Get ready for Constitution Day with this easy to implement lesson plan complete with all the materials you need to communicate the broad range of topics covered in our nation's written constitution.
Many teachers start off study of the U.S. Constitution with the Preamble. This is a logical place to start, certainly, but why not back up a step and begin instead with helping students understand the broad concept of what a Constitution is -- a plan of government.
This introductory activity to the U.S. Constitution first asks students to designate which issues from a list of 30 they believe WILL be in the Constitution. Having them think and discuss their way through the list makes them consider what kinds of things need to be decided in advance when forming a plan of government -- and then going through the answers shows them a lot about the decisions the Framers and amendment writers made when determining the structure and rules that the U.S. government would need to follow.
After this initial step, students are then provided with team / collaborative group worksheets that form a "scavenger hunt" to take them through the whole Constitution in a broad, rapid-fire way. The scavenger hunt is supposed to be a fun introduction and can easily be converted into a race or team competition, but in a way it's "hidden learning," serving three broad purposes:
• Familiarity: As students proceed through the activity, they will broaden their basic understanding, first developed in the introductory activity, about the kinds of issues and topics they can expect to encounter in the Constitution. This, in turn, will deepen their thinking about what a government is and what it does.
• Confidence: Some phrases in the Constitution are challenging for students ("corruption of blood," "bill of attainder," "Indians not taxed," etc), but by doing the scavenger hunt, students will discover that there is a great deal of the text that they can read and understand perfectly well on their own.
• Citation Skills: The scavenger hunt requires students to reference passages from the Constitution using a standard format: (III.2, for example, to refer to Article III, Section 2). Creating such references for themselves will make students much more comfortable working with them later -- and this is a key skill, since many textbooks and discussions of court decisions, for example, will throw out references like IV.4 and expect students to understand what they mean as a matter of course.
Full teaching instructions and a detailed answer key are provided, making this activity classroom-ready -- with the subject matter fully appropriate for the first day of government class or any class that will include a civics component.
In fact, the introductory activity alone ("Predict if the U.S. Constitution will cover this issue") can serve as a great orientation to the Constitution in courses where the teacher won't have the time to go through the entire document -- such as in 8th grade U.S. history or 11th grade U.S. history. Those who DO have a bit more time to devote to this important topic can enjoy the scavenger hunt with their classes after their students do the introductory activity.
In other words -- this teaching packet is really flexible and can be readily adapted to your own classroom environment and needs. Whether you need a short or longer Constitution Day activity or an orientation to the document before studying your way through the entire Constitution, this packet provides students with a great first look at it!
Start your school year off differently this time around by jumping straight into the U.S. Constitution with this fun and engaging scavenger hunt activity.