Declaration of Independence

The students will investigate the tone of resentment the colonies had against Great Britain from two modes: 4 historic pictures and one contemporary video. The students should rely on their background knowledge of the time period to understand the events that led up to the writing of the Declaration of Independence and ultimately the Revolutionary War. The students will look at Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration and question the changes that were made. If indeed, the Declaration was meant to be read then the students will watch a video of a host of celebrities reading the Declaration. How does the tone of this video compare to the music video? Finally, the students will look at certain passages of the Declaration and note how these ideas are infused in our government today.

Historical Background

Over the course of 150 years the colonists in America experienced a great deal of economic, social and political opportunities. These advantages led the colonists to believe in the importance of protecting their rights. It also established the concept of a self- government with foundations in natural law, representative government, rule of law, and individual rights. As the British began to infringe on these rights and advantages in the mid 1700's, the colonists saw it as their right to ask for changes and when the changes were not implemented, the only recourse for the colonists was- independence.

Lesson Objective

Did the arguments in the Declaration of Independence justify separation from Great Britain?

Identify key points in the Declaration of Independence that influenced the development of American constitutional government.



  1. As students enter the room, they will notice the instructions on the board to meet with their “clock partner,” get a prepared folder and begin analyzing the sources (pictures) in the left hand pocket.
  2. The teacher will facilitate as the students work to answer questions and monitor completion of the exercise. The teacher will also note which group did well on a particular picture and ask the group to lead the discussion when the class comes back together.
  3. The class will come back together with their findings with a lead group reporting, followed by discussion from other groups. The class will be asked to determine the mood of the colonists at this time. Did the colonists have enough justification for independence?
  4. Have the students read over the lyrics (right hand pocket of the folder) for the song “It’s Too Late to Apologize”. Ask the students what key words they can pick out to understand the meaning of the song. How does this tone match the tone of the pictures?
  5. Show the video version of the song. Ask the students how the video emphasizes the mood of the colonists and is the colonists’ demand for independence justified?
  6. Students, in pairs, should then look at Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration (in the left hand pocket). See if the students can identify the document. Have them note the changes made to the document by comparing it to the finished version. Ask the student what the purpose of this document is. Through reading the document, can the students understand the tone?
  7. Show the video of the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Have the student read along with the finished version. Have the students note on the version any observations they made or heard while listening to the Declaration.
  8. Have the students focus on key passages of the Declaration that later become some of the founding concepts of American government. What do these passages mean?
  9. To conclude the lesson, have the students take Cornell notes in their notebook summarizing the lesson and its concepts.


(Sterling Middle is the pilot middle school for starting the AVID program at the middle school level. My team of teachers are the lead group in this. As part of the assessment and part of the Cornell note taking the students are required to write a conclusion to their notes of what they learned in their own words) Formative

Homework (formative): Students will be given a political cartoon where they have to include at least 3 voice bubbles on what the Founding Fathers might be saying or thinking about the Declaration of Independence.


The bloody massacre perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regt., engraving by Paul Revere, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

The Declaration committee, lithograph by Currier & Ives, 1876, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

“Give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry delivering his great speech on the rights of the colonies, before the Virginia Assembly, convened at Richmond, March 23rd 1775, concluding with the above sentiment, which became the war cry of the revolution, lithograph by Currier & Ives, 1876, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

The repeal, or the funeral of Miss Ame=Stamp, etching, 1766 or later, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, Charters of Freedom, The National Archives and Records Administration,