Lesson Plan

Vocabulary in the Declaration of Independence

Help students decode tricky language in the Declaration of Independence with an integrated vocabulary and history lesson. After reviewing vocabulary as a class, students will rewrite the Declaration of Independence in kid-friendly language.
Download lesson plan
View aligned standards

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to define and paraphrase key vocabulary terms in the Declaration of Independence.


(5 minutes)
Vocab in History: Declaration of IndependenceParaphrase the Declaration of IndependenceThomas Jefferson and the Declaration of IndependenceWrite Your Own Declaration!
  • Write "What is the Declaration of Independence?" on the board.
  • Show students an image of the document (see related media).
  • Provide a brief overview explaining what the document is and why it is important.
    • It is a document that was written and signed in 1776 that declared America's independence from England and established the 13 colonies as an independent nation, the United States of America.
    • Colonial Americans wanted freedom from England because they were being treated badly by the king of England, King George III.
    • The Declaration of Independence establishes the principles of freedom, including the idea that all people are created equal and are born with certain rights.
    • It states that the purpose of the government is to protect people's rights and citizens should have the right to change the government if leaders are not protecting those rights.
    • A large part of the document is a list of grievances, or problems, that the colonists have with the king, like unfair taxes. The authors included these complaints as a way to convince other colonists that there was a reason to go to war with England.
  • Explain that the Declaration of Independence contains a lot of language that is hard to understand. But today we will be looking at sections of the document and analyzing the language used so that we can better understand what it says.