A Dictionary of Independence
Language Arts and Social Studies Activity
Using events and biographies from their state's history and U.S. history,
students create a dictionary of terms for citizens of a democracy.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Historical reference works (textbooks, biographies, state histories)
- Stapler or other means of binding pages
WHAT TO DO
- Write some of the following terms on the chalkboard:
- Tell students that they are going to create a "dictionary of independence" by
defining words that are important to good citizenship, such as the ones on the
chalkboard. Tell them they will then write a one- or two-paragraph example, or
brief, from their nation's or the state's history to illustrate the use and meaning
of the words. For example, in defining "independence," they might include the
first few lines of the Declaration of Independence or describe how Sam Houston
helped Texas gain its independence from Mexico.
- With the class, brainstorm to add other words to the list on the board, including words that can be illustrated by examples from state history. Divide the list among the participating students so that each has no more than two. (If it is necessary to have more than one student be responsible for the same term, have them work together to provide more than one brief to support it.)
- Students should then write the terms, the dictionary definition, and the
brief neatly on sheets of paper of the same size. Students may also enjoy
illustrating their terms. Choose one student to create a durable cover for the
dictionary pages, then bind all entries together (in alphabetical order) for the
library or classroom.
Encourage students, individually or in groups, to present their briefs as dramatizations. This might be in the form of an excerpt from a speech (for example, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, "I Have a Dream" speech to represent "equal rights"), a reenactment of a historic event, or a reading of a letter, journal, or other primary source.
Have students interpret some of the terms from diverse viewpoints -- for example, Native Americans and Europeans, men and women, Anglo settlers and Mexican rulers, plantation owners and enslaved workers.
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