Lesson One: Introduction to the UDHR

By: Leah Judd

Leah Judd

Education Collaborator

Leah Judd has a passion for teaching Social Studies.  Working in Sechelt, BC, Leah has been lucky to work with students who embrace inquiry learning and created locker museum displays during the pandemic to share their curated stories with the school community.  Leah shares her enthusiasm for Social Studies as editor of Salon, an online quarterly publication from the Social Studies Educators Network of Canada @ssencressc

Suggested Subject Areas

Social Studies

Grade Level

Adaptable across 9-12 / Sec I-V


60-75 minutes


Using visual thinking strategies and shared definitions of vocabulary, students will activate and/or develop background knowledge prior to watching a short video of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Following the video, students will discuss themes they may have noticed and begin working in groups to develop those themes into museum displays.

Lesson Outline 


Use an image or an artifact from an historic moment to hook the students and to prepare them for using and thinking about artifacts to create a display to teach others about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

For example, you could use this image of Eleanor Roosevelt, E. Gross, and P.C. Jessup from September 1948.

Photo Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.

Alternatively, the teacher can opt for a different image related to the UDHR, its drafting and signing, or any of the people involved in the process.

Project the image and invite students to spend some time (about a minute or so) looking at it.

Then, consider and discuss the questions associated with visual thinking strategies, such as:

Vocabulary Building

In whatever grouping that works best for the class (small groups, elbow partners, whole class, independent thinking), ask students to reflect on the possible definitions of these terms:

Come together as a class (in conversation, via chalk talk on the board, via Padlet, etc) to discuss the terms. The teacher should help guide the class toward a shared working definition of each term.

For additional resources and support in creating shared definitions, students and teacher can use dictionaries, and organizational websites such as those for the UN, UNICEF, and human rights commissions.

Introduction to the UDHR

Watch the following video about the UDHR (3 minutes, 58 seconds). Ask students to take notes (in a notebook, on post-its, etc), about:

Discuss student notes as a class. Students can turn to their elbow partner first or come directly to a large group discussion—whatever is best in the specific class circumstance.

The teacher should take notes from the discussion on the projector, board, or other visible space.

Once a substantial conversation has been had, or if the teacher needs to prompt further thinking due to lack of conversation, the teacher should ask the students to summarize their notes and question into some broader themes. What elements come up again across the students’ takeaways and questions? What does the class seem most interested in learning about?

Together with the students, the teacher should hone a handful of themes/categories of thought (perhaps 4-5, depending on the size of the class, though it could be 6-7 in a larger class or in a class where the teacher wants to plan for smaller groups in the next activity). Some examples of these themes might be:

The class can also discuss which of the notes, questions, and takeaways from watching the video are associated with each of the categories.

The teacher should introduce the idea that each theme will have a group of students associated with it. Each group will be responsible for creating a museum-type display (this could be virtually or in person, depending on the teacher and class) of 8-12 artifacts representing key moments, people, places, events, etc, to mark the 75th anniversary of the UDHR. These artifacts can be replicas, drawings, images, or objects the students own that represent their idea. For example, students might choose to represent the rubble of conflict and bombing with a brick, or find archival photos of the front pages of newspapers, bring in a pen to represent signing the declaration, or draw the UN flag, etc.

Students will need to divide into groups so that each theme is represented by a small group of students. The teacher can determine the best way to go about this for their class: students could rank their choices of theme on a survey and be grouped by the teacher based on interest, students could determine their groups and pitch for or be assigned a theme, the teacher could determine both the groupings and the themes at randomly or intentionally, etc.

Connecting in Groups

In the final stages of class, invite groups to meet to discuss their theme. Each group should receive chart paper to work on (alternatively, they can create shared Google documents or slide decks). They should use the closing time in class to start sharing their initial ideas and impressions of the theme, any relevant notes and questions they had about the theme from watching the video, and any early ideas for artifacts.

This is not intended to be substantial work time—rather, it is time for the groups to connect and start to get curious and excited in their early brainstorming.

As a closing thought, ask groups to spend the days between now and the next class reflecting on how they might change their theme into an inquiry question to further hone and guide their work in curating artifacts and telling a story. These questions help students focus their research and may help them look at the topic in a new way.

For example, the theme “Key people (or “influencers”) associated with the UDHR” might become “Who were the thought leaders behind the development of the UDHR and what influence did they have?” or the theme “The past, present, and future of the UDHR” might become “Do the human rights agreed upon as fundamental in the 20th Century (via the UDHR) have the same relevance in the 21st Century? Going forward?,” etc.

As a support in developing inquiry questions, students and teacher can visit the Critical Thinking Consortium.