Ask this question: Why do we celebrate the fourth of July? Accept all answers from the class.
Hand out copies of the Declaration of Independence. Have students note the date of the document.
I also like to show this video clip to the students "To late to apologize"
(Personal Note, Teachers you really need to see this video. Modern music with the Declaration paraphrased in the lyrics. This is fun, funny, and accurate.)
Students really like it. If you use this video have students try to figure out who the actors are trying to represent. Benjamin Franklin, King George and Thomas Jefferson are pretty easy. Sam Adams (with ale), John Hancock (with quill) and John Adams are more difficult.
Define the word grievance.
Ask your students if they have any grievances against the school. Get a list together.
Show students the Declaration of Independence and let them know that it is mostly a list of grievances, just like their list.
1. Break the class into three parts. Assign one group the first two paragraphs, the second group the list of grievances, and the third group the last three paragraphs. Have each student find 5 words in the Declaration that they don't understand and write them down. Then have each student look up those words in a dictionary and find a definition that seems to make sense in context.
2. Each of the three groups then gets together in a group and compiles a list of their words.
3. Have the class come together as a large group and compile a list of words and definitions for the entire document. This is your vocabulary list for the lesson. Treat as you would any vocabulary list.
4. Read aloud the first paragraph; hold a class discussion to figure out what it is saying and what it means.
5. Give a dramatic reading of the first sentence of the second paragraph. "We hold these truths to be self evident..." If you don't do well with dramatic readings, there is a very good dramatic reading of the entire declaration here.
6. Complete the second paragraph with a class discussion about what the document is saying.
7. You can go over the list of grievances or you can just hit some of the highlights in the list. I prefer going over the whole list. Ensuring that students understand what each grievance means. I ask students if they would object to each of these.
8. Read aloud the last two paragraphs and again, hold a class discussion ensuring that students understand what is being said.
Finally look at the signatures. Notice John Hancock's extra large signature. Explain that because of this when we want someone to sign a paper we ask for their John Hancock.