Writing the Declaration of Independence
Currier & Ives, Library of Congress

Independence Day
July 4th

This July 4th classrooms and communities throughout the nation will again celebrate the birthday of the United States of America with fireworks, parades and picnics. This celebration marks the day on July 4, 1776 when a group of intrepid men in the Second Continental Congress acted unanimously to declare independence from Great Britain.

Knowing that the colonies were on the brink of war with Britain, on June 11, 1776 the Continental Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston as a committee to draft a declaration of independence. After sharing ideas about the type of document needed, the committee delegated Thomas Jefferson to undertake the actual writing. Jefferson’s draft went through a tedious process of revision and rewording before its unanimous approval on July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence is now considered one of the most significant argument for democracy ever written.
SCORE History-Social Science has reviewed and assembled this set of resources from the web to help you make your celebration of America’s independence a learning experience students will never forget. At the end are also some children’s literature selections.


Margaret Hill, Ph.D. Director
SCORE History-Social Science

Primary Sources

Declaration of Independence
http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/charters.html
View the real Declaration at this Charters of Freedom Exhibit of the National Archives. Download a high-resolution image of the Declaration and join the signers.

Declaration of Independence: When in the course of human events…
http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/
View high-resolution copies of the Declaration, read Jefferson’s account of its writing, and see a timeline of events related to independence.

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids – Declaration of Independence
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/documents/index.html
Here is a clear transcription of the Declaration of Independence and a brief history of America’s most famous document for elementary students.

Web Resources

Independence Day
http://www.holidays.net/independence/
To complete an Independence Day event at your school be sure to include patriotic music from this site. Full band renditions of the Stars and Stripes Forever, the Army Song, Anchors Aweigh, and much more await you here.

Declaration of Independence
http://www.classbrain.com/artteensb/publish/article_228.shtml
This is a “Did You Know?” fact sheet about the Declaration of Independence by the Declaration of Independence Road Trip.

Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/declara/declara1.html
This special exhibition is from the collections of the Library of Congress. This is a digitized version of the exhibit for classrooms across the nation to use.

Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776
http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/jefferson.htm
Here is an Eyewitness account of the writing of the Declaration using primary resources from the time written by John Adams.

Liberty! The American Revolution
http://www.pbs.org/ktca/liberty/
This PBS website has a rich set of resource sites and a timeline to support the film series. There are a series of lessons in the Teacher’s Guide section.

Lesson Ideas

Declaration of Independence
http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/declaration/main.html
This History Channel site has background information on why the Declaration was written, biographies of its signers, interpretations of the document’s meaning, and a brief teacher’s guide. Standards 5.5.3, 8.1.2, 11.1.1, and 12.1.3

Fourth of July Timeline and Activities
http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson069.shtml
This Education World site has a timeline, a capsule history of the holiday and activities for observing the day through art, crafts, and music. Standards 1.3.2 and 1.3.3

Teacher Resources for the Fourth of July/Independence Day
http://www.glc.k12.ga.us/trc/cluster.asp?mode=browse&intPathID=5449
Here are ideas and activities for Independence day crafts for primary grade classes. Standards 1.3.2 and K.6.1

Independence Day - A Problem-based Lesson
http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/activity/indepday/
Learn about national holidays, songs, and symbols. Your class will make its own flag, monument, anthem and holiday event for Independence Day. Standards 1.3.2, 1.3.3, 3.4.2, and 3.4.4

Images of the American Revolution
http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/revolution-images/
Analyze eight pictures and other primary sources to find out about the American Revolution. Research and write a monologue from the perspective of one of the individuals who played a significant role during the Revolutionary period. Describe significant events of the period including the Stamp Act, the Declaration of Independence, Valley Forge, and the Articles of Confederation. Standards 5.5.1, 5.5.4 and 8.1.2

The American Revolution: Causes
http://school.discovery.com/lessonplans/programs/revwar1/
In this Discovery School lesson, students use the poem “Revolutionary Tea” to learn about why the American colonials were angry with Britain and why they were willing to go to war. Standard 5.5.1

Myth or Truth: Independence Day
http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=153
Most Americans think of the Fourth of July as Independence Day, but is it really the day the United States declared its independence? This ReadWriteThink lesson explores all the dates and stories associated with the Declaration of Independence, focusing on the reason there are so many different dates and signings of the document and why we celebrate the nation's birthday on July 4th rather than one of the other dates. Standards 5.5.1, 5.5.2, and 5.5.3

Documents and Symbols of American Freedom
http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/score_lessons/symbols_freedom/
Explore the content and meaning of key documents in American history such as the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Learn the importance of major symbols of American freedom such as the Bald Eagle, the 4th of July, the Star Spangled Banner, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Uncle Sam, Lady Justice and the Statue of Liberty. Standards K.2, 1.3.3, 3.4.3, 8.2.1, and 11.1.0

The Declaration of Independence and Your Own Rights
http://www.teachervision.fen.com/lesson-plans/lesson-1717.html?for_printing=1
This lesson compares the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Sentiments. Read the American Declaration of Independence and discuss the events that led to its writing. Identify the specific arguments for independence. Then read the Declaration of Sentiments and discuss the forces that led Stanton to write it. How is this document similar to the Declaration of Independence? Why did these women feel their rights were being violated? Standards 5.5.3, 8.1.2 and 8.6.6

Declare the Causes: The Declaration of Independence
http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=282
Help your students see the development of the Declaration as both an historical process and a writing process through role-play, creative writing, an introduction to some important documents and a review of historic events. Standard 5.5.3


“An Expression of the American Mind:” Understanding the Declaration of Independence

http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=723
In an 1825 letter to Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, discussed who deserved credit for the ideas contained in that document. In this lesson there are two activities. The first looks at the structure of the Declaration: introduction, main political/philosophical ideas, grievances, and the assertion of sovereignty. The second activity looks at the ideological/political origins of the ideas in the Declaration. Standards 11.1.1, 11.1.2, and 12.1.3

Jefferson vs. Franklin: Revolutionary Philosophers
http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=414
Have Benjamin Franklin's philosophical contributions to the early development of our government been overlooked? He was, of course, a member of the committee that worked on the Declaration of Independence, but did you know he had already penned his own "virtual declaration of independence" one year earlier? Thomas Jefferson is credited as the author the Declaration of Independence, a grand achievement. But, though Jefferson alone composed the draft of the Declaration, even he admitted in 1823, "…Before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections." Standard 8.1.2

Recommended Children’s Literature

Fireworks and Freedom: A Fourth of July Story and Activity Book (Let's Celebrate)
Carol Amato

The Declaration of Independence (Our Government and Citizenship)
Kevin Cunningham

Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags
Jim Cross Giblin

The Declaration of Independence: The Story Behind America's Founding Document
Kerry A. Graves

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Independence Day: With Parades, Picnics, and Fireworks (Holidays Around the World)
Deborah Heiligman

Independence Day (Holidays, Festivals, & Celebrations)
Ann Heinrichs

My First Fourth of July Book
Harriet Hodgson

Declaration of Independence, The: The Famous Words Ring as
True Today as They Did More than 200 Years Ago

Thomas Jefferson and Sam Fink

Star Spangled Banner, The
Francis Scott Key

Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeny
Leslie Kimmelman

Fourth of July on the Plains, A
Jean Van Leeuwen

Story of America’s Birthday, The
Patricia A. Pingry

Declaration of Independence, The
Patricia Ryon Quiri

Declaring Freedom: A Look at the Declaration of Independence,
the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution

Gwenyth Swain

Independence Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays)
Trudi Strain Trueit

Hurray for the Fourth of July
Wendy Watson

Apple Pie and the Fourth of July
Janey S. Wong

These and other books may be found at SCORE History-Social Science Children’s Literature K-6 http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/literature/k6/ If you find other children’s literature related to the Declaration of Independence or the Fourth of July, please share them with others by emailing me the titles and authors peg_hill@sbcss.k12.ca.us.