Lesson Plan

Why Did the Founders Write the Declaration of Independence?

Analyze two historians' interpretation of why the Declaration of Independence was written.
Adrian N.
Instructional technology learning coach
Instructional Support Facility
Show More
My Grades 5
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies
Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • List examples of ideological reasons for writing the Declaration of Independence (e.g., equality, freedom).
  • List examples of selfish reasons for writing the Declaration of Independence (e.g., preserve the power and privilege of rich people).
  • Weigh contrasting interpretations by prominent historians to answer the question: Why did the Founders write the Declaration of Independence?
  • Construct an argument for why they feel the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Subjects
Social Studies
Grades 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

BrainPop
From $220

Introduction:

  • The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson and signed by representatives from all 13 colonies on July 4, 1776. In the document, the leaders outlined their reasons for declaring independence from England.
  • Historians have disagreed as to whether the colonial leaders were motivated by selfish or ideological reasons

.Hook:

  • Students will watch a BrainPop video introducing (or reviewing) the Declaration of Independence.
  • Video will make a connection to prior knowledge of Declaration of Independence AND....
  • Will motivate students to learn more about the motivation behind writing the Declaration of Independence.

2 Direct Instruction

Activity: Reading

Ask students:

  • What would be some examples of ideological reasons? (equality, freedom) What would be some examples of selfish reasons? (preserve the power and privilege of rich people)

Hand out Two Historians’ Interpretations and have students read each interpretation.  

Review student answers. Students should understand that Bailyn argues thatthe Founders were motivated by ideological reasons and Zinn argues that the founders were motivated by selfish reasons (i.e., power, money).

Discuss:

  • Based on the words of the Preamble, do you think the Declaration of Independence was written for selfish or ideological reasons?

 

3 Guided Practice

Activity: Debating

Hand out:

  • Declaration Preamble and have students re-write in their own words. 

Debate:

  • Based on the words in the Preamble, do you think the Declaration of Independence was written for selfish or ideological reasons? (In other words, do you agree with Bailyn or Zinn?)

Hand out:

  • List of grievences outlined in the Declaratin of Independence by Founders.
    • Explain to students that most of the Declaration of Independence is a list of complaints against the King of England.

Declaration of Independence:

  • If the grievance seems to be something that would affect only the rich and powerful, write O (for ONLY rich and powerful)
  • If the grievance seems to be something that would affect all the colonists, write A (for ALL the colonists)
  • If they don’t know who would be affected, they should write a question mark (?)

4 Independent Practice

Debrief: 

  • Whole class discusses the following:
    • Do these grievances seem to be things that would upset rich people or everyone?
    • What information would you need to know to better answer that question?
  • Based on the grievances, which historian do you think has a better argument (Bailyn or Zinn)? In other words, was the Declaration of Independence written for selfish or ideological reasons?
  • Students will use Poll Everywhere to cast their vote.

 

5 Wrap-Up

Google Drive
Free, Paid

Students will write a brief paragraph arguing their opinion.

  • Which historian, Bailyn or Zinn, do you find more convincing? Why?

References:

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1980, pp. 68 and 72.

Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, 1967, pp. 94 and 140-142. http://books.google.com/books?id=EjJHUVVzDR8C