This lesson, which requires multiple class periods to complete, involves the close reading of The Declaration of Independence. The teacher guides students through exercises that reinforce paraphrasing as a close reading skill. Students work on using punctuation to help chunk difficult text into manageable pieces and pronoun/antecedent references as strategies for accessing complex text. Students analyze the tone, style, and organization of The Declaration of Independence, its use of rhetorical appeals and devices, and its argument. Students engage in a variety of small- and large-group discussions and routine writing activities. Finally, they write an argument paper connecting a quotation by Thomas Jefferson to The Declaration of Independence and using both texts as sources of evidence.
Teacher Planning and Preparation
Plan with UDL in mind, e.g., locate a professional recording of The Declaration of Independence; create an electronic version of the close reading organizer; establish cooperative learning groups with roles and responsibilities for the sharing of close reading findings; provide alternatives to written explanations, e.g., spoken or multimedia products.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Consider the need for Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) and/or for captioned/described video when selecting texts, novels, video and/or other media for this unit. See “Sources for Accessible Media” for suggestions on Maryland Learning Links: http://marylandlearninglinks.org.
Differentiate the lesson for English Language Learners. Click here for an example.
Apply extension or enrichment strategies to differentiate the lesson for advanced/gifted and talented students, e.g., compare the style and content of The Declaration of Independence to other documents, e.g., the French Declarations of the Rights of Man, etc.
Analyze the lesson for strategic placement of formative assessment. Anticipate lesson modifications based on data gathered from formative assessment.
Plan the pre-assessment. Select 8 to 10 quotations from The Declaration of Independence for students to paraphrase. Assign each student to a quotation, anticipating small groups of 3-4 per quotation. Prepare one piece of chart paper per quotation. Plan for a Gallery Walk.
Prepare materials: materials for the pre-assessment, copies of The Declaration of Independence, (NOTE: Number sections for ease of reference), the graphic organizers for analyzing argument, rhetorical appeals, and rhetorical devices; the SOAPSTone quiz, sentence strips, markers, and chart paper.
Remind students that they will need their class journals. (NOTE: Available technology could be accessed to set up a class blog that could extend the journal beyond just that of an individual student.)
Practice a close reading of The Declaration of Independence; complete the various organizers as models, generate text-dependent questions.
Organize the various activities involving discussion and sharing.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The “Lesson Procedure” section of this plan is written to the student, an approach that may be unfamiliar to some teachers. Teachers should study the “Lesson Procedure” carefully so that their planning and preparation enables students to demonstrate the level of independence and mastery expected in the lesson.
Is independence better described as a goal or a journey?
Unit Standards Applicable to This Lesson
Reading Informational Text
CCSS.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.
CCSS.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s
Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.
Unit Standards Applicable to This Lesson, cont’d
CSS RI.11-12.10 By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
CCSS W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
b. Apply grades 11–12 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., “Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning [e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court Case majority opinions and dissents] and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy [e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses]”).
CCSS W.11-12.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Speaking and Listening
CCSS SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one- on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS L.11-12.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS L.11-12.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS L.11-12.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 11–12 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
CCSS L.11-12.4 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS L.11-12.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
analyze closely the content of The Declaration of Independence and paraphrase to demonstrate their understanding
analyze the language and style of The Declaration of Independence, including its use of rhetorical devices in The Declaration of analyze The Declaration of Independence as an argument, including its use of rhetorical appeals
participate effectively in small- and large-group discussions
write an effective argument drawing evidence from sources
Each student needs
materials for the pre-assessment: the quotation he or she will paraphrase and a 3x5 card
an electronic or hard copy of The Declaration of Independence
an electronic or hard copy of the organizers for paraphrasing, analyzing rhetorical appeals, and analyzing rhetorical devices
an electronic or hard copy of the rubrics for evaluating small-group discussions
Per your teacher’s instructions, paraphrase a quotation from The Declaration of Independence. Write your paraphrase on the front of a 3x5 card. Per your teacher’s instructions, form a small group with the other students who were assigned to the same quotation. Share your paraphrase with your group, come to consensus on the most complete and accurate paraphrase, and record your consensus paraphrase on chart paper. Post your chart paper for others to read.
Participate in a Gallery Walk to read each paraphrase of the other quotations. As you move around the room, place a boxed check check () by the paraphrase(s) you find most complete and accurate and a boxed X () by the paraphrase(s) you find incomplete, inaccurate, or confusing.
In your small group, review the feedback from the Gallery Walk. Revise your group’s paraphrase as needed. Submit your chart to your teacher for review and evaluation.
On the back of your 3x5 card, rate your skill and comfort level with paraphrasing difficult text. Submit your individual 3X5 card to your teacher for feedback. Based on your teacher’s feedback, set a personal goal for improving your skill at paraphrasing difficult text by the end of this lesson.
Day 1 (Note: These designations are merely suggestions. The teacher may choose to divide the lesson in different ways.)
Listen carefully as your teacher displays and reads aloud the following information:
In a letter to Richard Henry Lee on May 8, 1825, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote,
This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before, but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, not yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.
Identify key words and/or phrases for your teacher to highlight, underline, circle, etc., in Jefferson’s statements. Use these key words and/or phrases to help you respond in your class journalto the following questions:
What does Jefferson say was the “object” of The Declaration of Independence?
How, according to Jefferson, was this “object” to be accomplished?
Share your responses in a class discussion. Listen carefully as your teacher models how to synthesize the class’s responses to paraphrase Jefferson’s remarks:
The main purpose of The Declaration of Independence was to justify clearly, logically, firmly, and in the proper tone why the colonists declared their independence so that others would agree with their decision.
Record your teacher’s paraphrase on the back of your paraphrasing organizer as a model.
Discuss this paraphrase in light of the essential question for the unit. Consider such ideas as whether independence brings with it certain responsibilities to others and ourselves. Jot down your ideas in your class journal.
Lesson Procedure, cont’d
Listen carefully as your teacher reads the introduction of The Declaration of Independence aloud, modeling how to chunk each sentence into manageable phrases and how to use punctuation and pronoun/antecedent use to facilitate understanding. Read the introduction independently, following your teacher’s model.
As your teacher reads the introduction aloud a second time, highlight, underline, or circle words and/or phrases that you think are important for meaning, style, tone, etc. (NOTE: The teacher should guide students in a close reading of specific words and/or phrases.)
Participate in a brief, class discussion about the words and/or phrases that you highlighted, circled, or underlined. Justify your selection of the words and/or phrases that you chose. Apply those words and/or phrases to help you respond in your class journal to one of the following questions:*
How does context affect the meaning of this sentence? How does the intentional vagueness of this sentence affect the tone?
What phrase elevates the disagreement between England and the colonies beyond just a squabble over petty differences?
In this context, what does the word necessary imply?
Why are the words declare and impel important to the tone of the introduction?
(*NOTE: These questions are not intended to be a “find the answer” activity. Follow-up/probing questions should guide students to uncover the subtleties of the introduction.)
Share your responses in a class discussion. Synthesize the class’s responses and come to consensus on an accurate paraphrase of paragraph 1:
Example: The colonists have reached a point where they believe they have no alternative but to cut their ties to England in order to become a separate nation. Out of respect for world opinion, the colonists feel that they must explain the reasons for the actions they are taking.
Record this paraphrase on your paraphrasing organizer. Before proceeding, rate your comfort level with paraphrasing challenging text at this point in the lesson. Record your ideas in your class journal for future reference.
Form a group of 3-4 students per your teacher’s instructions. Appoint a facilitator, a recorder, and a reporter.
Read the first section of the preamble aloud as a group: “We hold…Safety and Happiness.” Respond in your class journal to the following:
Give an example of why paying attention to punctuation and pronoun/antecedent reference is important to understanding these lines.
Share your ideas with your group. Ask your reporter to share one example from your group’s discussion with the class.
Listen carefully and participate as your teacher leads the class in a close reading of these lines, highlighting the role of punctuation and pronoun/antecedent in unlocking meaning.
Read the remainder of the preamble independently, chunking the text as necessary for easier reading, noting important words and/or phrases, and using punctuation and/or pronoun reference to facilitate understanding.
In your group, discuss the following questions and share your ideas with your teacher as he or she circulates around the room.
What important rhetorical shifts occur in the preamble?
How does the preamble advance the style and tone of the introduction?
Lesson Procedure, cont’d
Come to group consensus on a paraphrase of the preamble. Analyze your paraphrase to uncover the structure of the preamble (i.e., a rough chronology: Creator who gives unalienable rights, then formation of government to protect those rights, then overthrow of government when it fails to protect those rights, then creation of new government that will do a better job of ensuring the happiness and safety of it people.) Share your analysis in a class discussion. Come to consensus as a class on the most accurate and complete paraphrase of the preamble. Record this paraphrase on your paraphrasing organizer and place the organizer in your notebook for future use.
Revisit the Jefferson quote that you analyzed at the beginning of this lesson. On an exit slip, explain whether you think the introduction and the preamble accomplish the purpose Jefferson described in this quotation. Submit your exit slip to your teacher for feedback.
HOMEWORK: Listen carefully as your teacher explains SOAPSTone, a method for dissecting the work of professional writers, and explains the SOAPSTone chart. (NOTE: SOAPSTone can also be used by students to think through and organize their own writing.) Complete the SOAPSTone chart as a take-home quiz. Submit your completed chart to your teacher for feedback and evaluation.
Participate in a class review of the basic elements of an argument: issue/topic, underlying assumptions/beliefs, claim(s), counterclaims. Complete sections 1, 3, and 4 of the argument analysis organizer. Connect these sections of the organizer to the quotation from Jefferson that you studied at the outset of this lesson. Ask questions for clarification. Place the argument organizer in your notebook for future use.
Take out your paraphrasing organizer in preparation for the next section of the lesson. Locate section 3 of the organizer, “Indictment of King George.” Discuss the word indictment and then predict the content of the next section of the document.
With a partner, read and paraphrase the lines from the next section assigned to you by your teacher. Record your paraphrase on your organizer. As your teacher circulates, share your paraphrase and revise per teacher feedback.
Independently, read section 3 in its entirety, noting the purpose of the paragraph that begins with the words, “In every stage of these Oppressions…”
Participate as your teacher leads the class in a discussion of section 3. Take notes on your paraphrasing organizer as necessary.
Respond in writing to the following questions:
The charges against King George refer to actual historical events; however, there is a great deal of ambiguity in this section. What is the purpose of the ambiguity in the indictment of King George? What is the purpose of the paragraph that follows the list in section 3?
Submit your written responses to your teacher for feedback.
HOMEWORK: Complete section 5 on your argument organizer: “What evidence does the author use to support the claim?” Use your notes from your argument and paraphrasing organizers to help you write a summary of section 3 of The Declaration of Independence. Submit your summary to your teacher at the beginning of the next class period for evaluation and feedback.
Listen carefully, take notes, and ask questions as necessary as your teacher reviews parallel structure. In your notebook, create a simple T-chart for taking notes on parallel structure. Your chart should have two sections: examples and effect of parallel structure.
Take notes on your chart as your teacher leads the class in an analysis of the introduction, the preamble, and the indictment of King George for the use and effect of parallel structure. Ask questions to clarify your understanding.
Lesson Procedure, cont’d
Skim the next two paragraphs of The Declaration of Independence for one example of parallel structure. On an exit slip, record this example of parallel structure and explain its effect. Submit your exit slip to your teacher for review and feedback.
Skim the next two sections of the document—Denunciation of the British People and Conclusion—for words and/or phrases that you don’t initially understand. Highlight, underline, or list those words and/or phrases.
In a group of 3 or 4 per your teacher’s instructions, use context to define/explain as many of those words and/or phrases as possible. Record three of those words and/or phrases as well as your definitions/explanations on sentence strips to post for your classmates to read.
Participate in a class discussion of these words and/or phrases. Share with the class any other words and/or phrases that you find confusing. Record words and definitions in your notebook as you find necessary.
Independently, read the last two sections of The Declaration of Independence, referring as necessary to the vocabulary materials displayed around the room for help with challenging vocabulary. Paraphrase both sections and record your paraphrases in the remaining two sections of the paraphrasing organizer.
Participate in the large-group discussion as your teacher leads the class in an analysis of the parallel structure in the last two sections of the document. Revisit the examples and your teacher’s feedback on the exit slip your teacher has returned to you. Take notes on your T-chart.
Reflect in your class journal on the challenges of reading and understanding complex texts like The Declaration of Independence. Share your thoughts in a class discussion. In your journal, identify your own strengths and weaknesses as a reader of complex text. Briefly, explain a strategy you plan to implement for improving weaknesses. Monitor your progress throughout the remainder of this lesson.
HOMEWORK: Complete sections 6 and 7 of the argument organizer. Be prepared to discuss these sections during the next class period. (NOTE: Students in grade 11 will have had previous instruction on the items on the organizer. Direct teaching of these items should be targeted only to those students who need it.)
Per your teacher’s instructions, form a group of 4 students to discuss sections 6 and 7 of the argument organizer. Make sure your group establishes and follows rules to ensure a productive discussion. Share your ideas about sections 6 and 7 with your group. Refer to your notes as your teacher guides the class in a discussion of sections 6 and 7 of the argument organizer. Ask questions as needed to clarify your understanding and revise notes as necessary.
Break into pairs per your teacher’s instructions. Listen carefully as your teacher explains and models the sections of the rhetorical devices chart to identify and determine the effect of diction, imagery, and syntax in The Declaration of Independence. Review the teacher’s modeling with your partner to make sure you both understand the task. Ask clarifying questions as needed.
Per your teacher’s instructions, complete one of the categories on the chart. (NOTE: More than one pair of students will be working on each category.) Record your work on the large chart paper provided by your teacher; then post your chart for everyone to read. Review each chart in a Gallery Walk and use the information to complete your individual organizer. Revise any information you think is incomplete or inaccurate.
Identify one row in each category on the chart for your teacher to use as a quiz on this portion of the lesson. Submit your chart to your teacher for evaluation and feedback.
In preparation for your homework assignment, listen carefully and take notes as necessary as your teacher reviews the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos. Review section 2 of the argument organizer as your teacher explains the connection between ethos and the acknowledgement of counterclaims in an argument.
Lesson Procedure, cont’d
HOMEWORK: Review The Declaration of Independence, reading for acknowledgement of counterclaims. Complete section 2 on the argument organizer chart. Be prepared to share your ideas with the class. (NOTE: The Declaration of Independence does not devote time to addressing counterclaims, a fact which may present challenges for some students who lack confidence as readers.)
Share your ideas about section 2 of the argument organizer in a class discussion. Respond in your class journal to the following questions:
How do your notes on section 2 of the argument organizer connect to the Jefferson quotation at the beginning of this lesson? What would have been the effect of acknowledging counterclaims in The Declaration of Independence? Is the lack of attention to counterclaims a flaw in The Declaration of Independence?
Discuss your responses with a partner.
Listen carefully as your teacher explains and models how to work with the rhetorical appeals chart. Participate in a teacher-led discussion to complete several examples as a class. With a partner complete two more examples on the chart. Complete the remainder of the chart individually.
Listen carefully as your teacher explains how to conduct a fishbowl discussion. Per your teacher’s instructions, participate in a fishbowl discussion of the rhetorical appeals in The Declaration of Independence. In your discussion, respond to such questions as the following:*
How does the use of specificity and ambiguity in The Declaration of Independence function as a rhetorical appeal?
What is the connection between language choices and the rhetorical appeals in The Declaration of Independence?
How does the organization of The Declaration of Independence contribute to the pathos of the document?
Is The Declaration of Independence strongest in its ethos, pathos, or logos?
Summarize in writing your takeaways from the Fishbowl discussion and submit your summary to your teacher for feedback.
Listen and take notes as your teacher explains the terms fact, value, and policy in relation to claims and arguments.
Fact: a claim about a fact seeks to prove that something is or is not so
Value: a claim involving value seeks to address the importance of something
Policy: a claim about policy seeks to effect a course of action
Complete a teacher-directed activity to identify claims as fact, value, or policy. Ask questions to clarify your understanding.
Form a group of three per your teacher’s instructions. Create an organizer in your class journal to take notes from your small-group discussion. Discuss one of the questions as assigned by your teacher:
How does The Declaration of Independence use fact arguments?
How does The Declaration of Independence use value arguments?
How does The Declaration of Independence use policy arguments?
Follow your teacher’s instructions to form Jigsaw groups. Take the role of expert and lead your Jigsaw group in a discussion of the question originally assigned to you. Take notes as your group discusses the other two questions.
Submit your notes from this activity to your teacher for review and feedback.
HOMEWORK: Gather all of your notes, organizers, and other materials from this lesson in preparation for tomorrow’s work. Choose one of the following topics and review your materials from this lesson on The Declaration of Independence in light of this topic: style, tone, rhetorical appeals and devices, organization, argument.
Lesson Procedure, cont’d
Per your teacher’s instructions, divide into groups of 3 based on the topic you reviewed for last night’s homework. (NOTE: There will be multiple groups on each topic, depending on the number of students in the class.)
With your group, plan, write, practice, and perform a skit* to review the topic your group chose. Practice your skit and make adjustments as necessary. Perform your skit to review for the class the topic you chose. Respond to clarifying questions from other members of the class. Watch the other group’s performances and ask clarifying questions as needed.
*At the teacher’s discretion, any type of review activity could be substituted here. For example, depending on the amount of time the teacher chooses to devote to this review, groups could create a website, wiki, podcast, etc.
HOMEWORK: Gather your thoughts about whether The Declaration accomplishes the “object” Thomas Jefferson described in the quotation from the beginning of the lesson. Revisit the content, organization, and style
Listen carefully as your teacher explains the writing task.
In a well-organized, fully developed essay, explain whether The Declaration of Independence accomplishes the “object” Thomas Jefferson described in the quotation from the beginning of the lesson. As you gather your ideas, consider the organization, tone and style used to advance the argument in The Declaration of Independence (e.g., rhetorical devices; rhetorical appeals; arguments of fact, value, and policy; and the organization of the document. Cite evidence from The Declaration of Independence to support and develop your ideas. In your essay, establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone and observe the conventions of standard written English.
Remember that you have a specific amount of time in which to complete your essay. Budget your time wisely. Submit your essay to your teacher by the end of the class period.
Revisit, revise, and extend your working definition of the word independence as well as your previous thoughts about the essential question for the unit. In your reflection, consider whether Thomas Jefferson believed that independence is better described as a goal or a journey.