This lesson will begin with students brainstorming what it means to be independent in general. They will then see a model from the teacher about how to analyze particular texts. Students will then work in groups to examine exactly what was communicated in the primary source text of the Declaration of Independence. To conclude, students will enter their text in a collaborative Google Document to compare their versions.
Rationale for the lesson
This lesson will be a rigorous intellectual exercise for students that will tap into several desirable processes. First, students will interact with a primary source document from the founding of our country. Second, students will be forced to interpret the document for themselves rather than relying on a secondary source account. Third, students will collaborate in groups to construct their interpretation, thus building on teamwork and collaborative skills. Lastly, students will have an authentic audience of their peers to post their interpretations for feedback.
Prerequisite knowledge and skills
None. It can certainly be helpful for students to understand the political climate under in which the document was written. If you do not have that luxury, refer to some talking points in order to introduce your class to those ideas. If you do have the luxury, it would be wise to use a lesson on the British tax acts, Continental Congress and the March 5th, 1770 incident in Boston leading up to the process of constructing the Declaration of Independence. However, this lesson can be modified in many ways. For an advanced high school class, let students interact with the original text to see what they do with it first. Then, intervene with some strategies for those who are struggling. You could also have students analyze most or all of the document. For a middle school class, demonstrate strategies with more areas of the Declaration, or work through them as a class until you are confident students have the hang of the process. For a younger class, you can also introduce more lessons on the events leading up to the writing of the Declaration so there is more context for when students try to make inferences about what is written in the original document. The point is, intervene and demonstrate as much or as little as needed in order to adapt the lesson to your students’ abilities.