What Are Your Human Rights?: Post World War II and Human Rights
By: Rachel Hughes, Sara Rusk, and Sara Patricia Chavarria

Time: 2-3 days
Prep Time: Photocopy handouts for student use of the UDHR. 1 re-usable class set.
Materials: handouts of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
white paper
colored pencils
magazines etc.


After studying war and various destructive events/trends in world history, students come to understand the background and need for creating a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The purpose is to introduce the concept of a document that promotes self-determination and dignity for every human being and provides background for the quarter project.

Students will translate formal language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into a graphic organizer and compare with their own ideas of human rights.

Resource Websites



1. Introduce activity with question on board as students enter: What are human rights? Discuss briefly. Think-Pair-Share: Students are then asked to make a list of the human rights they think everyone deserves. After generating a list, they compare with a classmate. Discuss: Why are your lists similar? Different? Which are the most important for a healthy, dignified life? Prioritize them (numbered, 1 being the most important…).

2. 2. Students then share with entire class, and the class generates a list of 10 of the most important rights that everyone should enjoy. Write these on leaves (construction paper) and have a student attach them to a tree you’ve drawn on poster paper.

3. Hand out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (See 2nd website above.) Read the Preamble aloud. Assign pairs 2 articles to rewrite into more casual language. This is good synonym practice. Model one translation of a UDHR article that correlates to one from their generated list. Provide leaves for students to put their translations.

4. Which rights generated by the class are also listed in the UDHR? As they align the official rights with their translations, have them attach their translations to the same branch as the similar class right. Some may not align to any of the rights the class came up with. Discuss why… Maybe we take things for granted…

5. Ask students what anchors and sustains a tree? Roots! What would be the roots for our “Human Rights Tree?” In other words, what is needed for human rights to be respected or what conditions help human rights to thrive? Have students then create roots (conditions) and attach them below the tree.

6. If you have access to a digital camera, take a digital photograph of each class tree and download it onto the computer to be shown later. You can also remove leaves between classes and then combine answers for the final tree at the end or make new butcher paper trees for each class.

7. Create a Universal Declaration of Human Rights Illustrated Poem
Option 1: Assign a right/article to each student, or 2-3 to pairs of students. They are to create a visual (8 _ x 11” poster) to accompany each article. This can be drawings or a collage—anything that shows understanding of the article. This could be a good time to show students the simplified version on the second website listed above. The final product should be posted to create the whole document.

Option 2: Have students create a Verbal Visual Vocabulary poster for each right. This entails dividing a sheet of paper into 4 parts as follows:

Article description Associations (words, phrases, situations etc.)
Visual to accompany article (illustration) Opposite (What possibly occurs in the absence of this right?)

8. Attach in order as on the UDHR. Post around the room. Students will enjoy seeing their work and the work of other classes.

9. Have students write a short reflective piece in which they imagine themselves in a situation in which basic human rights are not respected. What would their lives be like? This could be in the form of a letter from a repressive country. They can use examples from what the class has studied throughout the year.

Has the U.N. been successful? What has gone on since the creation of the United Nations? Have there been any major wars since WWII?

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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