Overview: This lesson works on the Speaking and Listening skills required by Common Core through a drama set in the Continental Congress in July of 1776.

In this lesson, we’re using the drama technique of hot-seating to further explore the complex relationships of the Second Continental Congress on July 1st, 1776 – immediately in advance of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Did you know that not everyone was sold on the idea of declaring independence?  In this lesson, students will get the opportunity to explore one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence before the day arrived and become an advocate for their own positions.  The Hot-Seat technique is used during the Class Congress as a way to explore these variables in more detail and as a way for students to truly feel what it might have been like in that hot room on July 1st.  Written for high school students, this lesson correlates 10th grade Speaking and Listening Common Core Standards with Drama processes to produce a fascinating account of what could have been in 1776.



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.