Ch 11: Analyzing Seminal U.S. Documents: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9

About This Chapter

Add a little flair to your classroom lessons on texts in the U.S. historical canon with these fun videos discussing major texts from the Declaration of Independence to Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail. Suggestions for how to use these videos in class are provided below.

Standard: Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington's Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, King's 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'), including how they address related themes and concepts. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.9)

About This Chapter

In this chapter your students will get a handle on the content and context of some of the most influential documents in U.S. history. They will be able to identify the documents and describe how they helped to shape modern American culture, environment, and politics. Documents discussed in these videos include:

  • The Declaration of Independence and the British Reply to the Declaration
  • The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States (incl. The Bill of Rights)
  • The Federalist Papers
  • The Treaty of Paris
  • The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's First Inaugural Address
  • Letter from Birmingham Jail

As your students become familiar with the content of this chapter they will be able to discuss the documents and relate them to current socio-political topics. They will be able to identify distinct periods in American history and how certain political theories have changed/evolved over time.

How to Use These Lessons in Your Classroom

Here are some ideas for introducing these videos in your classroom, giving your students some practice working with these documents.

Compare/Contrast

In analyzing these critical documents, the historical setting is as important as the text of the documents. Before watching the videos, have students choose two documents to compare and contrast, preferably avoiding the easy comparisons like the Declaration of Independence to the British Reply, as a research assignment. Have your students begin their research by watching the related videos here to give them an overview of the central concepts and setting of the documents. Then students should seek out several other secondary sources to gain a deeper understanding and get a complete idea of the events. They will present their analyses in essay format.

Lincoln's America

The United States as a country changed drastically during the Lincoln presidency, especially with regard to the relationship between the federal and state governments. Most people do not think of the period as anything other than the official end of slavery in America, though. Watch the videos on speeches by President Lincoln and the Constitution in class, then break the students into small groups to discuss the events surrounding the documents in addition to the documents themselves to decide if these changes were in the country's best interests. Have one student in each group record the arguments and any conclusions they came to and present their findings to the rest of the class.

Assign the videos as homework

Have students watch two or three videos each night and complete their related quizzes (each video and quiz should take no more than 15 minutes to complete). After all videos have been completed, give the chapter test to the class to see how well your students have understood the in-class lessons and video content.

11 Lessons in Chapter 11: Analyzing Seminal U.S. Documents: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
Gettysburg Address: Summary & Analysis

1. Gettysburg Address: Summary & Analysis

This lesson discusses the Gettysburg Address, one of the most famous speeches in American history. Learn more about what Abraham Lincoln's speech means and test your knowledge with a quiz.

The Declaration of Independence: Summary & Analysis

2. The Declaration of Independence: Summary & Analysis

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in U.S. History and led to the country's independence from Great Britain. In this lesson, we will review the main components of this important document.

British Reply to the Declaration: Summary & Analysis

3. British Reply to the Declaration: Summary & Analysis

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in United States history. Most of us know the charges against King George III. But what about his reaction? In this lesson, we will discuss his reply to the declaration.

The Articles of Confederation: Summary & Analysis

4. The Articles of Confederation: Summary & Analysis

In this lesson, we will discuss the background leading to the Articles of Confederation. We will then summarize the different articles contained in the document and analyze their importance.

The Constitution of the United States: Summary & Analysis

5. The Constitution of the United States: Summary & Analysis

The United States Constitution is one of the most important documents in history. In this lesson, we will summarize its components, including the preamble, articles, and its first ten amendments.

The Bill of Rights: Summary & Analysis

6. The Bill of Rights: Summary & Analysis

Why do Americans have certain freedoms? This lesson reviews the events leading to the Bill of Rights. It also summarizes each of the ten amendments and analyzes the importance of each one.

The Federalist Papers: Summary & Analysis

7. The Federalist Papers: Summary & Analysis

The Federalist Papers are one of the most important documents in American history. The letters played a large role in ratifying the Constitution by teaching the public why the Constitution was needed and what exactly it contained.

Treaty of Paris: Summary & Analysis

8. Treaty of Paris: Summary & Analysis

In this lesson, we will discuss the Treaty of Paris and the events that led up to its signing. After summarizing the treaty, we will analyze its aftermath.

Emancipation Proclamation: Summary & Analysis

9. Emancipation Proclamation: Summary & Analysis

In this lesson, we will discuss the background of the Civil War and the role of slavery. We will then define the Emancipation Proclamation, summarize its key points, and then analyze the effects that it had on the Civil War and the United States.

Letter from Birmingham Jail: Summary & Analysis

10. Letter from Birmingham Jail: Summary & Analysis

Martin Luther King, Jr. takes on and beats nine tough criticisms in his 'Letter from Birmingham Jail.' Discover the hidden structure and radical rhetorical power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most widely-read text.

Lincoln's First Inaugural Address: Summary & Analysis

11. Lincoln's First Inaugural Address: Summary & Analysis

Abraham Lincoln became president at a time when the United States looked sure to split apart over the issue of slavery. Learn more about what he said about this problem in his First Inaugural Speech and why he hoped that it would help keep the country from descending into a civil war.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
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Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
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