One way to get students to prove their understanding of U.S. Government content is to have them analyze problems or scenarios. Students show a deeper understanding of the Constitution by writing solutions to real world problems. This is precisely what is expected in the Common Core – critical thinking and problem solving ability. Here is how the Common Core expresses expectations in the English Language Arts standards related to Social Studies for high school students:
Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.
What follows is a multi-paragraph scenario I have used over the years to find out if my students really know the Bill of Rights. The scenario works best after the students have studied the first ten amendments and discussed them with the teacher or each other. Students love discussing the Bill of Rights and asking “what if” questions. So scenarios are a natural way to assess student understanding.
You can use this scenario any way you want. You can use it as a formative assessment to gage student understanding as you go. You can also use it as a summative assessment at the end of the unit. I have included point values. Of course, you will modify them to fit your needs.
Please note: The scenario does not cover all ten amendments in the Bill of Rights. It covers two clauses of the First Amendment, two clauses of the Eighth Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment. I have also included an answer key. Use this information when teaching the students about the Bill of Rights.