From the National Council Teachers of English’s NCTE Inbox:
Looking for the Stories behind Historical Documents
Historical events such as those surrounding Independence Day may seem like absolute truth to students; yet behind such events are many possible truths, myths, and stories, allowing us to discover who we were as people and who we are today. Try these resources to encourage students to discover the stories behind historical documents.
The ReadWriteThink lesson plan Myth and Truth: Independence Day (E) asks students to think critically about commonly believed stories regarding the beginning of the Revolutionary War and the Independence Day holiday. You can invite students to explore the facts about another moment in America’s colonial years with the ReadWriteThink lesson Paul Revere: American Patriot (E).
Patrick Henry’s call to “Give me liberty or give me death!” is a standard part of classroom instruction on American history. Yet how many students know Tecumseh’s equally persuasive “Sell a country? Why not sell the air?” Compare the speeches with the ReadWriteThink lesson Battling for Liberty: Tecumseh’s and Patrick Henry’s Language of Resistance (M).
Invite students to look at the constantly evolving language people use every day. In the ReadWriteThink lesson Freedom of Speech and Automatic Language: Examining the Pledge of Allegiance (S), students explore rote learning and their right to freedom of speech by examining the Pledge of Allegiance from a historical and personal perspective.
Explore how cultural knowledge creates common ground and a base for action in “The 4th of July and the 22nd of December: The Function of Cultural Archives in Persuasion, as Shown by Frederick Douglass and William Apess” (C) from College Composition and Communication, which includes an in-depth analysis of Frederick Douglass’s essay “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”