https://sbt-test.azurewebsites.net/lesson-plans/the-declaration-of-independence/themes

Activity Overview


Themes come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify key themes of The Declaration of Independence, and support their choices with details from the text.

The Declaration of Independence Themes and Ideas to Discuss

Injustice

An important theme of The Declaration of Independence is injustice. The document lists not only the grievances held against King George III, but the grievances against a tyrant. In George’s tyranny, he has dissolved representative governments, restricted currency, levied unfair taxes, and taken away territory. In every step, King George has treated the people of the colonies not as citizens of England, but as petulant children. By doing this, King George has robbed the colonists of their rights as English citizens, which is unjust.


The Strength of the Ruled over the Rulers

Another important theme raised in The Declaration of Independence is the strength of the ruled over the rulers. With the rise of the Enlightenment and the merchant class, the belief in the Divine Right of Kings had been slowly fading anyway; however, few people realized the power that they held over their government. With this document, the colonists were forging a new path in history by creating their own government, because the one King George III was running was corrupt and tyrannical. For the first time in history, the people were deciding their futures, and throwing away the ideas of traditional rulers.


Justifications for a War

An additional important theme in The Declaration of Independence is the justifications for a war. War, ideally, should always be a last resort. The grievances outlined by Jefferson in the document prove that all necessary steps were taken in order to prevent war from becoming a reality. In doing so, Jefferson also shows all of the inappropriate, tyrannical ways that King George has responded to those steps, leaving no other option but to declare and then fight for freedom from an unreasonable tyrant.


Inalienable Rights of All People

A final important theme found in The Declaration of Independence is the inalienable rights of all people. Jefferson outlines them: all men are created equal, and they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The document doesn’t just outline a list of complaints; for the first time in history, it declares that everyone is born with rights that cannot be given or taken away by anyone except, well, God. A king or queen has no right to interfere with the people’s liberty, and if they do, the people have the right to cast them away. For the first time in history, the people are made equal to the monarchs by their inalienable right to equality.



Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/5] Analyze in detail how an author's ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/6] Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/9] Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington's Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"), including how they address related themes and concepts.


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Declaration of Independence. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Declaration of Independence you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Rubric

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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