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The Meaning of the Declaration, Grades 4-8 Review by Melanie Bunnett

(800) 694-5827
W5527 State Road 106
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0800

The Meaning of the Declaration is one in a series of booklets published by Edupress. The title of the series is Debating the Documents: Interpreting Alternative Viewpoints in Primary Source Documents. Topics covered in the series include slavery in colonial Virginia, the Great Awakening, and the Civil War.

Each booklet in this series contains 24 reproducible pages and four transparencies. The reproducible pages are designed to be copied and handed out to students for their use, and the transparencies illustrate the primary sources being discussed.

In case you weren't aware (I wasn't), primary sources are firsthand records of a past era or historical event. In addition to covering the topic at hand, The Meaning of the Declaration does a great job of explaining the purpose of the whole series: "Primary sources can be confusing. They can be biased. They rarely all agree. Debating the Documents helps students handle such challenges. It gives them a useful framework for analyzing sources, even ones that conflict with one another."

Through a series of exercises, The Meaning of the Declaration enables students to examine a set of two primary sources, discuss these sources and learn note-taking skills, write a brief essay answering questions about the material, and, most importantly, gain skills in analyzing material presented to them.

This booklet was definitely written toward a classroom setting, but I imagine there are many homeschoolers in a co-op or group setting that could use this very successfully. All in all, this is a very intriguing idea and one that I think many homeschoolers could adapt, even for use with one or two students.

Although written for grades 4-8, the material presented and goals set seem quite advanced, and I would wait until sixth or seventh grade before trying to use it with my students. I appreciate the way this series allows students to learn to think for themselves. I believe the $14.99 retail price is a small one to pay to encourage your children to be independent in their analysis of historical material.

Product review by Melanie Bunnett, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2006