Unit 2

The Declaration of Independence


English III

Unit Length and Description:


Nine Weeks


Students will continue to learn about the development of the American Dream by reading The Declaration of Independence, among other primary documents, informational texts, and literature.  They will also explore how foundational American documents and literature convey the topic using specific writing and rhetorical techniques and consider different perspectives.  These ideals transfer into the Romantic and Realist periods of American Literature, which will also be explored in this unit.  Research will require students to investigate the subcultures of each literary period, and the culminating writing task will


This unit will focus on craft and structure as well as informative/explanatory and argumentative writing.




Reading Literature

RL.11-12.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.


RL.11-12.5: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.


RL.11-12.6: Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).


Reading Informational Texts

RI.11-12.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).


RI.11-12.5: Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.


RI.11-12.6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is considered particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the student interpretation of power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.



W.11-12.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

a.  Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

b.  Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.

c.  Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.

d.  Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

e.  Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.


W.11-12.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.


W.11-12.7: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Speaking and Listening

SL.11-12.2: Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.


SL.11-12.3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.



L.11-12.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

a.  Vary syntax for effect, consulting references (e.g., Tufte’s Artful Sentences) for guidance as needed; apply an understanding of syntax to the study of complex texts when reading.



Enduring Understandings:


·        Reading historical American documents increases understanding of how our country developed into what it is today.

·        Understanding the way America’s government works is essential to understanding why America is unique.

·        Freedom and Liberty have different meanings today than in 1776.

·        Being a “self-made man” (or woman) was synonymous with upward mobility.

·        The “American Dream” does not look the same to everyone.

·        Romanticism and Realism are literary periods that morphed from the Founding Fathers’ “American Dream.”


Essential Questions:


·        How does reading the Declaration of Independence explain why America was the way it was in 1776, and why it is the way it is today?

·        Why did the founding fathers choose to instate a democratic republic in America?

·        How are the definitions of Freedom and Liberty different today than they were in 1776?

·        Which American leaders were “self-made men”, and how did they become successful?

·        How do we see Puritan ideals evident in the lives of American leaders during the 1700’s and 1800’s, and how do we see them still today?

·        What is the “American Dream” to the individuals presented in this unit, and how does it differ from the “American Dreams” we see today?

·        How do the Romantic and Realism periods reflect the idea of the “American Dream”?