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

Essential Questions

  • Are all human rights abuses equal?
  • How can one make subjective decisions more objective?
  • Is an objective, universal rubric for human rights violations possible?

Text Set

Interview with Jessica Gonzalez (ACLU)

ACLU: Jessica Gonzalez vs USA

Supplementary Student Resources

Rubric (Academic) - Wikipedia

Carnegie-Mellon Eberly Center Rubrics

Rubistar Rubric Maker Website

What is a rubric? (YouTube)

Supplementary Teacher Resources

How to make rubrics (YouTube)

An Introduction to Rubrics (YouTube)


1. Investigate the case of Jessica Gonzalez

2. Create Rubric & Present Rubric

3. Score Countries on Rubrics

NOTE: This lesson builds directly on the country report portion of the presentations in Lesson 2

Task 1: Investigate the case of Jessica Gonzalez


  • Conduct reality check of all links
  • Print physical copy of the interview with Jessica Gonzalez
  • Ensure ability to playback video from ACLU website


  1. Introduce the students to the concept of human rights violations in the USA by asking what they might look like
  2. Hand out the physical copy of the ACLU Interview with Jessica Gonzalez (now Lenahan)
  3. Ask students to read and mark up the interview: Circle key names and dates (including institutions) and underline important facts. Give 8 minutes
  4. Invite students to share their marked article with a peer via A-B Pair Share.  This time go alphabetically (A goes first and explains their marks to B). Give 44 seconds
  5. Switch, and this time B fills in the differences from A. Give 27 seconds
  6. Choose non-volunteers randomly to give details that they underlined or circled
  7. Instruct student to re-read, this time restating arguments in the margins near where they are found.  Give 5 minutes
  8. Ask students to identify the specific allegation of abuse of a human right.  Who was the abuser?  What right was being abused?
  9. Remind students of the UDHR and the work they have done with it already.  Ask them which article do they think was violated?
  10. Close lesson with a reminder to keep all material for future tasks

OPTIONAL: Assign a summary and reflection on the lesson for homework


  • 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.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.8 Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.10 By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9–10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


Students study a case of alleged human rights abuses in the USA with an eye to comparing what they learn to the what they learned in the last lesson.

Task 2: Create Rubric & Present Rubric


  • Conduct reality check on all internet links
  • Procure computers or computer lab time for students


  1. Ask students to free-write for 120 seconds on the topic, “What is a rubric?  Why are they useful?”

  2. Ask students to share their free-write with a partner near them.

  3. Randomly select non-volunteers to share their partner’s free-write or their own, at their discretion.

  4. Explain that a rubric is an instrument to try to make subjective scoring as objective and transparent as possible. If your school or district has adopted rubrics, this would be a good point to hand them out.
  1. Lead the class in creating a simple rubric for whether a teacher should let a student use the restroom at a particular time.  Make explicit that they should consider a generic teacher and a generic student.  The outline should be a simple Punnett Square. (See Appendix A)
  1. Point out common features of all rubrics (multiple categories, a range of scores for each category, an explanation of what each score means for that category).

  2. Have students brainstorm areas where rubrics might be a good thing.  Write ideas on board.

  3. Try to make the connection that rubrics are best when you have something subjective, but you want to be as objective as possible.

  4. Invite students to read the wikipedia article on Rubrics and watch the videos above.  Tell them they need to know how to make a rubric because they will be making one later on.

  5. Divide students into no more than 11 groups total.

  6. Instruct students to go to the Carnegie Mellon University website above

  7. Assign a different sample rubric to each team (there are 11 sample rubrics).  Each team will report back about how the rubric works

  8. Choose teams randomly to report aloud. (This is a natural break-point for the lesson.)
  9. Instruct students to form groups of 3-4 (alternately, you may assign groups)
  10. Tell students that they will need to review what the UDHR actually says.  Have each groups go through all 30 articles, with each member taking a turn to explain an article to the others.  Circulate and offer assistance
  11. Summarize the Preamble for students
  12. Remind them of the country reports and survivor interviews from Lesson 2 (and possibly the information on NGOs in Lesson 2A)
  13. Further remind them of the story of Jessica Gonzalez from Task 1
  14. Ask each group to try to create a rubric to cover generic human rights abuses in generic countries.  Make explicit that it should cover situations like Jessica Gonzalez’s and also like those of the survivors interviewed and those described in the country reports
  15. Tell students that they need to make a rubric with at least 5 categories, each with a scale from 1-4 (or 5 if you prefer).  They may weight categories, but that is up to them.  For each category, they need to describe each possible score in the appropriate box
  16. Have students create rough drafts with computer paper and pencils before they begin
  17. Introduce students to Rubistar, and explain the basics
  18. Collect finished work
  19. Instruct students to spend 5 minutes reflecting in writing on the rubric they created.  They should focus on the following questions: 

         * Did they have to compromise with each other to get the project done?  
         * How difficult was that? Are they happy with the scoring categories?  
         * How about the explanation of what each score means?
         * How difficult was it to fit all of the range of human rights abuses onto one rubric?


  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.1b Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form and in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.1c Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.1d Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.1e Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from or supports the argument presented.


Students struggle with comparing alleged human rights abuses in the USA and elsewhere in the world while using academic language to create a rigorous rubric.

Task 3: Score Countries on Rubrics


  • Make multiple copies of each group’s rubric, depending on how many countries you want them to score times the size of the group
  • Ensure students still have their country reports from Lesson 2 Task 1


  1. Reconvene the groups from Task 2
  2. Give each group the copies of their created rubric
  3. Ask each group to score the countries they researched in Lesson 2 Task 1 on the rubric.  Each individual in the group should fill out the rubric secretly and independently. This calls for each group member making a presentation in addition to scoring, so allow enough time.
  4. After all the countries have been individually scored, group members share their individual scores. Groups must come to consensus
  5. Immediately ask students to freewrite on this topic: What were some of the main problems when you shared what each person had scored individually?
  6. Give each group 10 minutes to prepare a brief oral report on the features of their rubric (categories, score notations, etc), the country score of their choice, and why that score was chosen on their rubric
  7. Invite students to ask questions after each presentation
  8. Ask students to write a brief argument in favor of or opposed to a universal rubric for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This can very easily be made into an essay writing project.


  • 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.9-10.4 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.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.8 Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.


Students apply their rubric to countries they have researched, thereby exposing more clearly the problems with creating a universal rubric valid for all countries and cultures.

Appendix A

 CATEGORY  Approved  Denied    

Lesson is waning, main message has been relayed, students in guided practice or independent work time  Lesson is at most important part, teacher in the middle of making a point, students expected to attend to teacher fully    
SERIOUSNESS OF REQUEST Student is earnest and has no history of cutting class Student is obviously clowning around and has a history of misusing bathroom passes    

Return to top