Declaration of Independence Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this video lesson to teach your students about the events leading to the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Then dive into the five sections of the document, finding the main ideas in each and analyzing historical language.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • List events leading to the Declaration of Independence
  • Determine the main ideas in the five sections of the Declaration of Independence
  • Analyze historical language used in the Declaration of Independence


  • 1-2 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.


  • To prepare for the lesson, print copies of the Declaration of Independence so that students will see one part at a time. For example, one page will have the Introduction, another the Preamble, and so on.
  • Begin by having students brainstorm what they know about the Declaration of Independence for two to three minutes. Share answers.
  • Play our lesson The Declaration of Independence: Summary & Analysis.
  • Stop the video at the 2-minute mark and briefly review events leading up to the creation of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Play the remainder of the video, then ask students the following questions:
    • What did you notice about the people who created the Declaration of Independence?
    • What were the primary concerns of the designers of the Declaration of Independence?
    • Describe what the colonists were feeling at the time the Declaration of Independence was created. Have you ever felt this way?


Note: Although this activity takes a group approach, it can be easily modified to an independent activity by assigning one or more sections of the Declaration of Independence to individual students. They can then present their work to partners, small groups, or to you.

  • Next, divide students into four groups. Each group will work on one section of the Declaration of Independence (excluding the Introduction). Each student should have a page to write on.
  • Students will read their sections together, pointing out and notating words or phrases that stand out to them and are central to the section, or the main ideas of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Model this process using the Introduction. Demonstrate how to properly use notations and communicate ideas.
  • Students should use a different highlighter or other method to make notes about the language used in the document, circling words they aren't familiar with or making notes about unique phrases.
  • Have students share thoughts about their sections, making notes as they listen to each other. Guide them as they construct knowledge. Help define historical language.


  • Write an imaginary sixth section of the Declaration of Independence from the voice of a group not represented, such as a female, slave, or Native American.
  • Have students imagine King George's response when he read the Declaration of Independence and create a comic strip showing his reaction.
  • Ask students to rewrite the Declaration of Independence using modern day language.

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