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Declaration of Independence

Context for this Lesson


Topic: Declaration of Independence
Purpose: To understand and analyze why the Colonists signed the Declaration of Independence
Prior Knowledge: Basic understanding of American Revolution/Colonial America

  • Crumpled letter (see appendix for text)
  • Letter written on large paper OR a projector
  • Large blank sheet of paper or whiteboard
  • Marker

Start by inviting everyone into a circle. Bring out the crumpled letter** and read it to the students (see Appendix). It’s helpful to either project it or have it written on a large piece of paper so they can see it as well. Follow the questioning series: Describe, Analyze, Relate. You may only use descriptive questions. Start by asking students to describe what they see. What do you notice about this object? What are some important words or phrases in the letter? How might you describe this to someone else? Name one thing about this object. Pass the object around the circle and allow time for each student to make one statement about the object. For example, “It’s hard,” or “There are people in the photo.” After you have gone around the circle, ask students to draw some possible conclusions about the letter.
**The letter reads:
Great Britain and King George,
I'm not sure how to start this letter but I feel we need to talk. I've been thinking about us a lot lately. I know we’ve been best friends for our whole lives- we were practically born together! I really thought we would be friends forever but then things changed.
I feel like you started to take me for granted. You just started to do whatever you wanted and never even asked me about anything or how I felt. You’ve started pretending like I’m not important to you anymore, and you’ve made other friends who are mean to me. I've been thinking about this for a while and I don't want to hurt you but I think it is time we weren’t friends anymore. It's just not going to work. I need some time by myself. I'm sorry things didn't work out but I do think YOU are the one to blame. Sorry but "US" is over.
The American Colonies


Role on the Wall
Draw the outline of a human figure on paper or board visible to entire group. Explain that the outline represents the American Colonies just before signing the Declaration, just as they were in the letter. Ask the group what words, phrases, or messages the Colonists are receiving at this time. Participants brainstorm possible messages. Ask participants who might be saying each message; connect messages with the messenger. As a result of all of these messages, the person is feeling a specific way inside; ask the group to offer words that describe how the person is feeling. You can connect specific “outside” messages to the inner feelings and visa-versa.


Describe: What did we do today?
Analyze: What do we know about the Colonies and how they felt leading up to signing the Declaration?
Relate: Would you have signed the Declaration of Independence? Why or why not?