Primary Source Exemplar: Universal Declaration of Human Rights Social Science Unit

Essential Questions

  • What is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
  • What does it mean?  How is the document composed?

Anchor Text

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights


  1. Article Strip A-B Pair Share
  2. Frayer Model: Individual then pair
  3. Linking Clusters of Ideas (Categorization)
  4. Predicting the Preamble


California State Standards

California Content Standards for History/Social Science Grade 10

  • 10.9 Students analyze the international developments in the post-World World War II world.
  • 10.9.8  Discuss the establishment and work of the United Nations and the purposes and functions of the Warsaw Pact, SEATO, NATO, and the Organization of American States.

Common Core Standards

CCSS Literacy in History/Social Studies

Key Ideas and Details

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Craft and Structure

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.5 Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

Task 1: Article Strip A-B Pair Share


  • Print out UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Cut articles into strips of paper; shuffle randomly in a box. Put Preamble aside for future task
  • Organize method of calling on non-volunteers randomly


  1. Discuss prior declarations reviewing main points (Declaration of Independence, Declaration of the Rights of Man). Pause and choose random non-volunteers:  ask questions and check for understanding
  2. Review end of WWII and international structures set up in the aftermath (UN, NATO, Warsaw Pact, NAM).  Pause and choose random non-volunteers:  ask questions and check for understanding
  3. Briefly explain context of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and United Nations
  4. Lead students into choosing partners; one partner is A and the other B
  5. Partner A chooses a strip from the box, both read and discuss.  Give 28 seconds
  6. Partner ‘B’ (which stands for Before),with strip folded, restates the article ‘like a caveman would’.  Give 22 seconds
  7. Partner A then fills in the blanks for partner B.  Ask Partner A to raise hand if s/he wants to use the strip. Those that want to do so may, however they can only do so if they sing it.  Give 24 seconds
  8. Wrap up by asking for volunteer: who had a partner that got everything right?  Chose one person with hand raised to restate the article as their partner already did it.  Repeat a few times focusing on the groups that randomly selected articles 2, 11, 16, 21, 23, 26, and 29 (these are probably the most complex)
  9. Ask both partners to review and summarize by re-writing in their own words.  Give 67 seconds
  10. Go through the articles in order, asking the group that chose it to give their summary. This time A gets to make the statement as A comes before B. Supplement or supplant as necessary.  Collect the written notes when each group is finished, as well as the article-strips.


The use of partners enhances the student’s ability to quickly summarize information by simultaneously scaffolding students and reinforcing learning by collaboration.  Random non-volunteers and alternating the meaning of ‘A’ and ‘B’ partners promotes attentiveness and engagement.  The use of short non-standard timing promotes active engagement and retention.  Translation into ‘caveman’ or song requires high levels of engagement and brain functioning (these can be substituted with ‘like Shakespeare’, ‘in rhyme’, ‘as if you were running a marathon’, ‘like a spaceman into a microphone’, etc, as appropriate). 

Task 2  Frayer Model


  • Secure an adequate supply of computer paper
  • Article Strips from Task 1


  1. Ask students to form new pairs and each pair randomly selects a new article strip
  2. Each person gets a piece of computer paper to fold hamburger/hotdog (from portrait orientation, horizontally then vertically).  They then unfold and flaten
  3. Have students glue their article strips in the center, and outline it
  4. Students then label the upper left hand corner “What it means”, the upper right “What violating it means”, the lower left “What it looks like” and the lower right “What it doesn’t look like
  5. Students write a summary of the article in the upper left, a statement of what it means to violate that article in the upper right, and then draw pictures/pictograms of the article being observed and not observed in the lower left and lower right quadrants respectively
  6. Collect individual Frayer Models and score. Keep for next task


Students are working alone to create an understanding of a different article as relayed by the Frayer Model Square.

Task 3 Linking Clusters of Ideas (Categorization)


  • Record scores from Task 2, prepare to hand back Frayer Models
  • Secure adequate supplies of gaffer’s tape (blue painter’s tape)
  • Create a large (at least 6’x6’) open area for taping paper to (e.g., unused white board space)


  1. Hand back Frayer models from Task 2
  2. On the back, have students write a single word statement of what the article is all about. If they absolutely must, they can use two words, but the first one is dominant.*
  3. Mingle with students and check their work, especially students you think are having a hard time based on your assessment from Task 2, or articles that are especially dense
  4. Each pair then shares and critiques the work of the other. The pair mutually agree on what to present out.
  5. Have students report out the words, and write them on the board.  Take note of connections and make them clear to the students.  For example, articles 2 and 7 have to do with equality
  6. Give students blue tape with which to stick their Frayer Models clustered around a bare central, like petals on a lopsided, squared off flower.

*Scaffolding: You may wish to provide a ‘word bank’ for students to choose from to assist struggling learners. Potential word bank:

Free, Equal, Dignity, Fairness, Life, Liberty, Security, Happiness, Recognition, Rights, Justice, Impartial, Innocent, Protection, Asylum, Nationality, Family, Consent, Property, Thought, Speech, Religion, Ideas, Protest, Voting, Work, Choice, Payment, Unions, Rest, Leisure, Living-standard, Education, Motherhood, Children, Culture, Science, Technology, Authorship, Order, Individual


Students pair together to leverage each other for critical feedback.  Students then put forth the best single word summary of the main idea for each article.  Articles are arranged physically, grouping articles with the same or similar main ideas or qualities.

Task 4 Predicting the Preamble


  1. Show entire class the basic structure of a resolution and describe particular phrases (whereas, now therefore this body proclaims, be it hereby resolved, etc.) and their meanings and uses.  Give a cursory overview only
  2. Invite pairs to come up with ‘whereas’ statements that could be preambles to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights based on what they’ve heard of it so far.  Give 73 seconds
  3. Ask pairs to ‘pair up’ with another pair to make a group of four.  The group must choose one whereas statement to put up for a vote  Give 26 seconds
  4. Collect all whereas statements and share with class.  Each person votes for the statement they think most likely to be reflected in the Preamble.
  5. Tape whereas statements in the lower half of the central open area of the flower from Task 3.
  6. Share preamble with whole class.  Symbolically tape preamble from Task 1 in top half of the center of the ‘flower’
  7. Have them write a reflection about what it says versus what they thought it might say.
  8. Make copies of entire UDHR and the pair summaries of each article for students to keep as a reference


This task is designed to use inductive generalization to promote higher order thinking skills while reinforcing the content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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