Declaration of Independence a close and Critical Reading



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Declaration of Independence – A Close and Critical Reading

David A. Johnson – Wexford Missaukee Intermediate School District



Reading Tasks: Students will closely read what the text is saying and make inferences when necessary. Students will determine central ideas and analyze how they are developed. Students will analyze the how and why this document was written, and how the ideas are developed in writing. Students will analyze the structure of the text, and assess the point of view of the writer. Students will evaluate the arguments and claims within the text.

Vocabulary Tasks: While meaning of the words will initially be derived with help from the teacher, the meaning within the context of the passage will be discerned by students as they read the various components of the declaration.

Discussion Tasks: Students will evaluate the arguments and claims within the text. Students will analyze how and why the document was written, and how the ideas are developed in writing.

Writing Tasks: Students will write an argument with claims supported by using valid reasoning and evidence from the text. Students will produce clear writing which is developed with an essential question in mind. Students will gather evidence from their reading to write in response to the anchor questions. Students will clarify their writings over the course of the lesson. Students will draw evidence from the primary source in all their writings within the unit.

Essential Question(s):

What did the declaration of independence mean to the American Colonists, and what does it mean to us today?



Text Selection (Background):

The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Second Continental Congress, states the reasons the British colonies of North America sought independence in July of 1776. The declaration opens with a preamble describing the document's necessity in explaining why the colonies have overthrown their ruler and chosen to take their place as a separate nation in the world.

Target Grade Span: 5th Grade (with modifications) 8th Grade (as presented)

Reading Standards hit: R1, R2, R3, R4, R5, R6, R8

Writing standards hit: W1, W4, W5, W8, W9Directions/Introduction

As written, this lesson will guide students through multiple days of looking at a historical document. It is meant to be a teachable model, but is freely available to be changed based on your students own unique needs.

What should be understood however, is that with the Common Core State Standards covering literacy in Social Studies, we need to give our students rich, complex texts in order to deepen their understanding of our important content, as well as give them opportunities to practice literacy across the content areas. If this is their first time, it may be rough, but students will get better at it the more practice they have.

We chose to follow the advice of Mike Schmoker, who, in his book Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning, recommends that any vocabulary which could hinder a student’s understanding be taught in advance (Schmoker, 2011). The Core standards call for students to be able to identify the meaning of words by the context in which they are used (National Governors Association, 2011), and by pre-teaching the vocabulary here, students still have to do this important step, even though the vocabulary was taught in advance.

In trying to provide a research based model, for vocabulary we’re following Marzano. Marzano identifies six steps to teaching vocabulary. We will be combining two steps (provide and restate) and eliminating step 6 which is practicing with games (Marzano & Pickering, 2005). You may adapt the lesson to include this step if you choose.

The recommended model for teaching each day is as follows:

Day 1: Provide Student Handout to students. Their document is complete and should be referred to every day of the lesson. You would then do vocabulary instruction as a group (just the words for the day from the teacher handout) and then follow the teacher directions within the document itself.

Day 2: Begin with vocabulary instructions, then follow the directions in the teacher Stage 2 handouts.

Day 3: Begin with vocabulary instruction, then follow the directions in the teacher Stage 3 handouts.

How you choose to assess this beyond what is provided here is up to you, but a discussion and activity based around the focus question is included in Day 3.

Section/Stage 1 Teacher Page

Text Under Discussion

Vocabulary

Directions for Teachers

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


unanimous

dissolve


impel

unalienable

deriving

abolish


transient

evinces


candid

ASK STUDENTS: What can you infer about this reading just from the opening “the Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America?” What is this going to be about, and how did people feel about it?

ASK STUDENTS: What is the purpose of this part of the passage? Why was it included, and what is it trying to say?



Have students translate this passage before reading it together as a class.

DISCUSSION:

Quote of Interest: “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” What does this mean?

As the passage continues, what specifically do they say about this quote of interest? Has it been followed through with? What do they say to do if it has not been?

Have the colonists just woken up one morning and decided “We should rebel against the British…I don’t like what they’re doing”? What evidence suggests your answer?

Closing Writing/Discussion piece:

At the beginning of this reading we looked just at the heading “the unanimous declaration of the 13 united state of America” and discussed what this might end up being about, given just the title. How has this piece of the Declaration of Independence lived up to what we initially thought? Discuss using examples from your notes and the class discussion.



Stage 1 – Additional Information/Instructions/Performance Tasks

Section/Stage 2 Teacher Page



Text Under Discussion

Vocabulary

Directions for Teachers

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.



He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.


assent

relinquish

depository

fatiguing

dissolutions

obstructed

arbitrary

abdicated

perfidy


INSTRUCTIONS: By way of introduction, today we’re going to be looking at the specific grievances set forth in the Declaration. Pay particularly close attention to the verbs and adjectives used, in addition to the vocabulary terms. Why do you think these words were chosen? Identify as you go in your note column.

Translate the first 3-4 together as a class and then have students move to groups to translate what’s really being said by each grievance.

Following this, move back into a whole group, read aloud, and discuss:

What impact do words like “forbidden”, “refused”, “tyrant”, “imposing”, and “depriving” (amongst the others) have on the overall tone of the document?

How important are the colonists concerns? Is this a group of people with no significant grievances? (students must use examples from the text in their discussion/analysis)

What seems to be the common theme running through the grievances listed in the document? What evidence supports your claim?

This is a key sentence. What is it saying? What is so significant about it based on both yesterday and today’s readings?

CLOSING ACTIVITY: In referring students back to the essential question “What did the Declaration of Independence mean to the American Colonists, and what does it mean to us today” begin to have this conversation. Students may write about why this document was so important, why the colonists worded it the way it was, and what it meant overall for the country.



Stage 2 – Additional Information/Instructions/Performance Tasks

Section/Stage 3 Teacher Page



Text Under Discussion

Vocabulary

Directions for Teachers

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


redress

unwarrantable

emigration

disavow


usurpations

consanguinity

acquiesce


INTRODUCTION: Today we’re looking at the conclusion and having you put the 3 parts together.

Flip today’s instruction from previous days. Read the whole passage aloud first, then have the students go back and translate.

The first Key passage: This quote “In every stage…” introduces the ending of the declaration. What is this saying about the colonists motivation for writing and enacting it?
Second key passage: This paragraph discusses an important thing overlooked by the rest of the declaration: What they tried before it. What do the writers say about what was tried, and what the outcome was?

Third key passage: This passage identifies what the only cause left for the colonists are. What has been identified?

Wrapping the Critical Reading Up:

What was the overall intent of the Declaration of Independence? Did the writer meet their overall purpose and objective? How?

We’ve discussed briefly why the Declaration of Independence is important for the colonists, but why is it important for us to study it today?


Stage 3 – Additional Information/Instructions/Performance Tasks

Student Page



Text Under Discussion

Vocabulary

My Thoughts/Notes

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

hen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.w

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


unanimous

dissolve


impel

unalienable

abolish

transient



evinces

despotism

candid

assent


Relinquish

Depository

Fatiguing

dissolutions

obstructed

arbitrary

abdicated

perfidy


redress

unwarrantable

emigration

disavow


usurpations

consanguinity

acquiesce






Works Cited


Engage NY. (2011, December 15). High School ELA Common Core Exemplar: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Retrieved from Engage New York: http://engageny.org/resource/common-core-exemplar-for-high-school-ela-lincolns-gettysburg-address/

Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2005). Building Academic Vocabulary Teacher's Manual. Alexandria: ASCD.



National Governors Association. (2011, December 15). The Common Core State Standards. Retrieved from The Common Core State Standards initiative: preparing America's students for college and career: www.corestandards.org

Schmoker, M. (2011). Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning. Alexandria: ASCD.

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