Declaration of Independence Activity: Declaration Detectives

Wise Guys
Grade Levels
5th - 8th
Formats Included
  • Zip
10 pages
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Are you looking for a fun and engaging way to teach the Declaration of Independence to your middle school and high school students? This Declaration detective activity is perfect to help your class dig into what the The Declaration of Independence is really about. Through this resource, students will leave with a deeper understanding of the reasons why the colonists decided to break ties with England and become their own nation.

What is Included:

-Teacher Tips (2-pages)

-Introductory Handout (color and printer friendly; 2-pages each)

-Student Questions Handout (5 pages; 10 questions)

-Grading Rubric (1-page)

-Detective Cards (2-pages; color and printer friendly)

-Answer Key (3-pages)

What is NOT Included:

-Declaration of Independence document

-Resources needed for additional research

Teacher Tips:

It is up to you if you want your students to work in groups or individually.

You will want to read the Introductory Handout and the questions that the students will need to research just to understand what you will be expecting the students to do.

Decide which “Declaration Detective” cards you want to use (color or printer friendly) and then print them of. Each detective will need a 3-digit number written on his/her cards. You can do this or your students can. The cards are really just for fun, but we have found that the students like the creativity and it seems to help with the engagement of the lesson.

Students will also need to have access to the Declaration of Independence document and some other resources to answer some of the questions. When we do this in our classroom, we have the students use both the Internet and a textbook.

The Introductory Handout will walk your students (detectives) through a scenario in the “Briefing Room” where the TSDotDoI (Top Secret Department of the Declaration of Independence) has asked your detective agency to investigate the Declaration of Independence. It is up to you if you want every student to have a copy of the handout or if you simply print off one for you to use with a document camera.

As with any activity, students are more engaged when the teacher is also engaged and excited. Below are some suggestion to help with engagement:

  • Dress up like a detective (magnifying glass, trench coat, hat, notebook, etc.
  • Encourage your students dress up like detectives, a colonist, or King George III.
  • Play some detective/mystery type music in the background as students work or as you introduce the activity.
  • Find a short mystery on the Internet that the students can watch as an introduction.
  • Read a short mystery to the students to help get them excited.

Once you have the activity introduced and how and if students will be grouped, hand out the questions that the students need to answer. See our resource for more detailed teacher tips.

Common Core Standards Covered:






Click on the titles below to find more Revolutionary War resources!

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Total Pages
10 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social studies.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.


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