4 Engaging Ways to Introduce Your Declaration of Independence Unit
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” The Declaration of Independence is such a well-known document that this short line may be instantly recognizable. But, how do you introduce such an important document and time period to students?
When teaching about important historical documents like the Declaration of Independence it can be difficult to find engaging and appropriate resources. I want to save you time, so I’m compiling engaging ways to introduce your history unit.
Below are 4 great ways to introduce your Declaration of Independence unit. I hope you and your students will love them!
Introduce the Unit with a Primary Source
Join, or Die Cartoon (1754)
Why use primary sources for teaching about the Declaration of Independence? Because primary sources allow students to do the jobs of historians. They help students see that history is made up of multiple experiences and points of view.
This famous cartoon by Benjamin Franklin was originally created to persuade the colonies to unite during the French and Indian War. However, it was rebranded during the American Revolution as a symbol of colonial freedom from Britain. Find more historical information about the cartoon from the National Constitution Center.
How it Works:
- Students study the cartoon for a few minutes.
- Next, ask students the following questions. Students may share their answers verbally or write their answers down on a guided worksheet like this one.
- What do the symbols stand for in the cartoon?
- Who do you think drew the cartoon?
- When do you think this cartoon was drawn?
- What is the main idea of the cartoon?
- What do the letters stand for?
- Which colonies are included? Which are omitted?
- Finally, students reflect on what the cartoon tells them about the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
This is such an easy, low prep way to introduce your Declaration of Independence unit. Check out more powerful Declaration of Independence primary sources here.
Using a Great Introductory Video
Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration by Soomo Publishing
Videos are one of my favorite ways to help students connect with history. This parody video from Soomo Publishing is a fun and informative way to introduce your Declaration of Independence Unit.
How it Works:
- First, teach students that during the American Revolution, many American colonists were unhappy with England.
- While watching, ask students to consider the following questions:
- Why were colonists unhappy?
- Why was the song “Too Late to Apologize” chosen for this parody?
- What actions did colonists take?
- After watching, discuss student answers. Ask how the complaints discussed in the video led to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
Looking for more Declaration of Independence videos? Check out my list of Declaration of Independence Videos for Kids.
Introduce the Unit with a Historical Picture Book
Disclosure: The book link is an Amazon affiliate link. This means that I may earn commissions for purchases made by clicking the link.
Do you use picture books when teaching about the American Revolution? Picture books are a great way to engage students.
As the title suggests, this book explains the American Revolution from the perspective of King George III and George Washington. This book explains some things that both Georges had in common and other ways they were different. In addition, it compares and contrasts life in England with life in the 13 Colonies.
How it Works:
- First, ask students who wrote the Declaration of Independence and why it was written. Briefly discuss that American colonists wrote the Declaration of Independence to list their grievances to King George III and declare independence from Great Britain.
- While reading George vs. George, ask students to make a list of reasons why the colonies wanted to declare independence.
- After reading, share student answers. Allow students to discuss what they read. Do they disagree with any of King George III’s actions? Do they disagree with any of the colonists’ actions?
Click here to check out more of my American Revolution picture books for kids!
Introduce the Unit with a Song
British soldiers originally sang the song Yankee Doodle during the French and Indian War to mock American colonists for their dress and manners. During the American Revolution, British soldiers continued to sing it to make fun of the “Yankees”. However, the colonists turned Yankee Doodle into a song of defiance and national pride. You can read about what the lyrics mean here.
How it Works:
- First, students share what they know about the song Yankee Doodle and when they’ve heard it before.
- Second, pull up the sheet music for students to look at. Listen to the song (here is a great rendition from the U.S. Army’s band). Note: Each version of the song has different lyrics.
- Use this sound recording analysis worksheet to analyze the song. Pause throughout the video to discuss lyrics and their meanings.
- After analyzing the song, discuss the following questions:
- What is the song about?
- Who do you think sang this song?
- What is a Yankee Doodle?
- In the song, what does “Macaroni” mean?
- What is the main idea of this song? List two lyrics that support the main idea.
- Finally, discuss what this song teaches us about the American Revolution and how it can be related to the Declaration of Independence.
More Resources for Teaching about the Declaration of Independence
I hope these ideas will help you introduce your Declaration of Independence unit in an engaging way!
If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in my 3-week Declaration of Independence Unit. I want to save you TONS of time while keeping your students engaged. During this unit, students adopt a colonist identity and experience the events leading to the Declaration of Independence. You will love watching history come to life for your students!