by Toby Smith

Unit Objective

This unit on Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans” is part of Gilder Lehrman’s series of Common Core State Standards–based units. These units were written to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical importance. Students will begin to understand and analyze the background of bin Laden and his extremist anti-American stance against the US and its allies prior to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Students will demonstrate this knowledge by writing summaries of selections from the original document and, by the end of the unit, will demonstrate their understanding of the complete document by answering questions in argumentative and/or informative writing style to fulfill Common Core Standards. Through this step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze any primary or secondary source material.

Important note to teachers: Teaching about and studying 9/11 can conjure concentrated emotion and subjective thoughts, notions, and opinions. As teachers, we should be objective and sensitive to the multicultural nature of the topics and themes in this unit. It’s also important to ensure that students grasp the historical context of the material presented.

Essential questions potentially addressed in this unit:

  • Where do anti-Western extremist ideologies originate from? From whom?
  • Why did Bin Laden and his extremist al-Qaeda network dislike the United States?
  • What reasons did Bin Laden give for carrying out terrorist activities against the US?
  • What were the underlying causes, according to Bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans,” for the terrorist attacks of 9/11?

Vocabulary

In this unit, students will encounter vocabulary (Tier Two words, content-specific words, etc.) that they do not know. This is one of the main reasons for having students work in groups: they can figure out the meanings of words in context. If the students are truly stuck, have them write down the terms that are giving them trouble and place them in a “parking lot” or on post-it notes for further class discussion. A circulating teacher can provide meaning if the term is critical to understanding the passage.

jihad:

  • a holy war undertaken as a sacred duty by Muslims
  • any vigorous, emotional crusade for an idea or principle

umma:

  • the community of Islamic believers; the Muslim world

Materials

Lesson 1

Objective

Students will be asked to participate as members of an assembly of critical thinkers, to “read like detectives,” and gain a clear understanding of the content of Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans.” Through reading and analyzing the original text, the students will know what is explicitly stated, draw logical inferences, and demonstrate these skills by writing a succinct summary and then restating that summary in the student’s own words. In the first lesson this will be facilitated by the teacher and done as a whole-class lesson.

Introduction

The teacher explains to students that immediately following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, many people found themselves asking the same questions: Why would someone do this? Who exactly is responsible? American citizens searched long and hard for concrete answers to these difficult and emotionally taxing questions. The teacher tells the students that they will be learning about Osama bin Laden’s anti-Americanism in the lead-up to 9/11 and that they will be reading Bin Laden’s own words in his “Declaration of Jihad against Americans,” issued five years prior to the attacks.

Take note: As teachers and facilitators, we are trying to let the students discover what Osama bin Laden had to say and then let them develop ideas based solely on what he wrote. Despite the challenging nature of working with primary sources, all students can pull meaning from text given the necessary scaffolds and supports as well as the use of modeling strategies.

Materials

Procedure

  1. All students are given an abridged copy of Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans” and are asked to read it silently to themselves. The teacher should make certain that students understand that the original text has been edited for this lesson and the purpose and use of ellipses.
  2. The teacher then “share reads” the declaration with the students (differentiated instructional literacy). This is done by having the students follow along silently while the teacher begins reading aloud. The teacher models prosody, inflection, and punctuation. The teacher then asks the class to join in with the reading after a few sentences while the teacher continues to read along with the students, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English language learners (ELL).
  3. The teacher explains that the class will be analyzing the first part of the letter today and that they will be learning how to do in-depth analysis for themselves. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #1. This contains the first selection from the Bin Laden declaration.
  4. The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #1 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (Smartboard, an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device) and explains that today the whole class will be going through this process together.
  5. The teacher explains that the objective is to select “Key Words” from the first section and then use those words to create a summary sentence that gets at the gist of what Bin Laden was saying in the first paragraph.
  6. Guidelines for selecting the Key Words: Key Words are very important contributors to the meaning of the paragraph; without them the selection would not make sense. These words are usually nouns or verbs. They are not “connector” words (are, is, the, and, so, etc.). The number of Key Words depends on the length of the original paragraph. This first selection is 144 words long so the class can pick seven or eight Key Words. The other Key Words rule is that we cannot pick words if we don’t know what they mean. As the class begins selecting words, there will be opportunities to teach students how to use context clues, word analysis, and dictionary skills to discover word meanings.
  7. Students will now select seven or eight words from the text that they believe are Key Words and write them in the box to the right of the text on their organizer. (For a differentiated approach the teacher may choose to have students select fewer words or more words based on their literacy level.)
  8. The teacher now surveys the class to find out what the most popular choices were. The teacher can either tally this or just assess a show of hands. Using this vote and some discussion the class should, with guidance from the teacher, decide on seven or eight Key Words. (Tier Two terms and academic vocabulary terms can be emphasized if available.)
  9. The teacher now explains that, using these Key Words, the class will build a sentence that summarizes what Osama bin Laden was stating in his declaration. For example, let’s say that the class decides on the following words: oppression, immoral, dispossessed, imperial arrogance (technically two words, but you can allow such things if it makes sense to do so; just don’t let whole phrases get by), enemies, and prevented. Now, no matter which words the students had previously selected, have the students write the words agreed upon by the class into the Key Word list in their organizer.
  10. The teacher explains that the class will use these Key Words to craft a sentence that gets to the essence (basic summary) of what Bin Laden was writing. This should be a whole-class discussion-and-negotiation process. For example, “I (Bin Laden) want to get rid of polytheistic believers from Arabic nations and believe that Islamic peoples’ rights have been taken away and have been devalued by nations of the West (the US and its allies) while the United Nations have allowed this to happen and not allowed us to fight.” You might find that the class decides that they don’t need the some of the words to make it even more streamlined. This is part of the negotiation process. The final negotiated sentence is copied into the organizer in the third section under the original text and Key Word sections.
  11. The teacher explains that the students will now restate the summary sentence in their own words, not having to use Bin Laden’s words. Again, this is a class discussion-and-negotiation process. For example “Osama bin Laden is angry with the United States / Judeo-Christian nations / the West for treating Arabic people poorly and/or killing them. He wants people who believe in more than one god out of the Middle East and for his people to fight against them to do it.”
  12. Wrap-up: The teacher discusses vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. The students can use the back of their organizers to make a note of these words and their meaning.

(Note to teachers: It is possible, depending on the nature and dynamics of your classes, to combine lessons 2 and 3 or perhaps lessons 3 and 4.

Lesson 2

Objective

Students will be asked to participate as members of an assembly of critical thinkers, “read like detectives,” and gain a clear understanding of the content of Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans.” Through reading and analyzing the original text, the students will know what is explicitly stated, draw logical inferences, and demonstrate these skills by writing a succinct summary and then restating that summary in the student’s own words. In this lesson, students will work both individually and in groups.

Materials

Procedure

  1. The teacher tells the students that they will be further exploring what Bin Laden was saying in the second selection from his “Declaration of Jihad against Americans” by reading and understanding Bin Laden’s words and then being able to restate in their own words what Bin Laden was saying. Today they will be working with partners and small groups in much the same way that they worked as a whole class in the previous lesson.
  2. All students are given an abridged copy of the declaration and are asked to read it silently to themselves.
  3. The students and teacher discuss what they did yesterday and what they decided was the gist of the first selection.
  4. The teacher then “share reads” the second selection with the students.
  5. The teacher explains that the class will be analyzing the second part of Bin Laden’s letter today. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #2. This contains the second selection from the Bin Laden letter.
  6. The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #2 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device). Explain that today they will be going through the same process as yesterday but as partners and small groups.
  7. Explain that the objective is to select Key Words from the second selection and then use those words to create a summary sentence that gets at the gist of what bin Laden was writing about in the second section.
  8. The guidelines for selecting these words are the same as they were yesterday. However, because this paragraph is shorter than the last one, students should pick only five to seven Key Words.
  9. Think-Pair-Share (collaborative activity): Students will individually choose five to seven Keywords. Pair the students up and have them discuss the words they chose individually and negotiate to pick their joint selection. After they have decided on their words both students will write those words in the Key Words box of their organizer.
  10. The teacher now puts two pairs together. These two pairs go through the same negotiation process to come up with their Key Words. Be strategic in how you make your groups in order to ensure the most participation by all group members.
  11. The teacher now explains that the group will use these Key Words to build a sentence that summarizes what Osama bin Laden wrote. This is done by the groups, with members negotiating to build that sentence. During this process the teacher should make sure that everyone is contributing to the process. It is very easy for one student to take control of the entire process and for the other students to let them do so. All of the students should write their negotiated sentence into their organizer. The teacher should incorporate any group roles, norms, and/or rules previously established for this step.
  12. The teacher now asks for the groups to share the summary sentences that they have created. This should start a teacher-led class discussion that points out the qualities of the various attempts. How successful were the groups at getting at Bin Laden’s meaning and were they careful to use only Bin Laden’s words in doing so?
  13. The teacher explains that the groups will now restate the summary sentence in their own words, not having to use Bin Laden’s words. Again, this is a discussion-and-negotiation process. After they have decided on a sentence it should be written into their organizer. Again, the teacher should have the groups share and discuss the clarity and quality of the groups’ attempts.
  14. Wrap-up: The teacher discusses vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. The students can use the back of their organizers to make a note of these words and their meaning.

Lesson 3

Objective

Students will be asked to participate as members of an assembly of critical thinkers, “read like detectives,” and gain a clear understanding of the content of Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans.” Through reading and analyzing the original text, the students will know what is explicitly stated, draw logical inferences, and demonstrate these skills by writing a succinct summary using the author’s and then restating that summary in the student’s own words. In this lesson, students will work individually with teacher support.

Materials

Procedure

  1. The teacher tells the students that they will be further exploring what Osama bin Laden was saying in the third section of his “Declaration of Jihad against Americans” by reading and understanding Bin Laden’s own words and then being able to tell in the students’ own words what it was that he wrote. Today they will be working by themselves on their summaries.
  2. All students are given an abridged copy of the letter and then are asked to read it silently to themselves.
  3. The students and teacher discuss what they did yesterday and what they decided was the meaning of the first and second selections.
  4. The teacher then “share reads” the third selection with the students.
  5. The teacher explains that the class will be analyzing the third selection from Bin Laden’s letter today. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #3. This contains the third selection from the letter.
  6. The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #3 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device) and explains that they will be going through the same process as yesterday, but they will be working by themselves. The teacher will circulate to provide support.
  7. Explain that the objective is still to select “Key Words” from the third selection and then use those words to create a summary sentence that gets at the gist of what bin Laden was writing about in this selection.
  8. The guidelines for selecting these words are the same as they were yesterday. Because this selection is the longest (more than 200 words) it will be challenging for them to select only ten Key Words. However, the purpose of this exercise is for the students to get at the most important content of the selection.
  9. Have the students decide which Key Words to select. After they have decided on their words, they will write those words in the Key Words box of their organizer.
  10. The students will use those Key Words to build a sentence that summarizes what Osama bin Laden was writing about. Each student should write his/her summary sentence into their organizer.
  11. The students will now restate the summary sentence in their own words, not having to use Bin Laden’s words. They write this new sentence into their organizer.
  12. The teacher now asks for students to share the summary sentences that they have created. This should start a teacher-led discussion that points out the qualities of the various attempts. How successful were the students at getting what Osama bin Laden was writing about?
  13. Wrap-up: The teacher discusses vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. The students can use the back of their organizer to make a note of these words and their meaning.

Lesson 4

Objective

Students will be asked to participate as members of an assembly of critical thinkers, “read like a detective,” and gain a clear understanding of the content of Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans.” Through reading and analyzing the original text, the students will know what is explicitly stated, draw logical inferences, and demonstrate these skills by writing a succinct summary using the author’s words and then restating that summary in the student’s own words. In this lesson, students will work both individually and in groups with teacher supports.

Materials

Procedure

  1. Tell the students that they will be further exploring what bin Laden was saying in the fourth and final selection from his “Declaration of Jihad against Americans” by reading and understanding Bin Laden’s own words and then being able to tell in the students’ own words what it was that he wrote. Today they will be working with partners and small groups in much the same way as they worked as a whole class in earlier lessons.
  2. All students are given an abridged copy of the declaration and are asked to read it silently to themselves.
  3. The students and teacher discuss what they did yesterday and what they decided was the gist of the earlier selections.
  4. The teacher then “share reads” the fourth selection with the students.
  5. The teacher explains that the class will be analyzing the fourth part of Bin Laden’s letter today. All students are given a copy of Summary Organizer #4. This contains the fourth selection from the declaration.
  6. The teacher puts a copy of Summary Organizer #4 on display in a format large enough for all of the class to see (an overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device) and explains that today they will be going through the same process as yesterday.
  7. The guidelines for selecting the Key Words are the same as they were yesterday. However, because this paragraph is shorter than the last one, they can pick only five to seven Key Words.
  8. Have the students decide which Key Words to select. After they have decided on their words, they will write those words in the Key Words box of their organizer.
  9. The students will use those Key Words to build a sentence that summarizes what Osama bin Laden was writing about. Each student should write his/her summary sentence into their organizer.
  10. The students will now restate the summary sentence in their own words, not having to use Bin Laden’s words. They write this new sentence into their organizer.
  11. The teacher now asks for students to share the summary sentences that they have created. This should start a teacher-led discussion that points out the qualities of the various attempts. How successful were the students at getting what Osama bin Laden was writing about?
  12. Wrap-up: The teacher discusses vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. The students can use the back of their organizer to make a note of these words and their meaning.

Lesson 5

Objective

This lesson has two objectives. First, the students will synthesize the work of the last four days and demonstrate that they understand what Osama bin Laden was writing about in his “Declaration of Jihad against Americans.” Second, the teacher will ask questions of the students that require them to make inferences from the text and support their conclusions in a short essay with explicit information taken from the text.

Materials

  • A writing outline or graphic organizer of your choice (an example of a writing outline is provided)

Procedure

The teacher tells the students that they will be reviewing what Osama bin Laden wrote in his “Declaration of Jihad against Americans.” Second, the students will write a short argumentative essay based on the text. Their conclusions must be backed up by evidence taken directly from the letter.

  1. All students are given a copy of the abridged letter and are asked to read it silently to themselves.
  2. The teacher asks the students for their best personal summary of selection one. This is done as a negotiation or discussion with teacher support. The teacher may write this short sentence on the overhead or similar device. The same procedure is used for selections two, three, and four. When they are finished, the class should have a summary either written or aloud of Bin Laden’s declaration in four to five sentences. This should give the students a way to state what the general purpose or purposes of this letter were.
  3. The teacher can decide to have the students write a short essay in response to one of the following prompts now and/or the teacher can do a short lesson on constructing an argumentative/informative essay before having the students address one of the prompts. If this is the case, use the rest of this period instructing the students on how to write an argumentative/informative essay and save the essay writing until the next class period or assign it for homework. In either case, remind the students that any arguments that they make must be backed up with words taken directly from Bin Laden’s letter. The first prompt is designed to be the easiest.

Sample Writing Prompts / Summative Assessments

Task 1: (Informational or Explanatory/Description & Cause)
After reading and summarizing Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans,” write an essay that describes three possible reasons why Osama bin Laden disliked the United States and its allies. Support your discussion with evidence from the text.

Task 2: (Argumentation/Cause)
After reading and summarizing Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans,” write an essay that argues what the primary cause of Bin Laden’s dislike for the United States and its allies (the West) may be. What implications can you draw? Which category (social, political, economic) does the cause fall into? Explain. Support your discussion with evidence from the text.

Task 3: (Argumentation/Evaluation)
After reading and summarizing Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of Jihad against Americans,” write an essay that discusses the strength/value of the rhetoric found in bin Laden’s text and evaluates the impact it had on stirring up nationalistic (anti-Western) feelings throughout his terrorist network. Be sure to support your position with evidence from your summaries.

(Note: Information found outside of this text is necessary for the students to understand this question and respond accordingly. Students need to understand that Bin Laden was able to organize al-Qaeda and motivate the network to ultimately carry out the 9/11 attacks and inflict copious amounts of economic and emotional harm.)

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to edit your profile and indicate this, giving you free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments