The Declaration of Independence

by Thomas Jefferson

Start Free Trial

Declaration of Independence Rhetorical Appeals Lesson Plan

by eNotes

  • Released January 22, 2020
  • Language Arts, History, and Literature subjects
  • 22 pages
Purchase a Subscription

Grade Levels

Grade 9

Grade 10

Grade 11

Grade 12


Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Used for Persuasive Effect: 

This lesson plan focuses on how Jefferson employs specific rhetorical devices for persuasive effect in the Declaration of Independence. Students will identify examples of ethos, pathos, and logos in the text and explain why they are effective in supporting the American colonists’ claim for independence. In studying these rhetorical devices, students will be better able to describe the ideas Jefferson presents in the declaration and assess the effectiveness of his persuasive arguments.

Learning Objectives: 
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to

  • analyze and explain Jefferson’s purpose in writing the Declaration of Independence and identify the main ideas he presents in the text; 
  • explain the American colonists’ point of view regarding separation from England; 
  • identify and describe examples of ethos, pathos, and logos in the text; 
  • analyze and explain how Jefferson’s use of ethos, pathos, and logos supports his arguments.

Skills: close reading, analyzing passages of text, interpreting connotative language, using historical context in approaching a text, drawing themes from a text

Common Core Standards: RI.11-12.1, RI.11-12.2, RI.11-12.4, RI.11-12.5, RI.11-12.6, RI.11-12.9, SL.11-12.1

Introductory Lecture: 

The Declaration of Independence explains the colonists’ reasons for declaring their independence from Great Britain. The foundation of American government is stated in the preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” The preamble is followed by a list of the colonists’ grievances against the Crown, and a concluding paragraph expresses Congress’s resolution to sever ties with England.

The Declaration of Independence was drafted by the Second Continental Congress, the wartime colonial legislature that dealt with matters of American independence. Colonists formed the Second Continental Congress in 1775, after King George III had not resolved the grievances of the First Continental Congress and the Revolutionary War had begun. Grievances included being taxed without representation in Parliament and the Intolerable Acts of 1774—punishment by England for colonial protests. Among the Intolerable Acts is the infamous Quartering Act, which required American colonists to lodge and feed British soldiers. England had also taken direct control of Massachusetts’ colonial government, canceling the power of the colony’s legislature.

From May 1775 to May 1776, tensions between Great Britain and the American colonies heightened. In August 1775, the Crown declared the colonies to be “in active rebellion”; in May 1776, the Continental Congress passed the Lee Resolution, which called for separation from England. Congress created a Committee of Five to draft the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the text of the declaration and consulted with fellow committee members Benjamin Franklin and John Adams for revisions. The Second Continental Congress adopted the declaration on July 4, 1776.

The Declaration of Independence is especially significant because it establishes the political philosophy and guiding principles of the government of the United States. Although it is not a legal document, it expresses two bedrock political beliefs that were eventually incorporated into the United States Constitution—the “unalienable rights” of individuals and popular sovereignty.


Our eNotes Essential Lesson Plans have been developed to meet the demanding needs of today’s educational environment. Each lesson incorporates collaborative activities with textual analysis, targeting on discrete learning objectives. The main components of each plan include the following:

  • An introduction to the text
  • A step-by-step guide to lesson procedure
  • A previous and following lesson synopsis for preparation and extension ideas
  • A collection of handouts and worksheets complete with answer keys

Each of these comprehensive plans focuses on promoting meaningful interaction, analytical skills, and student-centered activities, drawing from the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and the expertise of classroom teachers.