Tell students that in class today, they will be exploring the ideals within the Declaration of Independence, widely regarded as the foundational text of American democracy. Distribute The Declaration of Independence Excerpt and read it aloud with students. As you read, ask students to underline key ideas or record questions in the margins. Then read the text a second time, stopping after each section to ask the following questions:
- According to the Declaration, where do our rights come from? (Section 1)
- Are there other rights not mentioned in the Declaration that you think we should all possess by virtue of our existence? (Section 1)
- According to the Declaration, why does government exist? Where does the power of government come from? (Section 2)
- When do the people have a right to create a new government? What should be the purpose of that government? (Section 3)
Ask students to discuss their answers. Make sure that they understand the democratic ideals laid out in the Declaration, including the concepts of freedom, equality, natural (“unalienable”) rights, and consent of the governed.
Then ask students to create a concept map for the term “democratic ideal.” Lead students through the steps of the Concept Map teaching strategy, first generating a list of words, phrases, and ideas they associate with democratic ideals and then representing the relationship between their ideas on the page using spacing, lines, arrows, color, and sizing.
Next, have students share their concept maps using the Think, Pair, Share teaching strategy format. Invite students to revise their maps by adding new information they learned from their pair-shares that extends or challenges their thinking.
You might then facilitate a discussion in which students share ideas from their maps for you to collect on a class concept map that you hang in the room, refer back to over the course of the inquiry, and modify as students’ thinking develops.