The Development of a Declaration: Diction, Syntax and Rhetoric in the Age of Revolutions (Day 2 of 2)

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SWBAT analyze the craft and structure of seminal U.S. documents by comparing the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Declaration of the Sentiments from the Seneca Falls Convention with the intention of writing a Declaration of the Rights of Students.

Big Idea

Revolutions are cyclical in nature--and they all share similar ideas, documents and strategies. At the risk of starting our own revolution, helping students to create their own declaration is one way to dive into this historical concept.


10 minutes

We will start class with our ten minutes of reading time. Students can either read their choice novels or A Tale of Two Cities. I will read with the students during this time.

Revolutionary Document Jigsaw

25 minutes

The students were given time yesterday to read, annotate and do an individual analysis of one of three revolutionary declarations from the late 1700s to mid 1800s. We picked these particular texts for their historical connection to what we have been studying (The French Revolution). Today, we will place them into jigsaw groups so that each student will be working with two other students that read different documents from theirs. This jigsaw will hopefully help students to see overlaps in both content and structure of the texts that they read.

In these jigsaw groups, we will have the students share their individual analysis (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a). Then, as a group, they will create a color-coded mind map that synthesizes information about stylistic elements, messages and rhetorical strategies employed by each revolutionary group. These mind maps can take any number of structures and will hopefully help students to visualize the connections between each of these declarations, which we are hoping they will understand as a genre, not just as isolated texts.

In addition to their individually annotated documents, I will also use these mind maps to assess their ability to analyze these seminal U.S. Documents (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9) for various elements of craft and structure including diction (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4), syntax and organization (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5), rhetorical strategies (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6) and the overall impact of these choices on the meaning and purpose of the text as a whole (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3).


Class Brainstorm/Report Out

20 minutes

After each group has had a chance to synthesize their individual analyses, we will pull back together as a class to discuss our findings. While the students are sharing out their ideas with me, my teaching partner will be compiling a list of common stylistic elements from the three documents. We will project these elements for the whole class to see for the next step of this process, which is to create a declaration of our own.

I will specifically push the students to look for words or structural characteristics common to all three documents. I will also as them to consider how these choices impact the rhetorical purpose of each revolutionary group. As they think about what a good declaration should include, I am hoping that they will not only look at content/theme, but also at structure and style.

Once we've had time to create a list, my teaching partner and I will project the requirements for the Student Declaration of Rights and ask them to move into their groups of six.

JIgsaw Group Grievance Creation

20 minutes

One of the common elements to all of the declarations we have been looking at is a list of grievances. Each revolutionary group hoped to call attention to the ways the oppressive leaders were keeping them down. The rhetorical purpose for this is to rally their supporters while they provide justification for their rebellious behaviors.

I have no doubt that my students will identify this key element of declaration writing and this is where we will start with our own writing process to ensure that they have a structure for this specific writing task (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4).

We will move students into their larger work groups and we will give them 15 minutes to work together to create their grievances and resolutions. I am going to be very adamant that each group needs to have a unique grievance and resolution, which means my teaching partner and I will have to monitor their creative process and push them towards ideas that are not common for the whole class. 

To assist us with this and to allow students to have ownership in the process, we will provide a computer for each group so that the students can type their responses into a class Google doc, which will be projected as they work. Projecting the grievances as they are being written will hopefully help groups see where there is potential overlap and avoid "borrowing" from other groups. Additionally (and totally selfishly for me), it will make the document really easy to edit, polish and publish for class review and use in later lessons (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6).


Class Preamble Creation

20 minutes

Once the students have had time to create their contributions to the Student Declaration, we will ask them to come back together to work on a common preamble for the document. Before we begin writing, I will ask them to look back to their documents and review the common stylistic elements of that particular portion from each text.

Once we have some idea of what the style should look like, we will begin the process of writing the preamble together. Again, I will lead them through this process orally while my teaching partner types their ideas directly into the Google Doc, which will hopefully allow them to wordsmith with me, or, at the very least, let them see my writing process as I wordsmith while I write.

If there is time, we will also review their list of grievances and resolutions so that I can ask the class to help me edit/revise for content and organization. My goal is to have a final draft of this declaration by the end of class and I want the students to have input on the entire process.

Discussion of Connections and Relevance

15 minutes

After we have finalized our Student Declaration of Rights, I will ask the students to complete a brief exit slip asking them to make connections between these documents and the ideas/messages they have seen in A Tale of Two Cities. If time allows, I will ask a few of them to share these verbally with the class. My goal for this is to bridge this brief break from reading the novel back to the larger themes and ideas that Dickens presents.

To wrap class up, I will remind them of their reading homework for tomorrow.