Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Too Late to Apologize

Declaration of Independence 

Brandi Graham | Published: May 16th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 8th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 175 minutes


Using text analysis techniques, students will explore the Declaration of Independence. They will specifically look at the Four Principles of Government and apply those ideas to the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence to better understand the reasons behind why the colonies desired to separate from the British and declare their independence.

Essential Question(s)

Why do citizens rebel against a government? What would cause citizens to rebel?



Students watch the video "Too Late to Apologize" and answer questions about why the citizens of the colonies chose to rebel against British rule.


Students match the Four Principles of Government to their definitions. They explore the Declaration of Independence by reading and annotating it and locate the Four Principles of Government and the grievances set forth by the colonists.


Students discuss the Four Principles of Government and create questions to use during a Socratic seminar.


Students participate in a Socratic seminar focusing on the development of the Declaration of Independence and the principles of government. Students discuss the role of government in their lives using the higher level questions they generated in the Explain section.


Students reflect on the Socratic seminar using the annotated Declaration of Independence and discussion and apply the ideas of the Declaration to their lives by listing "grievances" they would have with our government and what we could do as a community to address these grievances.


  • Paper

  • Internet access

  • Writing utensils

  • Highlighters

  • Declaration of Independence handouts

  • Graphic Organizer handouts

  • HOT Question handouts

  • Four Principles of Government Matching card sort

  • Too Late To Apologize teacher slides

  • Socratic Seminar video

  • "Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration" video


Before students enter the classroom, display slide 3 with the essential questions. Ask the class for any thoughts about the questions. Have students watch the video Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration, which is linked on slide 4. Prior to beginning the video, read aloud the questions and ask students to look for the answers within the video. Return to these questions after the students view the video. Discuss the questions as a class.

  1. Who is the author of this song, or "declaration"? Who do the singers represent? (Answer: Colonists)

  2. What is the main idea of the song, or "declaration"? (Answer: The colonists will no longer accept the decisions, like unfair taxes, from England or King George.)

  3. Who is the audience? In other words, for whom is the song or "declaration" created? (Answer: To let England know they have had enough. They are "screaming 'cross the waves.")

  4. What is the significance of the main idea of this song, or "declaration"? (Answer: It is too late for England to apologize to the colonists or to take back its unfair laws.)

Go back to the essential questions (slide 3) and ask, "What was causing the colonists to rebel against their own government, England?" Reinforce the idea that the colonists in the song were unhappy with England, Parliament, and King George, who were making decisions for the colonies.


Place students in groups of four. Pass out a Card sort set to each group. The card sort contains four principles of government and their definitions. Show slide five, which explains the directions for this activity. Allow about five minutes for the activity and walk around the room to monitor group progress. Discuss as a class which definition goes with which principle.

Pass out the lyrics for "Too Late to Apologize" to each group member. Have groups follow the directions on slide 6 to identify and discuss the complaints or grievances by the colonists as expressed in the lyrics. Ask groups to determine which principle of government might address each grievance.

As a class discussion, ask each group for at least one grievance they identified and the principle that addresses that grievance.


As a class, review the Four Principles of Government listed on slide seven. Keep students in their groups of four. Pass out copies of the Declaration of Independence (abbreviated or full text) as well as the Four Principles of Government graphic organizer. Ask groups to identify, discuss, and highlight or circle the grievances or reasons to separate from England in the Declaration of Independence. List each grievance on the graphic organizer by deciding as a group which principle of government was violated. (Student opinions will vary slightly depending on the groups' reasoning of how the grievance applies to the principle and the basic parts of the Declaration of Independence.)

Allow 25 to 30 minutes for groups to complete the graphic organizer. Walk around the room to monitor progress by all groups.

Discuss as a class how groups categorized the grievances, asking groups to explain their justification. The graphic organizer can be turned in after the preparation of the Socratic seminar as an assessment of the learning.

Preparing for a Socratic seminar: Once all groups have discussed the grievances and principles, show the video linked on slide 8 about how to conduct a Socratic seminar.

After the video, show slides 9 and 10 and tell each group they will prepare for the Socratic seminar. Pass out the Bloom's Taxonomy Question Stems handout to each group member. Display slide 11, which explains HOT questions in greater detail and use the handout to point out the differences between lower level questions of recall and comprehension (levels 1 and 2) and higher order thinking questions, (levels 3-6).

Explain that each group should:

  1. Decide as a group a response to question using justification from the text of the Declaration of Independence and their understanding of the principles of government.

  2. Craft HOT questions as illustrated by levels three through six on the handout. Groups may also generate questions about any areas of the Declaration of Independence text that they do not understand and might want clarified by peers.

Give each group a piece of chart tablet paper and a marker. Groups will write their HOT, or any other, questions on the chart tablet paper. Allow 25-35 minutes for the justification of question one and the HOT question preparation. Emphasize to all groups that each member should be prepared for the Socratic seminar, as the entire class will participate. Monitor progress of the groups as they prepare for the seminar.

Prepare for the Socratic Seminar: Hang the chart tablet questions around the room to stimulate discussion. Have half the desks prepared in a rectangle for the seminar discussion, as illustrated in the video


Day of the Socratic Seminar: As students walk into the room, ask them to read the questions posted around the room and think about what they have learned so-far. Then, begin the seminar regarding the Declaration of Independence and Four Principles of Government. Place a seat for yourself near the discussion rectangle to act as the moderator of the discussion.

  1. Two representatives from each group sit in the "discussion" rectangle." The two other group members should sit quietly behind their representatives.

  2. Display slide 9 again and ask representatives in the discussion rectangle to respond to the first question. Discuss as representatives until all groups have explained their own thoughts and ideas about this question.

  3. Acting as the moderator, sum up the gist of this discussion.

  4. Group members change seats with the other group members so that the second pair are now in the "discussion" rectangle."

  5. Display slide 11 about HOT questions.Allow group representatives to ask other groups their HOT questions or clarification questions. using the chart tablet papers hung around the room as discussion starters.

  6. Other group representatives should answer or respond in some way to these questions to stimulate and generate discussion.


At the end of the Socratic Seminar, give students time to do a quick What Did I Learn Today writing task. Depending on time, this task might need to take place in the following class period. Questions for the writing task are displayed on slide 12. Students should address any one of these in their writing:

  1. Summarize the seminar topic. Were the colonists justified in declaring their independence? Why or why not?

  2. If you had to write a list of grievances to your government what would they be? How should these grievances be addressed by the government?

  3. Could a war between the colonists and England have been prevented? Why or why not?

The writing task and the graphic organizer will serve as assessments for this lesson. HOT and clarification questions generated by the groups can also serve as formative assessments of this lesson.