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'Declaration of Independence' From Plagiarism



  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
    --Visual Arts
  • Social Studies
    ----U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced

Brief Description

Paraphrase the Declaration of Independence in modern English.


Students will

  • work as a group or class to paraphrase the language of the Declaration of Independence.
  • translate the original language of the Declaration into modern English.


study skills, Declaration of Independence, Washington, paraphrase, writing, notes, note taking

Materials Needed

Lesson Plan

After students have all their notes together and are ready to start writing their research papers, paraphrasing -- putting the research into their own words -- is an essential skill. Being able to paraphrase can protect students from the temptation to copy text verbatim from Internet and library sources.

With search engines such as Google, uncovering Internet plagiarism can be just a few keystrokes away. All you have to do is type into Google a sentence or phrase that arouses the suspicion of plagiarism and a cheating student would be busted faster than you can say "Detention."

For students in grades 5 and above, especially students who are studying U.S. History, you might introduce the text of the Declaration of Independence. Copy the text onto a transparency or project it from the Internet. Introduce small sections of text and have students paraphrase that text. The Declaration details the "repeated Injuries and Usurpations" of the King of Great Britain as he tried to govern the colonies from afar.

You might arrange students into small groups and provide them with sections of the text to paraphrase (including the brief sections below that offer a few examples of the king's "Injuries and Usurpations") -- as well as a dictionary. Alternatively, you might divide the Declaration into sections and give each section to a different group of students. In the end, you will have a modern-speak version of our Founding Fathers' document. For each statement from the Declaration of Independence below, we have provided in italic type one version of a possible paraphrase; note that your students might use wording that is quite different from our paraphrase -- yet correct and acceptable.

  • HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good. (He will not give his stamp of approval to the laws we feel are necessary for our country.)
  • HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. (His leaders oversee the passing of new laws, but when those laws are put before him for approval he totally ignores them.)
  • HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only. (He holds new laws hostage, hoping citizens will give up their desire to be represented by leaders they vote for.)
  • HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures. (He holds meetings of great importance at the most inconvenient places and times so that he will meet little resistance to his ideas.)
  • HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People. ( He has done all he can to shut down representative government.)
  • HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries. (He has placed friends in high places; and threatened their jobs and livelihoods if they go against him.)
  • HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance. (He is trying to extend his reach and gain support for his plans by "planting" supporters in communities everywhere.)
  • HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures. (He maintains armies without approval of the citizens.)
  • HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. (He has captured and forced citizens to join him in fighting and killing their fellow citizens.)


Assign each student one of the points made in the Declaration of Independence. Students write their assigned points in modern English, then illustrate the points. Combine students' work to create a book of the Declaration of Independence to share with younger students who would not otherwise be able to understand it.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins


Return to the Note Taking lesson plan page.

Find more ideas for teaching study skills in an Education World article Teaching Study Skills: Ideas That Work!.