Thursday, June 14, 2012

Analyzing Primary Sources: The Declaration of Independence--Drafts and Final Copy!

In working with primary sources, students might be reviewing the same documents in two different classes but with a different focus.  This approach will make such text more comprehensible since it will be studied in two different content classes.

Take for example the U.S. constitution.  Several drafts of this document are available online (I have one below).  Imagine what it would be for like for students to study the drafts (including the final copy).  What might an assignment be here?

If it is being read in an English class, students might study grammar, sentence style, figurative language, tone, etc.  Even more importantly, students will see DRAFT copies meaning that this document wasn't written in one session. If the writers of the constitution used drafts along the way to arrive at the final copy, why shouldn't students?  ROUGH DRAFT WRITTEN BY JEFFERSON 
Another draft is the version Congress developed:  CONGRESS'S DRAFT OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCENotice from the typed versions how many changes they wove in.  Have students in pairs or very small groups look at all 3 versions side by side and study those slight difference between copies.  Were the mistakes minor ones or not?  Provide students with some open-ended questions to work on in small groups and then see what ideas they came up with on their own.

History or social science teachers can have their students work on the same pieces, but with a historical perspective.  THREE DRAFTS OF DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE  What was the message at the start of each draft (same approach can be used throughout---WHAT was the intended message?  Which draft was most/least effective? Find evidence in the text to support your answer.  ETC.)?  Students would analyze small sections of the text and then discuss the message with their peers.  Teachers would then randomly call on students to share the answers.  EVERY student would be held accountable.

There are many historical records on the internet where the same strategies could easily be applied.  The key point is to have ALL students analyzing non-fiction/informational text 70% of the time.



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