Lesson Plan for Grades 3-5: Celebrate the Constitution
Overview: Students explore the various parts of the U.S. Constitution, then use their newfound knowledge to create their own classroom constitution.
Duration: about 50 minutes (1 class period)
Objectives: Students will be able to:
- Define keywords related to the Constitution, including preamble, articles, and Bill of Rights.
- Understand the purpose and content of each section of the Constitution.
- List appropriate rights and responsibilities for a classroom constitution.
Materials: Computer(s) with Internet access; We the Students (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare: Preview the "Celebrate the Constitution" game prior to the lesson. Make a copy of the PDF for each student.
1. Many third-, fourth-, and early-in-the-year fifth-graders are unfamiliar with the U.S. Constitution. They recognize the term, but cannot really describe what the document is and does. Scaffold into the topic by asking students to name some important laws. After five or six examples, tell students that you can name a law that is even more important than all of those examples. Explain that the U.S. Constitution is the highest law in our land. It explains how our whole government works and lists the basic freedoms that all Americans enjoy. Why is it so important? Point out that because of the Constitution, our leaders can't make a new law that is unfair. Because of the Constitution, the students in your class can practice any religion they like and share their opinions freely. Guide students to understand that the Constitution was written more than 200 years ago, but is still very important in our lives today.
2. Explain that the Constitution is divided into several sections.
- The first part, the Preamble, explains who is writing the Constitution and why.
- The second part, which is composed of seven Articles, explains how our government will work.
- The third part, the Bill of Rights, is a list of amendments, or additions, that the Constitution writers thought were important. These additions name the rights or freedoms that Americans have. After the first 10 amendments in the original Bill of Rights, the Constitution includes other additional amendments that have been added over time.
3. Have students log on to the Scholastic News Special Report about Constitution Day. Have them read the Grolier Online articles from The New Book of Knowledge in the Article Section to learn more about the different sections of the Constitution. If you'd like, divide your class into teams and have each team research a different part of the Constitution. Teams can then report to the class on what they found. Discuss unfamiliar terms as students encounter them.
4. Direct students' attention to the Constitution Game. Review the instructions, explaining that students will be given a series of four phrases or statements. They will need to decide where in the Constitution each piece of text belongs. Play once together, thinking aloud to show students how they might approach the task. For example, you might say:
"Hmmm...This says, 'The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court.' Which part of the Constitution sets up the Supreme Court and the other branches of our government?"
Show students that if they get stumped, they can click on the mystery statement for a clue.
5. Have students play the game on their own or in pairs.
6. Distribute the PDF and explain that students will use what they have learned about the U.S. Constitution to create a constitution for your classroom. Review the directions and have students work independently.
7. For each section on the PDF, invite a few student volunteers to share their class constitution ideas. Compile the best suggestions on chart paper, the overhead, or LCD to create a real class constitution. This is an excellent way to ensure that your students feel like important members of a classroom community. Because they helped to think of the rights and responsibilities that will be the basis of your classroom government, students will be more likely to respect classroom rules. Create a clean, polished version of the document and have all students sign it.
Supporting All Learners
Challenge your more advanced students by having them pair up and reread the items in the Bill of Rights. Have them name one responsibility that corresponds to each right that Americans enjoy.
Assess Students: Have each student hand in his or her completed PDF. Evaluate whether each student understands the purpose and content of the Constitution.