Lesson Plan

Eleanor Roosevelt and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1949

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.9, 11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.2, 11-12.RH.3, 11-12.RH.4
State Standards:
New York State Standards
English Language Arts Standard 1:
English Language Arts Standard 3:
Social Studies Standard 3:
Social Studies Standard 4:
Social Studies Standard 5:
Additional Standards:
The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards
DIMENSION 2. Applying Disciplinary Concepts and Tools
DIMENSION 3. Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


Students will:
-know the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt and her work with social justice issues.
-know the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how it impacts their lives and the lives of all people.
-have an understanding of Eleanor Roosevelt's impact on the country through her "My Day" columns, primary source materials.
-understand how their choices affect others.
-understand what it means to be an informed consumer.
-know that they have a voice and can be an advocate for change


This can be used as a middle school or high school lesson. It includes at least three activities using primary and secondary sources. Some of the nps.gov links in the lesson plan pdf no longer work. Those materials will be included in the Materials section as downloads or as correct links in the Additional Resources section.

Every person has a right to food, shelter, education, play, the right to say what they think and be listened to, and the right to protection from abuse. In this program students will discover Eleanor Roosevelt’s role in the creation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Hu-man Rights and discuss the relevance of these rights in their own lives.

On December 21, 1945, President Harry Truman wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt announcing that he had appointed her as a representative to the first session of the United Nations. This was a strategic move on the part of the President. Not only was Mrs. Roosevelt a well-known figure throughout the world but her presence, on such a high profile committee, gave recognition to women in government sanctioned positions.

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt was the chairwoman of this committee. She traveled the world to spread the message that all people were created equal and should be treated fairly. Eleanor Roosevelt’s dedication and perseverance laid the groundwork for future human rights. The Convention on the Rights of Children was adopted by the General Assembly.


Print reading materials, "My Day" columns, UDHR selection, entirity of UDHR, Magna Carta, and Bill of Rights.

Projector, smartboard, or laptops for students to share in order to play videos.


Certain selections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Needed for set up activity and lesson.

Download UDHR Selection

Printable, reader-friendly version of the US Bill of Rights.

Download Bill of Rights Transcript

Lesson Hook/Preview

There are a number of videos used throughout the lesson. The teacher can choose to play one up front, such as the introduction video from the Youth for Human Rights webpage, as a hook.

Option: using the quote below, have students complete a "Do Now" or Journal Entry response.

"Where, after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination........" - Eleanor Roosevelt


Student activities:

Anticipatory set

  • The biographical pieces on Eleanor Roosevelt could be given as homework in preparation for the pre-visit class as well as the vocabulary words.
  • Go over the vocabulary words, asking if there are any questions.

Ask these questions:

  • What are human rights?
  • What did Eleanor Roosevelt say about human rights?
  • Who has the right to human rights?

Read together the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 17 and 25. (See Material UDHR_Selection)

Ask these questions and write responses on the board.

  • What are basic needs for all humans?
  • How do people in the United States and other countries get these needs?


Activity 1

Post around the room newsprint with the following topics written on them:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Toys and Technology

Separate the class into three groups.

  • Ask each group to spend five minutes brainstorming examples for each of the topics.
  • Present them with some questions for consideration:

Food – What do you like to eat? Where is the original source of your food?

Clothing – What kind of clothing do you like to wear? What is it made of? Who makes it?

Toys and Technology – What are your favorite kinds of toys or technology? Who makes these items? What makes it possible for these items to work?

  • When the activity is completed, go to each category and ask each group to explain why they listed their examples. Ask students which examples were common among the groups.


Activity 2: Youth for Human Rights

Show students the History of Human Rights video http://www.humanrights.com/#/what-are-human-rights

Show students the clip of Eleanor Roosevelt introducing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the United Nations General Assembly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=435NAucIGSA

Distribute to the students the cards that have the names of these three documents on them.


Social justice, Economic justice, United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights Human Rights, “My Day,” Consumer, Consumerism, Equity, National Park Service, Val-Kill

Assessment Materials

Culminating activity

Have the questions from the end of the unit on paper or on the board.

  • How did Eleanor Roosevelt make a difference?
  • What was her influence on humanitarian rights?

Divide the class into groups and have the groups discuss the questions and write their collective responses.

As a whole group, have one student from each of the smaller group report out their responses. Write these on the board.

As a large group, ask the students to brainstorm ideas on how they can help their school and/or community understand what human rights are and how to become a conscientious consumer.  

Additional Resources

Program now available for 5th Grade in addition to 7th - 12th.

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site Suggested Reading


Contact Information

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Last updated: July 24, 2015