Richard Schmidt, Nancy Schmitt, MSDE Admin
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • MSDE
  • Maryland State Department of Education
  • msde-ela
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

    Education Standards

    ELA Grade 11 Exploring Independence


    Lesson Overview

    This lesson, which will require multiple class periods to complete, involves a close reading of selected portions of The Declaration of Independence.  The lesson will begin by establishing students’ background knowledge regarding the American Revolution and the subsequent writing of The Declaration of Independence.  Vocabulary pertinent to the Declaration will be taught via a vocabulary board and periodically reviewed. The teacher will guide students through a PowerPoint presentation of the essential elements of a close reading of a text.  Students will work on developing reading strategies to manage a complex text such as the Declaration of Independence.  Students will analyze the tone, style, and organization of The Declaration of Independence as well as engage in a variety of small- and large-group discussions and routine writing activities.  Finally, they will compose an argument, asserting the rights of people with disabilities, connecting to The Declaration of Independence and as a source of evidence.

    Teacher Planning, Examples of Response Methods and Materials

    See Full Lesson Plan Attached

    Essential Question and NCSC Essential Understanding

    Is independence better described as a goal or a journey?

    Modified: “What does independence look like in my life goal and journey?”


    Give the students a statement and ask them to restate or write it in their own words.  Choose a statement applicable to their live. 


    Part 1

    Part 1 

    Review working definition of Independence (started at beginning of unit).

    Review/Discuss Essential Question: “Is independence better described as a goal or a journey?“What does independence look like in my life goal and journey?”

    Utilizing a vocabulary board (provided), pre-teach Declaration vocabulary to aid in understanding: declaration, liberty, unanimous, pursuit, rights, oppression, petitions, tyranny, allegiance, alliance, separation.

    Establish Background Knowledge—Ask students what they know about the American Revolution or Declaration of Independence?  If needed, establish some additional background for the students. Explain what was happening in the colonies; read historical fiction set during this period., watch video(s). 

    Potential Resources:

    Timeline of the Revolutionary War

    Liberty Kids-American Revolution – Animated History Videos

    Schoolhouse Rock - No More Kings - Video

    A Brief History of America's Independence Video

    After viewing video(s), discuss the reasons why the American Colonists wanted to be independent from Great Britain.  Prompt students with discussion questions—i.e. What was upsetting the colonists?  Why do you think this was making them angry?  What would you do? Make personal connections: How would you feel if you felt that your parents or teachers (or anyone else of authority) wasn’t listening to you.  Explain the colonists felt that they weren’t being listened to and decided to “break up” with Great Britain.  In order to make this official they asked Thomas Jefferson to write a Declaration of Independence.

    • Project the 3-2-1 Summarizer on Board and during discussion complete summarizer together.
    • Provide a completed summarizer to students unable to take notes (with picture support if needed).


    Part 2

    Part 2

    Review key ideas regarding the American Revolution and subsequent signing of the declaration of Independence from Part 1 (Review 3-2-1 Summarizer).

    Explain to students that they will be closely reading of selected sections of The Declaration of Independence. Explain when we do a close reading of a text we look at in a variety of ways and try to make sense of it.  We do this by paraphrasing, examining the tone and style, and looking at the way it is organized. 

    Teach ELA Vocabulary (below) necessary to complete tasks for lesson. Give students the definitions printed on a vocabulary board, explain each term, and provide examples via Power Point (provided).

    ELA Word Bank

    (Links provided to offer additional resources to aid in instruction if needed)

    Paraphrasing—using your own words to express someone else's message or ideas

    Paraphrasing Internet Resource

    Tone-A writer’s or speaker’s attitude toward a subject, character, or audience shown through the author’s word choice and detail—examples: serious, humorous, sarcastic, objective

    Tone Internet Resource

    Style-The way an author uses words to establish mood, images, and meaning of a text

    Style Internet Resource

    Organization- how writers arrange a text to achieve their purpose and so readers can understand their ideas.

    Organization Internet Resource


    Part 3

    Part 3

    ·         Review ELA vocabulary.

    ·         Review Declaration Vocabulary


    Introduce a modified SOAPStone organizer and discuss/teach each component.  Explain writers/speakers write for specific reasons and in order to better understand a text it helps to know the details: Who is the Speaker, What is the Occasion, Who is the Audience, What is the Purpose, What is the Subject, What is the Tone?   (SOAPSTone)

    Potential guiding questions (these may be printed on cards for student reference):

    Who is the speaker?  Is he speaking only for himself or others?

    Who is the audience? Who is the writer trying to reach? 

    What is the purpose?  Why was this written?  What does the writer hope to gain?

    What is the subject?  What is he talking about?

    What is the tone?  How does the writer feel about the subject? 

    Present the Declaration of Independence in Multiple Formats (some suggestions below). Instruct students to keep in mind the above questions during reading/viewing. 

    Declaration of Independence – The History Channel

    Reading of the Declaration by Celebrities

    After viewing/presenting the Declaration in a variety of formats, complete the SOAPStone organizer together.

    Project the full transcript of the Declaration of Independence on the Board.  Review the idea of a close reading. Discuss how the text is organized, the tone, and style. Explain that Declaration of Independence has 3 main sections: an introduction or preamble, a list of grievances or complaints, and then the actual Declaration of Independence. Give an overview of each section.  Model reading various portions of the text using questions such as:

    ·         What is the author telling me here?

    ·         What words don’t I know?

    ·         What does the author want me to understand?

    ·         What is the first thing that jumps out at me? Why?

    ·         What seems important here? Why?

    ·         What does the author mean by ______?

    After reading a section demonstrate how to paraphrase the text on the board. 


    Part 4

    Part 4

    Students begin close reading of selected sections of the Declaration of Independence based upon their ability. Review the idea of a close reading.

    Distribute paraphrasing worksheets (in 3 ability levels) and have students complete. (Provide modeling, scaffolding, and support as needed).

    Post Assessment and Closure

    Post Assessment and Closure

    Given a prompt, students will compose an argument in a format of their choosing to assert the rights of a people with disabilities, using the Declaration of Independence and the American’s with Disabilities Act as evidence and support.  Remind students that citing evidence and support is fine but majority of the information should be in their own words.

    Suggested Source for Prompts: 


    Suggested formats:

    ·         5-paragraph essay

    ·         Power Point

    ·         Video – Public Service Announcement

    ·         Story Board

    ·         Comic Strip

    ·         Informational brochure for employers


    Students will share their products with the class



    • Review working definition of Independence (started at beginning of unit). Discuss changes if necessary.

    Review/Discuss Essential Question: “Is independence better described as a goal or a journey?“What does independence look like in my life goal and journey?”