One of the strongest arguments made against ratification of the US Constitution was the fact that it did not include a Bill of Rights. In fact, it was the promise to include a Bill of Rights to the Constitution that convinced delegates to the Virginia Ratification Convention to narrowly ratify. Out of the hundreds of Amendments proposed for the Constitution, these first 10 have provided US citizens with protection against government over-reaching unparalleled in the world.
Understanding the Bill of Rights and how they apply to preserve individual liberty is essential to becoming an informed citizen of our society. Simple rote memorization of the Amendments is sorely ineffective in achieving this goal; rather, students should be challenged to analyze and apply these Amendments to real life scenarios in order to gain a thorough and working understanding of how they operate. Without this knowledge, students run the risk of losing these vital protections to liberty without even realizing it.
This 8 day complete unit not only covers the substance of the Bill of Rights but also, more importantly, engages students in a thorough analysis of them, both by examining Court cases interpreting these Amendments and by applying their principles to hypothetical situations. In effect, students will engage in a variety of critical thinking exercises as junior constitutional lawyers. At the unit’s conclusion, students will have a deep understanding of their rights as citizens of our republic.
This unit is based upon and complements my textbook, “We Take Nothing by Conquest”
, and is designed for both the novice and experienced classroom teacher as it contains everything needed for the full course. These materials – all of which have been battle-tested in the crucible of my own 8th grade classroom - include: * a 32 page Teacher’s Guide which provides day-by-day and step-by-step instructions how to teach the unit and use all of the materials;
* 10 pages of informative and interesting text (broken up into three sections to help student understanding);
* an inquiry based study guide (in three parts, one for each section) for the text to focus students on the main points and supporting details;
* a study aid for students to fill out to further help them understand this complicated material;
* Three PowerPoints (one for each part of the study guide) with answers to the study guide for review;
* a primary source activity examining Supreme Court cases interpreting the Amendments making up the Bill of Rights;
* a series of critical thinking and analytical exercises concerning the practical and theoretical application of the Bill of Rights – in effect, students get to practice “thinking like a lawyer;”
*and a take-home test on the Bill of Rights, in which students analyze how the Bill of Rights would apply to a hypothetical case – in effect, students analyze the case as Constitutional lawyers.
Answer keys and grading guides for all study guides, activities, and tests are included in the Teacher’s Guide. Materials are provided as word documents and PDFs in one zip file.
This mini-unit is part of a complete and comprehensive unit
on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
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