Step 1: Start by assigning each student in the class a historical figure from the Continental Congress to “become”. Explain that they will be researching this person and their backgrounds in great detail. The teacher will be John Adams.
Step 2: Using guided internet search and informational texts from the library, facilitate student research of their assigned characters. Have them focus on the following items: family, religious beliefs, time that they lived, what they ate, any special talents they had, and where they stood on the issue of Independence as of July 1st, 1776.
Step 3: The teacher should also memorize the arguments as outlined in John Adams’ speech to the gathering on July1st when he swayed many of them to declare independence.
Step 4: Students should then develop arguments for their position on independence and be prepared to speak in front of the class congress.
Step 5: Set up a class congress and allow each student to speak for their position for up to 5 minutes. Encourage other students to ask questions and refute other students’ speeches when giving their own.
Step 6: After the class has finished their own debate on the merits of declaring independence, based on true-life accounts of their characters, the teacher will stand up as John Adams and give a speech trying to persuade the other characters to sign a Declaration of Independence, using the actual speech as a basis for this 5-minute argument.
A Journal through Time Many of the founding fathers kept journals to document the history of the time. Ask students to write in their own journals as if they are still in character about whether or not to sign the Declaration and what John Adams’ speech may have done to influence their decision.