The Middle Ages for Teachers - Magna Carta Comparison to Declaration of Independence Lesson Plan Illustration

Middle Ages for Teachers - Magna Carta

Lesson Plan: Comparison Two Documents, the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence

Activity:  Read The Magna Carta for Kids with your students. This can be a handout or read it online.

Activity: Comparison of Two Documents

  • Place the Comparison of Two Documents on the overhead or whatever you use, or create copies for your students and use as a handout.

  • Classroom Discussion: Go over each comparison. Discuss what each term means - Balance of Power, Taxation, Trial by Jury, Private Property, Rule of Law

Activity: Write a position paragraph

  • Have students write a paragraph about the importance or lack of importance of any of the comparisons presented. Justify why or why not the comparison they selected was important.

  • Give them some time.

  • Ask for volunteers to read their paragraph to the class.

Activity: Declaration of the Rights of Students

  • Say: The Magna Carta was written in 1215 CE. It set the stage for many important documents that would be written in years to come, documents like the Declaration of Independence, which was written in 1776 CE, over 500 years after the Magna Carta was written. Today, we're going to write a new document - the Declaration of the Rights of Students.

  • Break kids into small groups. Direct each group to create a Declaration of the Rights of Students. Their Declaration should include a list of 5-7 rights, but no more than 10 rights, that students currently do not enjoy, along with a nice introduction.

  • Give them some time.

  • Have each group present their Declaration of Student Rights.

Lesson Extension Activity at a later date: Who Makes Student Rules?

  • If you are going to use this extension suggestion, collect all the Declarations of Student Rights pages your kids have produced. You can bring them out later for discussion, but you don't want the kids to lose them.

  • Interviews: Have students find out how you could fix school rules by interviewing school rulers such as the school board, superintendent, principal, and guidance. Discuss how to make an appointment, what questions the students will ask, and how to behave during their fact finding mission. Obviously, the entire class cannot be present for each interview. The class will need to vote for classroom student representatives to ask questions for the whole group. The information received by their elected student representatives will be reported back to the class.

  • IMPORTANT: Prior to Interviews, before you mention this possible lesson extension to the kids, first get permission to be interviewed from the rulers of your school. Some may not be interested. Others may be too busy. Once you have their permission, then you can create a list of questions with your students, based on their original Declaration that you saved. That list must be provided to your interviewees prior to your students' appointments. Tell your kids: No asking questions off script. No putting someone on the spot. The goal is to learn how the school system works when it comes to selecting rules and how, as students, you might possibly be able to change, remove, or add a rule, possibly.

  • If you're lucky (or you lend a suggestion), and one of the rules they select is in place because it's the law, you might have them write to their Congressional Representative, once you have obtained permission to do so from the office. And so forth. You have to watch that this activity does not get out of hand. You do not want students setting up a protest movement, for example. It may be valid, but it's too time consuming. It is important, however, to know how things work, and that includes who makes students rules and why they are in place.