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Lesson Plan

Myth and Truth: Independence Day

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Myth and Truth: Independence Day

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • develop strategies for critically examining the origin and characteristics of myth.

  • develop an awareness of the diversities, similarities, and values in various cultural and story traditions related to the American Revolution.

  • develop strategies for examining messages for bias and missing information.

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Session One

  1. Students can complete these prereading questions as homework, as an in-class freewrite before the reading, or in oral class discussion.

    1. What difference does it make who writes a story as long as they tell the "truth"?
    2. How can you tell when a story is true? What would indicate a story was fictional?
    3. Have you ever read something that was presented as nonfiction but that you knew was fiction?

  2. Spend ten to fifteen minutes going over students' responses to the prereading prompt. Write their answers on chart paper or an overhead. (You'll return to these answers later in this lesson, so save their responses.)

  3. Read the lyrics to the Schoolhouse Rocks' cartoon "Fireworks!" As students read, ask them to pay particular attention to the historical details that the lyrics include.

  4. After reading, ask students to write two questions of their own for the class to consider: one question that is answered in the text and an "I wonder why" question. Use a writer's notebook or response journal for this writing.

  5. In small groups, have students share their questions and discuss answers. Monitor student discussion by circulating among the groups.

  6. As a postreading activity, ask students to think about the description of the writing and signing of the Declaration. Give them these guiding questions: What do you notice about the lyrics that fits with your ideas about July 4, 1776, and what seems unusual or seems to have been left out?

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Session Two

  1. In full-class discussion, have students share their thoughts on the events of July 4, 1776, in light of the "Fireworks!" lyrics. Write their ideas on the board or on chart paper. The idea is simply to brainstorm a list for now.

  2. Pass out the Common Myths about the Fourth of July Handout, or show the list on an overhead projector. As you read through the list, encourage students to connect items from their brainstorming list with the myths on the sheet.

  3. Demonstrate the "myth-breaking" process (outlined on the Common Myths handout and below) by answering the three myth/truth questions about the first myth on the handout: "The Fourth of July has been a legal holiday since the American Revolution." See this article from American University for background information.

  4. Divide students into four to five groups, assigning each group a myth from the sheet. Give groups a variety of resources in which they might uncover truths about Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence. Pass out the Presentation Rubric for the activity, or show the list on an overhead projector.

  5. Each group completes the following assignment, preparing to share their findings with the entire class:

    1. Explain your myth answering these two questions:

      • What is a truth in this myth?

      • What are other truths behind this myth that might contradict it?

    2. As a group, you may use any of the materials available to help you understand and explain the myth.

    3. Prepare a five-minute presentation to the class that explains your understanding of the myth, using creative drama, visual aids such as posters, music, illustrations, or an oral presentation. If desired, you can use the Printing Press to create posters and other displays for your presentations.
  6. As students work in their groups, circulate and monitor student progress. Let them know a few minutes before the work period will conclude so that they have time to wrap up their thoughts.

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Session Three

  1. Give students five to ten minutes to make last-minute preparations and to practice their presentations.

  2. Have groups present their myth to the entire class, sticking closely to the five-minutes-per-group guideline that you've established.

  3. Once all of the groups have presented, return to the original prereading questions:

    1. What difference does it make who writes a story as long as they tell the "truth"?

    2. How can you tell when a story is true? What would indicate a story wasn't true?

  4. Read through the student responses, and conclude the lesson with a discussion of their original perceptions of "truth." Which observations do they still agree with? Which would they change? What would they add?

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Focus discussion on the difference between the image portrayed in John Trumbull's painting of the events of July 4, 1776, and the reality of what occurred on that day.

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  • Monitor student interaction and progress during group work to assess social skills and assist any students having problems with the project.

  • Use the Rubric to assess group presentations.

  • Assign an independent analysis and critique writing task to students which allows them to apply their skills individually. The following general Independence Day Critique assignment would work well:
    Critique the pictures in a Fourth of July children's book, a poster, or an advertisement. Critically analyze the images and information in the book, noting the myths and underlying truths that are evident in the depiction.
    Be sure to focus students on a particular detail to ensure that they do not become overwhelmed by the idea of critiquing all the information in a book.

  • As a class, develop a list of questions or strategies for examining future readings and texts for missing information or bias (thus summarizing and applying the information from the lesson).

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