Give Me Liberty!: The Story of the Declaration of Independence
- Grades: 6–8
Subject Area: Language Arts, Social Studies
Reading Level: 7.5
Drafted in 1776, the Declaration of Independence remains one of our nation's most significant documents. But do you know the real story behind the events leading up to this critical moment in history? Russell Freedman's Give Me Liberty! The Story of the Declaration of Independence recounts the American colonists' arduous journey to freedom in a richly detailed narrative, complete with prints and illustrations. Reading Freedman's words, the reader is transported back in time and ready to join the fight for independence.
Through the aid of Give Me Liberty!, students will learn about freedom and self expression, in the process they will learn about differing viewpoints.
Standard: Students will produce a response to literature.
Students will participate in group meetings and prepare/deliver a presentation.
Pass out a list of invented rules that infringe on the students' personal rights and freedoms. Possible rules include:
- You may only write in blue ink. If you write in any other color, you will receive detention.
- The price of school lunch has been raised three dollars.
- You cannot wear jeans to school. Anyone wearing jeans will be suspended.
Read the list aloud to the students. Ask them to write a brief reaction to these rules. Students can share their reactions in small groups or with the whole class.
Then, tell students to draft a response to the rules. Students can work individually or in pairs. In their responses, they should object or agree to the demands, citing reasons for their opinions.
Finally, students present their responses to the class. Begin to discuss the following:
What is independence?
How independent are you as students?
Who or what infringes on your independence?
- While reading Give Me Liberty! , keep a running list (on chart paper) of important players in the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence. Examples: Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, King George, Thomas Paine, etc.
- Review this list with the class and ask students to brainstorm interesting topics for these famous people to discuss. Reflect on the class's previous discussion during the "Before Reading the Book" activity. How would these historical figures respond to similar questions? Examples: What is independence? Why is independence important/not important? What are the advantages and disadvantages of English rule vs. independence?
- Set up students in groups of four. Each group will select four people from the list in Step #1 and a controversial topic from Step #2. Explain to the students that they will create a talk show with the four people debating their chosen issue/topic. Three people will be the guests, while the other will be the host.
- Each group writes a script or outline for their talk show. The script should include a series of questions to ask the historical guests. Students will take into consideration the point of view of each historical figure. Also think of a clever, creative name for the show and a great catchphrase for the show's theme (Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!). Use facts, details, and quotes from the book to make the script authentic. Students must focus on the themes of independence, personal rights, and freedom.
- Students will perform their talk shows for the class. Consider setting a time limit for discussions. Audience members may ask the guests select questions and have a brief Q&A session. The talk-show host concludes with some "final thoughts" on today's discussion.
In a roundtable format, students will be discussing the importance of the Declaration of Independence. Open the discussion to the entire class. What did they learn from the previous activities?
Pose the following questions:
After reading Give Me Liberty! , what are your current views of independence?
What did you learn about the pursuit of freedom?
Why is independence important/not important?
What personal rights and freedoms do you have as a student today vs. if you lived during 1776?
What did you learn about the various historical figures and the risks they took to gain their freedom?
Can you think of any modern-day examples of people who took risks for personal rights?
Other Books About the American Revolution
Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution
By Natalie S. Bober
Through research, letters, and personal history, Abigail Adams is shown to be an astonishing and accomplished woman - more than just the wife of John Adams (second president) and the mother of John Quincy Adams (sixth president).
If You Were There in 1776
By Barbara Brenner
What was it like to live in colonial America in the year 1776? This book explores that question and provides informative details.
The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin
By James Cross Giblin
A picture book that describes the life of Benjamin Franklin.
Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?
By Jean Fritz
With humor, Fritz details the reign of Britain's King George III.
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
By Jean Fritz
Fritz uses drama and excitement to describe the stories surrounding the Declaration of Independence.
Other Books by Russell Freedman
Lincoln: A Photobiography
The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery
An Indian Winter
The Life and Death of Crazy Horse
Teaching Plan written by Lauren Gold.