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Activity Overview

In this activity, students will use a spider map to detail and explain four or more excerpts, directly from the Declaration of Independence. Through the expansive, detailed cell type within the storyboard, students will organize the excerpts and create a visual interpretation. Students will be able to explain and analyze each excerpt from the document. This will force students to read the document verbatim and put the documents words into their own language.

Excerpt Analysis
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." This excerpt is one of the most recognizable in the English language. It declares that all men are born with natural rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The declaration will expand off this, stating how these rights were violated by Great Britain.
"The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States." This excerpt states the negative connotations and feelings towards King George III by the colonists. His repeated "injuries and usurpations" against them have directly prevented them from leading the lives they've desired. Therefore, he is a tyrannical, unjust ruler.
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..." This excerpt declares that if a government does not work, it is the people's right to change it or get rid of it. This means that because Great Britain's monarchical government is causing oppression, the colonists have the right to overthrow it and create a new, better government.
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America...That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States..." This excerpt is a literal example within the Declaration declaring freedom and independence. Because of the repeated injuries and oppressive nature against the colonies, the United States should be free. This is to ensure they dictate their lives, not Great Britain.

Extended Activity

Have students select four or more excerpts from France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man, using a similar spider map storyboard. Students should again attempt to draw comparisons from a contextual perspective, identifying similar language or ideas. Students should connect these ideas with that of the Declaration and American Revolution.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard analyzing four excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title boxes, enter a short quote from the Declaration.
  3. In the description boxes, write a short paraphrase explaining what the excerpt means in your own words.
  4. Create an illustration for each quote, using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  5. Save and exit when you're done.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/11-12/8] Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/11-12/9] Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

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