on the classroom bulletin board or, if you have a computer in your classroom, post them electronically. At this point, you could introduce students to the Constitution, relating the concepts the students have come up with on their own to articles in the Constitution and talking about why a particular tenet is as important now as it was then. You could then compare your "living classroom constitution(s)" with the U.S. Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) and selections from the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, etc, depending on the age and sophistication level of your students. The Avalon Project's The American Constitution - A Documentary Record contains many relevant documents for this type of study.
- Students can now look at the American Declaration as a precedent for documents that came after it. Fruitful comparison can be made with the French Declaration of the Rights of Man—1789 , available through The Avalon Project. This declaration is also known as the French Declaration of Independence.
- Students could attempt to conduct a Declaration Convention in which they use the small group declarations as the basis of a single document representing the entire class.
- Volunteers could stage a dramatic reading of the entire Declaration.
- Students may be interested in seeing an image of the original Declaration , now exhibited in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, this version has faded badly. The most frequently reproduced version of the Declaration is taken from the engraving made by printer William J. Stone in 1823 . This image also is available online and has not faded as much as the original Declaration.
- Here is an annotated version of the final draft of the Declaration , with links to an earlier draft and other materials such as Jefferson's letters. Passages in parentheses in the draft surround items that were crossed out; it is believed that some of those changes were made by John Adams.
- The Continental Congress made important changes to the Declaration in two places. An analysis of these changes is accessible through the EDSITEment resource American Memory at the Library of Congress site.
- American Memory's special collection A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation contains an annotated version of the Declaration with notes from Jefferson as to which committee member made specific changes (with which he apparently did not wholeheartedly agree) on pp. 491-502 of volume five of the Journals of the Continental Congress , 1774-1789, the record for Friday, June 28, 1776.
- The Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England (May 19, 1643). A precursor of the Constitution's requirement for a census is found here in Article 4, "that the Commissioners for each Jurisdiction from time to time, as there shall be occasion, bring a true account and number of all their males in every Plantation."
- Ordinances for Virginia July 24-August 3, 1621, including article IV with its discussion of a representative assembly.
- Articles of Confederation (March 1, 1781)
- The Madison Debates , James Madison's notes taken during the Federal Convention of 1787.
- Image of the original Declaration
- Engraving of the Declaration made by William J. Stone, 1823
Related on EDSITEment
Mission us: for crown or colony the game, frederick douglass's, “what to the slave is the fourth of july”, the american war for independence.
Resources: Discussions and Assignments
Module 5 assignment: my declaration of independence.
For this assignment, you’ll create your own, modern-day example of a Declaration of Independence.
Step 1 : Pick FIVE of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence and rewrite them in your own words and with enough of an explanation that they make sense.
For example, “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” could be rewritten as, “The King did not allow laws to be passed that benefited the colonies.” Include both the actual text and your example.
Step 2 : Following the template laid out in the Declaration of Independence, write your own declaration about any injustices your notice in your life or those around you (it could be related to school, work, study groups, relationships, political issues, etc.) Although not required, you could use the following outline to write your own declaration (add information to each of the four paragraphs):
- (1) When in the course of human events it becomes necessary…
- (2) We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all _______ are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are…
- (3) To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…(Here you must list at LEAST five grievances, or complaints, in support of your argument)
- (4) We, therefore, solemnly publish and declare…
Step 3 : Share your declaration in a visually appealing way, either in the form of an infographic, presentation, or video. Share your declaration in the discussion forum.
Sample 1 (showing the text only):
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one person to demand assistance in the regular maintenance of the bathroom cleanliness, decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the rights to cleanliness, public sanitation, leisure time, and peace. Over the past several years, my family has repeatedly ignored my requests to assist in cleaning the toilets.
To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world…Instead of lending a helping hand, her requests have been blatantly ignored and denied. While she works endlessly to maintain the porcelain glow of the toilet, the brass shine on the faucets, and the impeccable whiteness of the shower tub, her family members seem dead set on creating as much possible filth within the bathroom quarters.
In over 5 years of family life, she has never once seen an unexpectedly clean bathroom. She wipes the counters and mirrors at least thrice weekly with a Clorox wipe, which goes unnoticed by all. She vacuums and cleans the bathroom floor at least weekly. She uses a bathmat instead of dripping wetness all over the clean bathroom carpets while no one else does so. She was once asked if they own a toilet brush cleaner. Yes, yes they do. Others claim to not know the location of the bathroom cleaning supplies, although they remain faithfully under the bathroom sink.
I, therefore, solemnly publish and declare that the time has come for me to step down from her bathroom duties and relinquish them entirely to the fate of her family. She will not mop, vacuum, clean, wipe, or brush any portion of the bathroom and will wait to see just how filthy it becomes before her family members realize she has retired from these duties.
Watch a video example created using Adobe Spark .
Assignment Grading Rubric:
- Assignment: My Declaration of Independence. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
- A Tenant's Declaration of Independence. Authored by : Jacey Anderson. Located at : https://spark.adobe.com/video/xrhCk4Zg8CFKS . License : All Rights Reserved
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The Declaration of Independence
By tim bailey, view the declaration in the gilder lehrman collection by clicking here and here . for additional primary resources click here and here ., unit objective.
This unit is part of Gilder Lehrman’s series of Common Core State Standards–based teaching resources. These units were written to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance. Students will demonstrate this knowledge by writing summaries of selections from the original document and, by the end of the unit, articulating their understanding of the complete document by answering questions in an argumentative writing style to fulfill the Common Core State Standards. Through this step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze any primary or secondary source material.
While the unit is intended to flow over a five-day period, it is possible to present and complete the material within a shorter time frame. For example, the first two days can be used to ensure an understanding of the process with all of the activity completed in class. The teacher can then assign lessons three and four as homework. The argumentative essay is then written in class on day three.
Students will be asked to "read like a detective" and gain a clear understanding of the Declaration of Independence. Through reading and analyzing the original text, the students will know what is explicitly stated, draw logical inferences, and demonstrate these skills by writing a succinct summary and then restating that summary in the student’s own words. In the first lesson this will be facilitated by the teacher and done as a whole-class lesson.
Tell the students that they will be learning what Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1776 that served to announce the creation of a new nation by reading and understanding Jefferson’s own words. Resist the temptation to put the Declaration into too much context. Remember, we are trying to let the students discover what Jefferson and the Continental Congress had to say and then develop ideas based solely on the original text.
- The Declaration of Independence, abridged (PDF)
- Teacher Resource: Complete text of the Declaration of Independence (PDF). This transcript of the Declaration of Independence is from the National Archives online resource The Charters of Freedom .
- Summary Organizer #1 (PDF)
- All students are given an abridged copy of the Declaration of Independence and are asked to read it silently to themselves.
- The teacher then "share reads" the text with the students. This is done by having the students follow along silently while the teacher begins reading aloud. The teacher models prosody, inflection, and punctuation. The teacher then asks the class to join in with the reading after a few sentences while the teacher continues to read along with the students, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English Language Learners (ELL).
- The teacher explains that the students will be analyzing the first part of the text today and that they will be learning how to do in-depth analysis for themselves. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #1. This contains the first selection from the Declaration of Independence.
- The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #1 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device). Explain that today the whole class will be going through this process together.
- Explain that the objective is to select "Key Words" from the first section and then use those words to create a summary sentence that demonstrates an understanding of what Jefferson was saying in the first paragraph.
- Guidelines for selecting the Key Words: Key Words are very important contributors to understanding the text. Without them the selection would not make sense. These words are usually nouns or verbs. Don’t pick "connector" words (are, is, the, and, so, etc.). The number of Key Words depends on the length of the original selection. This selection is 181 words so we can pick ten Key Words. The other Key Words rule is that we cannot pick words if we don’t know what they mean.
- Students will now select ten words from the text that they believe are Key Words and write them in the box to the right of the text on their organizers.
- The teacher surveys the class to find out what the most popular choices were. The teacher can either tally this or just survey by a show of hands. Using this vote and some discussion the class should, with guidance from the teacher, decide on ten Key Words. For example, let’s say that the class decides on the following words: necessary, dissolve, political bonds (yes, technically these are two words, but you can allow such things if it makes sense to do so; just don’t let whole phrases get by), declare, separation, self-evident, created equal, liberty, abolish, and government. Now, no matter which words the students had previously selected, have them write the words agreed upon by the class or chosen by you into the Key Words box in their organizers.
- The teacher now explains that, using these Key Words, the class will write a sentence that restates or summarizes what was stated in the Declaration. This should be a whole-class discussion-and-negotiation process. For example, "It is necessary for us to dissolve our political bonds and declare a separation; it is self-evident that we are created equal and should have liberty, so we need to abolish our current government." You might find that the class decides they don’t need the some of the words to make it even more streamlined. This is part of the negotiation process. The final negotiated sentence is copied into the organizer in the third section under the original text and Key Words sections.
- The teacher explains that students will now be putting their summary sentence into their own words, not having to use Jefferson’s words. Again, this is a class discussion-and-negotiation process. For example, "We need to get rid of our old government so we can be free."
- Wrap up: Discuss vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. If you choose, you could have students use the back of their organizers to make a note of these words and their meanings.
Students will be asked to "read like a detective" and gain a clear understanding of what Thomas Jefferson was writing about in the Declaration of Independence. Through reading and analyzing the original text, the students will know what is explicitly stated, draw logical inferences, and demonstrate these skills by writing a succinct summary and then restating that summary in the student’s own words. In the second lesson the students will work with partners and in small groups.
Tell the students that they will be further exploring the meaning of the Declaration of Independence by reading and understanding Jefferson’s text and then being able to tell, in their own words, what he said. Today they will be working with partners and in small groups.
- Summary Organizer #2 (PDF)
- All students are given the abridged copy of the Declaration of Independence and are asked to read it silently to themselves.
- The students and teacher discuss what they did yesterday and what they decided was the meaning of the first selection.
- The teacher then "share reads" the second selection with the students. This is done by having the students follow along silently while the teacher begins reading aloud. The teacher models prosody, inflection, and punctuation. The teacher then asks the class to join in with the reading after a couple of sentences while the teacher continues to read along with the students, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English Language Learners (ELL).
- The teacher explains that the class will be analyzing the second selection from the Declaration of Independence today. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #2. This contains the second selection from the Declaration.
- The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #2 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device). Explain that today they will be going through the same process as yesterday but with partners and in small groups.
- Explain that the objective is still to select "Key Words" from the second selection and then use those words to create a summary sentence that demonstrates an understanding of what Jefferson was saying in that selection.
- Guidelines for selecting the Key Words: The guidelines for selecting Key Words are the same as they were yesterday. However, because this paragraph is shorter than the last one at 148 words, they can pick only seven or eight Key Words.
- Pair the students up and have them negotiate which Key Words to select. After they have decided on their words both students will write them in the Key Words box of their organizers.
- The teacher now puts two pairs together. These two pairs go through the same negotiation-and-discussion process to come up with their Key Words. Be strategic in how you make your groups to ensure the most participation by all group members.
- The teacher now explains that by using these Key Words the group will build a sentence that restates or summarizes what Thomas Jefferson was saying. This is done by the group negotiating with its members on how best to build that sentence. Try to make sure that everyone is contributing to the process. It is very easy for one student to take control of the entire process and for the other students to let them do so. All of the students should write their negotiated sentence into their organizers.
- The teacher asks for the groups to share out the summary sentences they have created. This should start a teacher-led discussion that points out the qualities of the various attempts. How successful were the groups at understanding the Declaration and were they careful to only use Jefferson’s Key Words in doing so?
- The teacher explains that the group will now be putting their summary sentence into their own words, not having to use Jefferson’s words. Again, this is a group discussion-and-negotiation process. After they have decided on a sentence it should be written into their organizers. Again, the teacher should have the groups share out and discuss the clarity and quality of the groups’ attempts.
Students will be asked to "read like a detective" and gain a clear understanding of the meaning of the Declaration of Indpendence. Through reading and analyzing the original text, the students will know what is explicitly stated, draw logical inferences, and demonstrate these skills by writing a succinct summary and then restating that summary in the student’s own words. In this lesson the students will be working individually.
Tell the students that they will be further exploring what Thomas Jefferson was saying in the third selection from the Declaration of Independence by reading and understanding Jefferson’s words and then being able to tell, in their own words, what he said. Today they will be working by themselves on their summaries.
- Summary Organizer #3 (PDF)
- The students and teacher discuss what they did yesterday and what they decided was the meaning of the first two selections.
- The teacher then "share reads" the third selection with the students. This is done by having the students follow along silently while the teacher begins reading aloud. The teacher models prosody, inflection, and punctuation. The teacher then asks the class to join in with the reading after a couple of sentences while the teacher continues to read along with the students, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English Language Learners (ELL).
- The teacher explains that the class will be analyzing the third selection from the Declaration of Independence today. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #3. This contains the third selection from the Declaration.
- The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #3 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device). Explain that today they will be going through the same process as yesterday, but they will be working by themselves.
- Explain that the objective is still to select "Key Words" from the third paragraph and then use those words to create a summary sentence that demonstrates an understanding of what Jefferson was saying in that selection.
- Guidelines for selecting the Key Words: The guidelines for selecting Key Words are the same as they were yesterday. However, because this paragraph is longer (208 words) they can pick ten Key Words.
- Have the students decide which Key Words to select. After they have chosen their words they will write them in the Key Words box of their organizers.
- The teacher explains that, using these Key Words, each student will build a sentence that restates or summarizes what Jefferson was saying. They should write their summary sentences into their organizers.
- The teacher explains that they will be putting their summary sentence into their own words, not having to use Jefferson’s words. This should be added to their organizers.
- The teacher asks for students to share out the summary sentences they have created. This should start a teacher-led discussion that points out the qualities of the various attempts. How successful were the students at understanding what Jefferson was writing about?
Tell the students that they will be further exploring what Thomas Jefferson was saying in the fourth selection from the Declaration of Independence by reading and understanding Jefferson’s words and then being able to tell, in their own words, what he said. Today they will be working by themselves on their summaries.
- Summary Organizer #4 (PDF)
- The students and teacher discuss what they did yesterday and what they decided was the meaning of the first three selections.
- The teacher then "share reads" the fourth selection with the students. This is done by having the students follow along silently while the teacher begins reading aloud. The teacher models prosody, inflection, and punctuation. The teacher then asks the class to join in with the reading after a couple of sentences while the teacher continues to read along with the students, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English Language Learners (ELL).
- The teacher explains that the class will be analyzing the fourth selection from the Declaration of Independence today. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #4. This contains the fourth selection from the Declaration.
- The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #4 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device). Explain that today they will be going through the same process as yesterday, but they will be working by themselves.
- Explain that the objective is still to select "Key Words" from the fourth paragraph and then use those words to create a summary sentence that demonstrates an understanding of what Jefferson was saying in that selection.
- Guidelines for selecting the Key Words: The guidelines for selecting Key Words are the same as they were yesterday. Because this paragraph is the longest (more than 219 words) it will be challenging for them to select only ten Key Words. However, the purpose of this exercise is for the students to get at the most important content of the selection.
- The teacher explains that now they will be putting their summary sentence into their own words, not having to use Jefferson’s words. This should be added to their organizers.
This lesson has two objectives. First, the students will synthesize the work of the last four days and demonstrate that they understand what Jefferson was saying in the Declaration of Independence. Second, the teacher will ask questions of the students that require them to make inferences from the text and also require them to support their conclusions in a short essay with explicit information from the text.
Tell the students that they will be reviewing what Thomas Jefferson was saying in the Declaration of Independence. Second, you will be asking them to write a short argumentative essay about the Declaration; explain that their conclusions must be backed up by evidence taken directly from the text.
- All students are given the abridged copy of the Declaration of Independence and then are asked to read it silently to themselves.
- The teacher asks the students for their best personal summary of selection one. This is done as a negotiation or discussion. The teacher may write this short sentence on the overhead or similar device. The same procedure is used for selections two, three, and four. When they are finished the class should have a summary, either written or oral, of the Declaration in only a few sentences. This should give the students a way to state what the general purpose or purposes of the document were.
- The teacher can have the students write a short essay now addressing one of the following prompts or do a short lesson on constructing an argumentative essay. If the latter is the case, save the essay writing until the next class period or assign it for homework. Remind the students that any arguments they make must be backed up with words taken directly from the Declaration of Independence. The first prompt is designed to be the easiest.
- What are the key arguments that Thomas Jefferson makes for the colonies’ separation from Great Britain?
- Can the Declaration of Independence be considered a declaration of war? Using evidence from the text argue whether this is or is not true.
- Thomas Jefferson defines what the role of government should and should not be. How does he make these arguments?
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Lesson Plan The Declaration of Independence: Created Equal?
This lesson focuses on a few key concepts of the Declaration of Independence, beginning with the phrase "All men are created equal." Students gain an appreciation of Thomas Jefferson's efforts to deal with the complex issues of equality and slavery in the Declaration of Independence.
Students will be able to:
- develop a working definition of what it means for everyone to be equal;
- interpret the phrase "All Men Are Created Equal" in the context of the Declaration of Independence;
- compare their definition of equality to the definition Jefferson was using in the Declaration of Independence; and
- develop a rationale for Jefferson's usage of the phrase based on his life and historical context.
3-4 class periods
- The Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606-1827
- Chronology of Events
- Declaration of Independence
- Original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence
- Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Banneker
- Thomas Jefferson to William Burwell
- Thomas Jefferson to David Barrow
- Review the basic purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Today begins the examination of certain key concepts of the document.
- Begin with a brainstorming activity on the meaning of equality. Students brainstorm individually at first. After a few minutes, divide into groups of 4-5. Students share interpretations of the word within each group. Each student should add two additional interpretations of equality to his or her list for variety.
- Bring everyone back to discuss the various meanings developed both individually and within the group.
- After discussion, introduce the phrase "all men are created equal" from the Declaration of Independence. Return to groups to interpret what Jefferson meant by this phrase in the document.
- Discuss as a whole the interpretations of this phrase.
- Next consider, "Who was not represented by this statement?" Allow groups time to discuss.
- Compare definitions from the various groups as to their actual meaning and the interpreted meaning of this phrase. Some key questions to ask:
- What was Jefferson's intended purpose for the phrase?
- Were there ethical considerations?
- Could he justify such a statement for inclusion in the Declaration of Independence?
- Each student picks a card that has either "for" or "against" written on it. The card also includes a number that designates the student's group for the rest of the lesson. Depending on the size of the class you may have four to six groups in each period (half for Jefferson and half against Jefferson.)
- Direct students to the Was It Compromise or Hypocrisy? Web page. Students enter the side they are supporting - for or against Jefferson. Each link leads students to sources necessary to prepare their evidence.
- Students gather information from the web links and additional searching of Library of Congress online collections as needed, record their findings on their Evidence Compilation Sheets . Students take this information to their respective groups. Each team is responsible for presenting their respective evidence sheets to the rest of the class. The presentation may be done using overheads, chalk or white board in the room, or butcher paper that can be hung on the wall of the classroom.
- After reviewing all of the evidence for both sides, discuss the pros and cons of each side of the argument. If desired, take a class vote on what was meant by the phrase, "All men are created equal."
- Evidence presented in arguments is thorough and accurate.
- Letter presents appropriate viewpoint of author.
- In addition, a discussion should be held on how we should interpret the phrase "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. What did it mean in 1776? What does it mean today?
- Break the class into two groups based on Jefferson's intentions regarding equality in the Declaration of Independence. One group believes Jefferson meant all men, while the other group believes Jefferson meant all white men. Find evidence in the Library's online collections to support each position.
- Rewrite the Declaration of Independence (or portions of it) to fit a contemporary society.
- Stage a mock trial with the students playing the roles of Jefferson and others. The Library of Congress primary sources serve as evidence to be presented in a trial. Include a judge, witnesses, jury, defense lawyers, and prosecution.
- One individual student could portray Thomas Jefferson and answer questions raised by the rest of class on the phrase "all men are created equal."
- Each student will be evaluated based upon the completeness and accuracy of data gathered and presented.
- Another part of the evaluation will include the drafting of a letter.
Mike Larson and Doug Hyde
Was it compromise or hypocrisy, the people v. jefferson.
You have been appointed as a law clerk to begin the difficult task of defending Thomas Jefferson in his suit with the A.T.J.S. of A. (Anti-Thomas Jefferson Society of America).
Before you begin, review the charges made by the A.T.J.S. of A.
You will need to gather as much evidence as you can to show that the claims of the A.T.J.S. of A. are unfounded and malicious.
You will need to find examples in letters he wrote, his actions, and communications that will exonerate Thomas Jefferson of the charges leveled against him.
At stake is Jefferson's estate, reputation, and political future as a leader in the United States.
It is imperative when you find evidence to support Jefferson that you write it down as close to word-for-word as possible.
The following sources will provide some assistance in your efforts to gather favorable evidence. There will also be a few sources present that WILL NOT paint such a positive view of Jefferson. However, for you to defend him, you will also need to see arguments that the opposition will present in the case against Jefferson.
Here is a list of the sources. You will determine the usefulness of each.
Defense Research Links:
Gather evidence in SUPPORT of Thomas Jefferson. Be sure to cite your sources for each piece of evidence you find.
A.t.j.s. of a. anti-thomas jefferson society of america, we of the a.t.j.s. of a. do hereby declare that thomas jefferson will be indicted for crimes against humanity.
We do therefore make the following charges:
- Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal even though he owned more than 200 slaves at his home in Monticello.
- In his Notes on Virginia, Jefferson makes inflammatory and derogatory remarks directed against African Americans.
- He makes no mention of the rights of African Americans in the Declaration of Independence.
- He has not released all of his slaves in accordance with the prevailing sentiment that slavery was morally and ethically wrong in the period after the Declaration of Independence.
- He has denied African Americans the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness accorded in the Declaration of Independence.
- He mentions injuries done to the colonists by King George III, but we assert that Mr. Jefferson was only referring to white colonists in the colonies.
Therefore, we, the members of the A.T.J.S. of A. do hereby bring forth a civil lawsuit against the person and estate of Thomas Jefferson. We will find the best counsel and see to it that justice be done. Our organization is dedicated to the eradication of Thomas Jefferson as a Founding Father, President, and "Enlightenment" figure.
Our charge is to gather evidence AGAINST Thomas Jefferson. Some of the sources to be used include:
- The Papers of Thomas Jefferson
- George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, August 23, 1792
- Thomas Jefferson to William Short, January 3, 1793
- Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, September 4, 1823
Gather evidence AGAINST Thomas Jefferson. Be sure to cite your sources for each piece of evidence you find.
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Help your students understand the development of the Declaration as both a historical process and a compositional process through role play, creative writing
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appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. Objective: • Students will gain an understanding of the ideas in the Declaration of Independence
For example, the first two days can be used to ensure an understanding of the process with all of the activity completed in class. The teacher can then assign
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Lesson 2: THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: AN ANALYTICAL VIEW Gain a first-hand understanding of the conditions faced by Washington's Continental Army
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Students will examine the preamble of the Declaration of Independence to understand the reasoning and principles used to justify declaring independence from