Revolution- The Declaration of Independence

At the end of the French and Indian War (1763), victorious Great Britain was the only superpower left in North America, with France losing all her North American colonies. However, the French and Indian War left the British colonies broke. Beginning in 1763, the British government imposed a series of taxes and proclamations on their American colonies. The American colonists rebelled against these taxes through a series of boycotts, claiming that, as Englishmen, they were entitled to representation in England prior to any colonial taxation. In response to the British government’s taxes and its declaration that the colonies were in open revolt, on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia offered a formal resolution to the Second Continental Congress calling for independence of the American colonies from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson was tasked in writing the Declaration of Independence. On July 2, 1776, Congress approved Lee’s resolution for America’s independence from Great Britain by a 12-0 vote (New York abstained). With independence adopted, Congress spent the next two days editing Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration. On July 4, 1776, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence and sent it to the printer for duplication and distribution.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 

Students will learn how to read a timeline, examine and interpret primary sources and using critical thinking skills write an expository paragraph on the Declaration of Independence’s enduring ideas and legacy in today’s world.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Activity 1: The Declaration of Independence and Women’s Suffrage 
Have students read a letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams dated March 31, 1776, now known as “Remember the Ladies.” Pass out a copy of an excerpt of the letter to each student. As the students read the letter, have each student complete a Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tool. When the students have completed their analysis of the letter, the teacher will randomly select students in the class to share their answers. The teacher will then project on the Smart Board/projector the following discussion question: “Why doesn’t the Declaration of Independence address women’s issues discussed in Abigail Adam’s letter?” (Standard 8.23, 8.49)
Activity 2: The Declaration of Independence and Fredrick Douglass
Have your students read a speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” by Frederick Douglass to the citizens of Rochester, New York. The date of the speech is July 5, 1852. Break you students into pairs and pass out excerpts of Frederick Douglass’s speech to each student group (p. 11). Direct the student groups to read excerpts from the speech and answer the seven questions that are located underneath the speech. After the students have completed this assignment, the teacher will randomly select student groups to share their answers with the class. (Standard 8.66)

Helpful Hints


  • Smart Board/Projector
  • Declaration of Independence PowerPoint (optional)
  • Venn Diagram
  • Declaration of Independence Web guide (includes timeline)
  • Declaration of Independence Organizer
  • Too Late to Apologize YouTube Video
  • HBO’s John Adams clip—Signing of the Declaration YouTube Video
  • Index cards (for exit tickets)
  • Worksheet: Rephrasing the Declaration of Independence (pp. 8-9)
  • POW TREE + C graphic organizer for writing an essay