With this unit plan, teach about the courage of our veterans and the freedoms granted by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
- Identify what they feel good government should provide for its citizens
- Link their ideas about good government to those of the founders of our country through analysis of the Preamble to the Constitution
- Show through their mural that they understand the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution
- Whiteboard or chart paper and markers
- Preamble to the Constitution
- Computer and projector or transparency, overhead projector, and overhead markers
- Writing paper, one sheet per small group
- Plain butcher paper, approximately 10–12 feet long
- Colored markers, chalk, crayons, or paint for the mural project
- Decide how you want to display the text of the Preamble. If you are using a computer and projector, create a document with the text of the Preamble triple-spaced so you can add notes between the lines of text. If you are using an overhead projector, create a transparency of the triple-spaced Preamble. Note: If you don't already have a reproducible of the Preamble or the Constitution, the text is available online from The National Archives or the Bill of Rights Institute.
- Decide how to break students into small groups for the good government discussion and the Preamble mural project.
- Write the phrases of the Preamble to the Constitution along the top of the butcher paper for the mural. Space the phrases so that a group can draw a picture underneath each phrase. If you want to divide the mural so that each group is working on a separate piece of paper, you can divide the butcher paper now and attach the pieces together at the end. Suggested division of phrases:
- We the people of the United States,
- in order to form a more perfect Union,
- establish justice,
- insure domestic tranquility,
- provide for the common defense,
- promote the general welfare,
- secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
- do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
- Optional: Make a class set of copies of the Preamble.
Day 1: Introducing the Constitution
Step 1: Tell students, "After the Revolutionary War, the United States found itself with no government to help them. They had to start from scratch to decide what a government 'should' do. You will be divided into small groups and, like our early leaders, you are to decide what you feel a government should do for its citizens."
Step 2: Divide students into small groups. Instruct each group to brainstorm what they feel would be important for a government to provide. For example: Laws so things don't get wild, police, roads, hospitals, emergency help, etc.
Step 3: Have each group report their suggestions to the class. Record all suggestions on the whiteboard or chart paper. Probe for more specifics or clarity as necessary.
Step 4: Introduce the Preamble and the Constitution: "Let's take a look at what things our forefathers thought were important for our new government to do. They wrote them down in the Preamble to The Constitution. The Constitution is our plan for government, and the Preamble introduces it. It tells us what our government is to do for its people."
Step 5: Go over the meaning of the Preamble by breaking it into its phrases and going over the more difficult words. You might want to do this with an overhead project and transparency or a computer and projector. If you made student copies, distribute them now.
Step 6: Link what students brainstormed as important to good government to what the Founding Fathers felt was important. For example: "You said that the National Guard and the Army were important. So did the writers of the Constitution. They said to 'provide for the common defense.'" Write students' words over the words of the Preamble.
Day 2: A Mural of Words
Step 1: Review what you discussed the previous day.
Step 2: Divide students into as many groups as you have phrases on the mural you prepared.
Step 3: Ask each group to draw a picture explaining what their particular phrase means. Have students paint or color their drawings.
Note: You may want to suggest that the phrases all have the same background color to link the mural together.
Step 4: When students are finished, display the mural on a classroom wall. Ask each group to explain their drawing.
Extend this lesson into a discussion of the Pledge of Allegiance, set up like the Preamble lesson. The visual Scholastic book The Pledge of Allegiance, which was a commemorative classroom edition in remembrance of September 11, 2001, is a good place to start. The illustrations provide a point of discussion for the meaning of the pledge.
Have the students go home and discuss with their families what they think makes good government. Discuss the results in class.
- What part of this lesson was most enjoyable for students?
- Were students involved in the decision about what good government provides?
- What would you change next time you do this lesson?
- Are students pretty solid with what our forefathers intended when they wrote the Preamble to the Constitution?
- As students are working on the mural, evaluate whether they understand what the phrase means.
- If you wish, you can also make up a written test where they "rewrite" the Preamble in their own words.
- We also evaluate using student participation in discussions and their work on the group mural.