Decoding the Declaration (Free)

by  National Archives

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Guiding Question: What does the Declaration of Independence mean?

Students will analyze the Declaration of Independence through different lenses, examining it as an artifact, as a primary source, and as a persuasive text. Students will consider the argument for independence, the key principles of the Declaration, and what the text means today. 

This program works best if students are familiar with the causes of the American Revolution. The teacher guide includes a pre-program activity that can work as a review of the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence. 

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About This Program


By Request: $0.00
By Request Premium: $0.00


This program is free.


45-60 minutes

Target Audience

Education: Grade(s) 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Minimum participants:


Maximum participants:

There is no maximum, but for optimum interactivity, we suggest no more than 35 students.

Primary Disciplines

Social Studies/History

Program Delivery Mode

Videoconference – Webcam/desktop (Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, etc...)
Google Hang Out

Booking Information

Programs by Request are available Tuesday-Thursday and must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.

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Receive this program and 9 more for one low price when you purchase the CILC Virtual Expeditions package. Learn more

For more information contact CILC at (507) 388-3672

Provider's Cancellation Policy

Please email distancelearning@nara.gov at least 24 hours in advance about program cancellations. Cancellations due to inclement weather will be rescheduled based on program availability.

About This Provider

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National Archives

Washington, DC
United States

The National Archives is an independent Federal agency that preserves and protects the historically valuable records of the United States
government. The mission of the National Archives is to provide public access to
these Federal Government records. Public access to government records
strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of
citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so
they can participate more effectively in their government.

The interactive Distance Learning programs of the National
Archives feature primary sources from the Archives' holdings, including historical
documents, photographs, maps, posters, and more!

National Archives Distance Learning Team

Program Details


1. Introduction to the National Archives

2. As a class, students will examine the engrossed version of the Declaration of Independence as an artifact.

3. In groups, students will examine the Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence as a primary source.

4. Working in groups, students will evaluate the argument for independence by analyzing three different grievances from the Declaration.

5. The program will conclude with a discussion about the meaning of the Declaration of Indepedence today.

6. Q&A


By completing this program, students will be better able to:
1. Explain how and why the Declaration of Independence was created
2. Understand the main principles of the Declaration of Independence
3. Analyze primary sources
4. Evaluate arguments

Standards Alignment

State Standards

United States History Content Standards for Grades 5-12 United States Era 3 Standard 1B
The student understands the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

The American idea of constitutional government. Students should be able to explain the essential ideas of American constitutional government.
See also: NSS-C.9-12.2.A.1

American identity. Students should be able to explain the importance of shared political values and principles to American society.
See also: NSS-C.9-12.2.A.1

Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. See also: CCSS-ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.1; CSS-ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.1; CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1; CCSS-ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1

Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.
See also: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.6 and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.6

Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims. See also: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.8

Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly. See also: CCSS-ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1; CCSS-ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.1; CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1; CCSS-ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1

Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study. See also: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.2 and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.2

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
See also: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1 and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. See also: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2 and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2