U.S. Constitution Roll Call
In this group project, students pose as reporters and founding fathers and take turns interviewing each other for a newspaper article.
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
Students will act as newspaper reporters from 1787 and interview some of the signers of the Constitution.
- Work together in cooperative groups
- Understand the following keywords: Constitution, signers, reporter, newspaper, interview
- Understand the contributions of these Founding Fathers: Washington, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton.
- Understand the purpose of the U.S. Constitution
- Research information about the signers of the Constitution
- If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy, or substitute another book about the Constitution
- Chart paper or chalkboard
- Poster board/butcher paper
- Any age-appropriate article from Scholastic News or your local newspaper
- Internet access
- Index cards
- Interview a Founding Father Printable (PDF)
- Reporter/Founding Father props (optional)
Set Up and Prepare
- Using poster board or butcher paper, prepare a Vocabulary Chart with the following keywords: Constitution, signers, reporter, newspaper, interview. Be sure to leave adequate spaces between terms for definitions.
- Prepare definitions for all keywords.
- Copy the Interview a Founding Father printable for each student.
- Prepare an Interview Questions Chart with the following:
Who are you?
When were you born?
Where were you born?
What was your contribution to history?
- Check with your school's Technology Coordinator for district policies concerning Internet use at your school.
- Divide the class into groups of 2-4, assigning each group one of these Founding Fathers to research: Washington, Franklin, Madison, and Hamilton.
- Schedule computer time for each group for Days 3–4.
- Prepare a sheet of chart paper entitled Constitution Signers. List the four of the signers.
- Preview appropriate websites and books from your library that would provide information to assist students with completing the Interview printable. Write these websites on index cards, one for each group.
- Prepare for the “mock” interview by setting up one long table (or several desks) for the Founding Father panel. Accessorize the area with a U.S. Flag and other props. If possible, have white wigs available for the Founding Fathers and sport jackets/hats for the reporters.
Step 1: Begin the lesson by introducing the words Constitution and signers. In a whole group setting, have students say and spell each word. Then discuss them, writing the definition for each on the Vocabulary Chart.
Step 2: Briefly discuss and define the Constitution. Example definition: the basic principles and laws of a nation, or social group that determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it. Emphasize that the Constitution is a document that guarantees certain rights to the people in our country.
Step 3: Display the Constitution Signers chart. Read each name and tell students that each signer will be discussed in the story If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy. Explain that these signers are often called Founding Fathers. Encourage students to listen for each of the four signer’s contributions to the Constitution.
Step 4: Read If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy. Discuss the signers and complete the chart as you read about Washington, Franklin, Madison, and Hamilton. Encourage students to pay close attention to the way people lived at this time in history. Close the lesson by discussing the following questions, and accepting all responses:
- How did people make their living?
- What were some of the customs they practiced?
- Why was there a need for such a document as the Constitution?
Step 1: Begin the lesson by introducing the words reporter, newspaper, and interview. In a whole group setting, have students say and spell each keyword. Then discuss each keyword, writing the definition for each on the Vocabulary Chart.
Step 2: Read an article from Scholastic News Magazine or a local newspaper. Ask students: What types of questions would reporters ask if they were conducting an interview about this topic? Display the Interview Questions Chart. Using a historical figure your class has studied previously, complete the chart together. Remind them that the questions listed are good models to use when conducting an interview.
Step 1: Inform students that they will separate into small groups to begin researching one of the signers of the Constitution. Encourage them to imagine that they are 1787 newspaper reporters who are covering the signing of the Constitution and must find the answers to some important questions. Later, they will have the opportunity to meet with the signer and ask him their questions. Distribute the Interview a Founding Father printable (PDF) to each student. Distribute an index card of suggested websites and the name of the Founding Father each group will research. Review the printable, making sure they understand what they will be investigating.
Step 2: Let each group begin their research according to your computer schedule. Students who are not in the computer lab can use offline reference material.
Step 1: Inform students that they will participate mock question-and-answer sessions to share their team’s responses to the Interview printable with the class. Suggestion: In order to allow every student an opportunity to act as a newspaper reporter and Founding Father, you may wish to repeat the question-and-answer sessions.
Step 2: Prior to the session, instruct “reporters” to prepare their questions. I use a “go round” strategy to select the order in which the reporters ask their questions. Each student’s name is written on a tongue depressor and placed in a cup. I randomly select names from that cup to determine the order. Use the same process for the Founding Fathers panel until every student has had a turn at interviewing and/or acting as a Founding Father.
Supporting All Learners
Group students who may have difficulty with extensive writing tasks with a stronger writer for research assignment.
Extend the study of the Founding Fathers by introducing the other signers of the Constitution. Assign a different signer to each student to research or allow the students to choose one that interests them.
- Participate in group discussions
- Complete Interview a Founding Father printable
- Participate in a mock questions/answer session
- Did students demonstrate a basic understanding of the U.S. Constitution?
- Were they able to demonstrate an understanding of the Founding Fathers' contributions?
Observe the teams’ responses to the Interview printable during the mock interview to assess comprehension.