National Park Service Park Ranger Matthew Ifill told the story of the Declaration of Independence and explained the purpose of the document.
This lesson has students look at the structure of the Declaration of Independence and the list of grievances contained in the document to explain specific provisions that were included in the Constitution. Students will be able to explain how actions of Great Britain prior to the Declaration of Independence contributed to the powers and rights in the Constitution.
Before beginning class, have the students answer the following questions:
What complaints did the American colonists have about British rule prior to the American Revolution?
Discuss the students' answers with the class. Provide a review of the events that were occurring prior to the Declaration of Independence. To introduce the Declaration of Independence and its relationship with the Constitution, have the students view each of the following introductory video clips and answer the questions. Student can use the Declaration of Independence handout linked below.
HANDOUT: Declaration of Independence (Google Doc)
VIDEO CLIP 1: The Purpose of the Declaration of Independence (2:15)
Explain the purpose of the Declaration of Independence at the time of its signing.
VIDEO CLIP 2: The Importance of the Declaration of Independence (3:45)
According to Senator Lee, why is it important to have an understanding of the Declaration of Independence when reading the Constitution.
What is the relationship between government and the people that is established in the Declaration of Independence?
What was the relationship between government and the people in Great Britain at the time?
Review the students' answers to the introductory video clips. Have the student either answer the guiding questions associated with each video clip or use the note-taking chart (Google Doc) to take notes relating to the following prompt:
VIDEO CLIP 3: The Structure of the Declaration of Independence (2:42)
Describe the structure of the Declaration of Independence. Why is this structure effective?
VIDEO CLIP 4: List of Grievances in the Declaration of Independence (1:23)
How does the Declaration of Independence address the structure of government that is eventually created in the Constitution?
VIDEO CLIP 5: The List of Grievances in the Declaration of Independence (2:04)
How did grievances relating to privacy impact the specific rights included in the Constitution?
How were the war powers given to Congress in the Constitution influenced by actions of King George III prior to the Declaration of Independence?
VIDEO CLIP 6: The Judiciary and the Declaration of Independence (4:13)
Explain the grievances relating to the judiciary and courts. What actions did King George III take to restrict the colonies' justice system?
Based on the actions of Great Britain prior to independence, why was it important to have an independent judiciary included in the Constitution?
Based on what they learned in the previous video clips, have the student read the Declaration of Independence (Google Doc) and the list of grievances included in the document. Students will choose five grievances. Using the handout linked below for each grievance, they will search through the Constitution and identify and explain specific parts that address this grievance.
HANDOUT: Declaration of Independence Grievances Chart (Google Doc)
CONCLUSION: To summarize what the students have learned, have them use the video clips and examples from the chart to respond to the following writing prompt:
In Modern English- Choose one of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence. Translate this complaint into modern English and provide a summary on how this grievance is relevant today.
Ranking the Grievances- Using the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, rank what you feel is the most effective argument for independence and which is the least effect argument for independence. Explain why you feel this way for each.
State Delegate to the Second Continental Congress- Choose one of the colonial delegations that were present at the Second Continental Congress. From that colony's perspective, research issues that were important to that colony in 1776. Write a letter to your colonial legislature explaining your decision to declare independence from Great Britain. Include specific information that would convince your state that independence was necessary.
How is the Constitution a continuation of the arguments established in the Declaration of Independence? Support your answer with examples from both documents.
Does the Constitution successfully address all of the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence?