The Declaration of Independence is a break up letter from the American colonists to King George. In it, the colonists list their grievances, the rights they believe they are entitled to, and declare themselves separate from England.
If you teach the declaration, this is a GREAT activity to do with students 5th grade and older. The activity was originally posted HERE by an 8th grade teacher in Missouri. The video quickly took the teaching world by storm and today you can find many lessons/videos/blogs about it. There is a great lesson video for middle school or high school kids on the Teaching Channel.
I begin class by going over the vocabulary like I usually start my lessons. We teach each other the definitions for "Declaration," "Independence," and "Continental". Then I share that before I go into the lesson on the Declaration of Independence, the janitor brought me a note she found on the floor while cleaning. I pull out the note and share that I don't know who it is written too, but that it is pretty entertaining, and since, they left it out for everyone to see, I'll read it!
Here is an example of the letter that I read to them:
"I’m not sure how to start this letter, but I feel we need to talk. I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately. Things used to be so great. It was like we were M.F.E.O (made for each other - I let the students figure that out so I look like I don't have anything to do with the letter). I mean, everyone said we were perfect. I really thought we’d be together forever, but then things changed. I feel like you started taking me for granted. You just started to do whatever you wanted and never asked me about anything or how I felt. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I think it’s time we broke up. I mean, it’s just not going to work. I need some time by myself to see what it is like on my own. I’m sorry things didn’t work out, but I do think YOU are the one to blame. Sorry but “us” is over.”
By the time I get done reading this, the students are hysterical with glee that you just read this. I play it up too. I read it slowly and pause several times as if I really don’t think it is right to continue.
After reading the note, they obviously will want to know who wrote it. I act like I probably shouldn't, that it might be someone from this room and we would embarrass them, etc. Finally, I allow them to convince me to read and I proudly read:
….the 13 American colonies.
Wait. What? The kids are SOOOOOOOOOOOO annoyed!!! HAHA! But they are usually still smiling ;0)
Then I immediately go into my lesson about the Declaration of Independence being the world’s most famous break up letter.
I also show them the video "It's too late to apologize - declaration style" on Youtube (except, I show them the one I linked to, NOT the original. I don't like the rock ending, feel that it takes away from the value of the video).
I finish off by having them do a writing assignment and "breaking up" with either a boss, a parent (moving out), a teacher (leaving their class), or a fake boyfriend/girlfriend. They must follow certain expectations in their letter, however.
Must share why they are breaking up and list their complaints.
Must share their "rights"
Must include the phrases "Breaking up is hard to do" and "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"
Must be firm but respectful (no attacking, unkind words, rude letters)
The kids get really creative with these - which makes them SO fun to read! I always enjoy the ones that are written to me :)
My personal favorite!! (didn't get a picture)
My Declaration Of Independence
Dear, Mrs Bermingham,
I know breaking up is hard but I think it’s time. I have the right of getting you out in four square, being fair, and not having to deal with cheap shots from you. Also, by the way, you brag and laugh at me every time you get me out. This is not kind and I am sick of it! I think that I should be free and happy while playing at recess. I deserve the rights of life, liberty and happiness on the playground. So, I’m sorry, but it is official, I am going to play at the other square.
P.S. Can you please still help me with my homework?
Sincerely, Your Student
I also really like showing them "King George's response" to their break up letter and talked about how he "didn't take the break up well". Then, because you can always squeeze a Hamilton video in, we watch THIS video of that fantastic group"Hamilton Broadway in Real Life" acting out "You'll Be Back".