Analyzing "The Declaration of Independence," Day Two of Three

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Students will be able to identify central ideas by analyzing "The Declaration of Independence" as a whole class.

Big Idea

"He has..." done many bad things--analyzing "The Declaration of Independence."

Do Now: Grievance List

10 minutes

Teenagers love to complain, so this warm up is a perfect match. I ask students to list as many grievances as they can about something they dislike, offering the example of the despised parking lot regulations in effect at our school this year. Excitement ensues while I take attendance. After, I give students a few more minutes to work and then ask them to add up their lists.

As it turns out, the task wasn't as easy as they thought. One hour maxed out at seventeen grievances, while the others maxed out at seven and ten. We share some examples and laugh together (a great start to a foggy Monday morning), and then I explain that we'll come back to their numbers at the end of the hour.

Analyzing "The Declaration of Independence"

35 minutes

Today, we continue reading "The Declaration," using the same read-write-share format referenced in this lesson. Since the weekend separated our readings, I review the format thoroughly and am rewarded with a smooth discussion. Students continue to determine the central ideas, interesting rhetoric, and purpose of this influential foundational document.

Our readings today focus on the statements against the King of Great Britain, of which there are many. At first, students struggle to find the key ideas, listing instead one or two grievances. I eventually must offer a specific question: in what way is the King seizing power? At last, they see the connection--he is seizing legislative power by dissolving governing groups, establishing his own laws, etc. Heads nod; students see the connections now.

After we read, I challenge students to count the number of grievances Jefferson listed against the King. Whoa. Suddenly our numbers seem slim; Jefferson is into the high twenties (debatable as some are repetitive). We've hit the perfect segue for evaluation. I ask, were his grievances sufficient? Some students say yes, explaining the numbers don't lie. Others believe his grievances could have been worded differently, less extreme. An objection appears: the extreme wording appealed to the audience at that time and fired them up to fight. Heads nod. We've reached a better understanding of the text. One more day of reading, and we'll have her all down.


Want an example of sharing in action? Check out an excerpt from our discussion today below. Notice how shared the discussion is as students pass the "world" to chime in. Each student contributes a piece to puzzle; at the end, we recap all the shares to create a full understanding of the text.