The Declaration of Independence
- What were the philosophical bases and practical purposes of the Declaration of Independence?
- Students will examine the philosophical bases and practical purposes of the Declaration of Independence by analyzing key passages from the document.
- Background Essay: Declaration of Independence
- Background Essay Graphic Organizer and Questions
- Declaration Preamble and Grievances Organizer: Versions A and B
- Thomas Jefferson Looks Back on the Declaration of Independence
- Appendix C: The Declaration of Independence, with Line Numbers
For students who need additional scaffolding in vocabulary and reading comprehension, this lesson plan suggests having students interview three people as preparatory work and read the essay and accompanying organizer in class. Stronger readers can complete the essay and accompanying organizer for homework and begin class by posing the question “What does the Fourth of July mean to you?” to classmates and then having a class discussion. Two versions of the graphic organizer are provided for the second part of the activity. Version A contains shorter excerpts. Version B can be used with stronger readers. Students will consult Appendix A: Founding Principles and Civic Virtues Organizer and Appendix B: Being an American Unit Graphic Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum.
Have students ask three people (siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, parents, etc.) what the Fourth of July means to them.
Allow students 5 minutes to discuss their answers to the homework question with a partner or in small groups, as best fits your classroom. When time has passed, ask students to share their responses with the class. Encourage students to look for patterns and move the conversation to the focus of the holiday being the celebration of ideals and principles in the Declaration of Independence.
- Distribute Background Essay and Background Essay Graphic Organizer and Questions to students. Have students look at the timeline, headers, and images to predict main ideas and concepts they will see in the essay. Read the essay aloud as a class or have students read individually (this can also be done as preparatory work for stronger readers). Students should complete the accompanying graphic organizer as they read. After reading, give students time to complete the three concluding questions on main ideas. Lead a brief discussion on the answers.
- Distribute Declaration Preamble and Grievances Organizer, either Version A or Version B. Complete the introduction and Preamble together (the introduction has been filled out as an example). Divide the class into pairs/small groups, and assign each group one section of the Declaration in the organizer. You may wish to have pairs/groups put their information on a poster or PowerPoint slide for ease of sharing with the class. After completing their assigned section(s), have groups share out to the class.
- Have students complete the concluding questions after the organizer. Lead a brief discussion on student answers.
Assess & Reflect
- Have students return to Appendix A: Founding Principles and Civic Virtues Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum and complete the definitions of liberty and equality based on what they learned in this activity.
- Have students return to Appendix B: Being an American Unit Graphic Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum and complete the applicable row as an exit ticket.
- Challenge students to find or take pictures of scenes that illustrate the main ideas of the Declaration of Independence. Post pictures to a class site or compile into a mural or collage.
- Have students research specific grievances listed in the Declaration.
- Have students research an individual who signed the Declaration of Independence and write a one- to two-page biography.
- Have students complete Thomas Jefferson Looks Back on the Declaration of Independence.
The Guiding Star of Equality: The Declaration of Independence and Equality in U.S. History
Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence
Why did the colonists declare independence from Britain?
Declaration of Independence (1776)
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee brought what came to be called the Lee Resolution before the Continental Congress. This resolution stated “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states ...” Congress debated independence for several days.