Teaching Materials
Ask a Master Teacher
Lesson Plan Gateway
Lesson Plan Reviews
State Standards
Teaching Guides
Digital Classroom
Ask a Digital Historian
Tech for Teachers
Beyond the Chalkboard
History Content
Ask a Historian
Beyond the Textbook
History Content Gateway
History in Multimedia
Museums and Historic Sites
National Resources
Website Reviews
Issues and Research
Report on the State of History Education
Research Briefs
Best Practices
Examples of Historical Thinking
Teaching in Action
Teaching with Textbooks
Using Primary Sources
TAH Projects
Lessons Learned
Project Directors Conference
Project Spotlight
TAH Projects
Technical Working Group
Research Advisors
Teacher Representatives
Quiz Rules
Teaching History.org logo and contact info

Declaration of Independence: Rough Draft to Proclamation

Using carefully prepared excerpts, students compare and analyze differences between Jefferson's original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and the final version of the document. They read closely and gain experience in document analysis.

lesson plan image, library of congress

We love the way this lesson challenges students to closely read and analyze the two versions of the Declaration of Independence. The two versions of the opening paragraphs of the Declaration are placed side-by-side, in small, manageable chunks of text. Even if a teacher were not using this particular lesson plan, this presentation would be especially useful in helping all students access an otherwise difficult text. Other reading and analysis supports include guiding questions and a step where the teacher models the process of comparing the juxtaposed texts.

The lesson begins with students looking at the first pages of the original documents and answering questions that get at the historical context of the documents, before doing careful analysis of the transcribed prose. These procedures potentially convey the necessity of slowing down to read, question, and understand primary sources. And they do so using the Declaration of Independence, a document that all students SHOULD read!

As it stands, the lesson has plenty of opportunity for reading and discussion, but requires very little writing. Teachers may want to enhance the writing component of this lesson by having students write responses to some or all of the discussion questions. There is also an engaging extension activity that could be enhanced by requiring written responses.


This lesson comes from the Library of Congress Education Resources website. It includes a link to a useful Library of Congress online exhibit that contains information on the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

Important: Many users will likely want to use their browser display settings to make the lesson text larger and easier to read. In most browsers, go to View on the navigation bar, select Text Size, and choose the appropriate option.

See more on this topic elsewhere on this website.

Teachinghistory.org Lesson Plan Rubric
Field Criteria Comments
Historical Content Is historically accurate?


Includes historical background?

The lesson includes links to background information on the writing of the Declaration of Independence, but it assumes some familiarity with the political events of the time leading up to the Declaration.

Requires students to read and write?

This lesson focuses almost entirely on closely reading the two versions of the document. It calls for some student writing, but there are many points in the lesson at which teachers could easily insert additional writing tasks. For example, students could write responses to most of the lesson's discussion questions.

Analytic Thinking Requires students to analyze or construct interpretations using evidence

This occurs primarily in the final task, where students suggest possible reasons for the changes between the rough and final drafts. Given sufficient background information, it could also occur as part of the discussion in step three regarding historical context.

Requires close reading and attention to source information?

Discussion questions are structured so students must read both versions of the Declaration closely and carefully in order to answer them.

Scaffolding Is appropriate for stated audience?

Some vocabulary may be challenging for some students, but it is well scaffolded: students have an opportunity to identify and define difficult vocabulary before analyzing the document itself, and the text is presented in small, manageable chunks.

Includes materials and strategies for scaffolding and supporting student thinking?

This lesson includes excellent discussion questions to support students' analysis of the documents, and the documents themselves are presented in an accessible format. Also, the teacher models the process of comparing the two versions of the document before students do it on their own.

Lesson Structure Includes assessment criteria and strategies that focus on historical understanding?

The final task at the end of step five could be used as a closing assessment, but no assessment criteria are provided.

Defines clear learning goals and progresses logically?


Includes clear directions and is realistic in normal classroom settings?

The text on this site is very small; teachers will want to adjust computer or browser display settings to enlarge it for easier reading.