Primary Documents, Social Studies, and the Common Core: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

Last week, Todd Whitten and I shared ways to hit the different Common Core Standards for Social Studies/History using technology. This week, we are launching our work on Primary Documents and the Common Core (check out Todd’s post on using John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government). While these are written for grades 11-12, they can be modified to accommodate other grade levels.

Before we get to the activities, I want to explain more about our vision of how we intend to use the standards in our classes. The standards are broken up into three sections: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. For simplicity sake, we are going to call them Green Circle, Blue Square, and Black Diamond. When using the standards in my classroom instead of focusing on, let’s say, standards RH.11-12.1, RH.11-12.4, and RH.11-12.9; I am going to focus on the Green Circle, Blue Square, or Black Diamond standards. When I feel that my students have mastered* the Green Circle standards, I intend to move on to the Blue Square standards. With some of the Black Diamond standards, I may work on those individually or over the course of a few days.

Below is an example of how to break down The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen using the Common Core Standards for Social Studies/History. Only a few of these include technology, so if you are looking to incorporate more technology check out Todd and my previous posts on Technology, Social Studies and the Common Core: Part I and Part II.

All Primary Documents for this lesson are available below in the links below.

As always, feel free to ask questions and leave feedback in the comments section.

Key Ideas and Details (Green Circle)

RH.11-12.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

1. What is the overall purpose of this document? How do you know?

RH.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

2. What is the most important idea of this document? Support your answer with 2-3 pieces of evidence.

RH.11-12.3. Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

3. Choose three of the articles in the document and based on your understanding of events leading to the creation of the document, explain why the National Assembly advocated for that particular article.

Click here for the work sheet that corresponds with the Green Circle questions.

Craft and Structure [Blue Square]

RH.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

1. The National Assembly states in Article 2, “The aim of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imperceptible rights of man.”

A. Based upon your understanding of the document create a near definition (which means you may not use a dictionary or word defining app of any sort to reach a definition) of the following terms

                Political associations –

                Natural –


B. Using your understanding of the terms above, rewrite the sentence that begins Article 2.

RH.11-12.5. Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

2.  What is the role of the first few articles versus the role of the latter ones?

3. What is the purpose of the introduction to the Declaration of the Rights of Man?

RH.11-12.6. Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Additional Document: Reflections of the French Revolution by Edmund Burke 

4. How do the documents (The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Reflections of the French Revolution) differ on the role of law in a civil society? Support your answer.

For exemplary – What is your belief on the role of law in a civil society? Support your answer with evidence.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas <Black Diamond>

RH.11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

1790 The Third Estate carrying the Clergy and the Nobility on its back

Additional Document: Image-The Third Estate Carrying the Clergy and Nobility on its Back (pictured). Graph depicting both population breakdown of the three estates during the Old Regime as well as the breakdown of who pays the taxes (textbook).

1. Use both Evidence A and B to explain the perceived need for the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

RH.11-12.8. Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

2. Using the documents provided and your own research on the topic, write a well-argued response on your blog to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen from either King Louis XIV or a nobleman’s point of view. Then respond to a classmates blog from the perspective of a member of the Third Estate. Finally, respond to the questions posed on your blog.

RH.11-12.9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

3. Watch the section of the History Channel’s The French Revolution pertaining to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and read the section of your textbook on the creation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.

A. Create a Venn diagram to chart overlapping facts and unique facts.

B. With a partner, rewrite the section of the textbook integrating what you learned from the film, the text, and the primary documents provided.

C. Compare and discuss with another group. Feel free to merge the two to create a full understanding of the Declaration.

The Documents:
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789)
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)
The Third Estate Carrying the Clergy and Nobility on its Back (Image-1790s)

* Master? Yes, Todd and I also created rubrics for the standards and will be sharing those at a later date.

As always, feel free to add more ideas or add to the discussion below!

Our Common Core Series (so far):
Technology, Social Studies, and the Common Core: Part I
Technology, Social Studies, and the Common Core: Part II
Common Core Social Studies Activity for 11-12 (John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government)
Primary Documents, Social Studies, and the Common Core: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

For my other posts on the Common Core click here.

About Michael K. Milton

I teach students Social Studies at Burlington High School. When I became a teacher, I believed that students would frequently give me apples. This has not happened (not even a Red Delicious ~ a name which is a misnomer). However, my school has given me a MacBook Pro and an iPad in an effort to right this wrong (I assume). I'm very lucky to work in a 1:1 school.
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5 Responses to Primary Documents, Social Studies, and the Common Core: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

  1. Valerie says:

    I was checking this page again, because I’ll be going over the Declaration tomorrow, and noticed something in the Blue Square: the versions I’ve been seeing (in a textbook, & at the Yale Avalon site), say in Art. 2 that the rights are “imprescriptible,” not “Imperceptible.” Can’t see them, I could get, but I’m still doing a bit of head-scratching over “imprescriptable.” (They’re so natural you can’t even write them down? Other search results indicate it’s more like “inalienable.”) In any event, thought I’d bring that to your attention. Vive la revolution!

  2. cafecasey says:

    This is an awesome lesson. I wish I was teaching this. I’m going to fit it in, even if it doesn’t fit.

  3. Christina says:

    Thank you for your lesson ideas!!! I will be bookmarking this for next year as we just finished that unit in World History 2 (Ren-Present).

  4. Pingback: Going Meta: Cataloguing My Past Two Years of Blogging | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

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