Bill of Rights Lesson Plan
Tired of the same old lesson plans on the Bill of Rights? This interactive lesson involves multiple learning styles and full class participation.
Report Card Day
“You can’t give me an ‘F’,” cried Dewey Nowork. “It’s against my Constitutional rights.”
Realizing that Dewey had no idea what his Constitutional rights were, I arrested him on the spot, searched his backpack, made him switch religions, forbade him to ever express his opinion in class, gave the ROTC students permission to stay in his house, and flogged him with a flag pole until he bled internally.
Unfortunately, my principal did know Dewey’s Constitutional rights and accused me of violating them. As punishment, he made me create a lesson plan on the Bill of Rights and distribute them to every teacher in the district.
I share it with you.
Common Core Standards
This lesson plan applies to common core standards for history and government. I threw in some ELA common core standards because I’m an English teacher and feel any excuse to teach the Constitution is justified.
RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.
1.1 Students will explain how the failures of the Articles of Confederation led to the creation of the United States Constitution by utilizing one of the big 11 social studies skills.
1.5 Students will explain the issues involved in the creation of the United States Constitution, including the major compromises made during the Constitutional Convention by utilizing one of the big 11 social studies skills.
1.6 Students will summarize and critique the arguments made for and against the ratification of the United States Constitution by utilizing one of the big 11 social studies skills.
1.7 Students will evaluate the structure of government created by the United States Constitution, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches by utilizing one of the big 11 social studies skills.
Bill of Rights Lesson Plan Procedures
- Read the Bill of Rights as a class and summarize them together and/or
- Take Cornell Notes on the Bill of Rights (2-3 pages should be enough).
- Assign groups of 3-4.
- Assign each group one of the first ten amendments.
- Assign each group the following task:
- Write a summary of the amendment in modern language defining necessary terms.
- Explain an example in U.S. History or an example in the life of the presenters that involves one of the first ten amendments.
- Create a visual aide for teaching the amendment. It can be a picture or a diagram.
- Create a skit depicting the amendment being violated.
- Create a handout for the class. Crossword puzzles, word searches, and graphic organizers work best.
- Present the above items to the class.
This lesson takes at least two class periods in most cases. I’ve had best results doing steps 1-2 on day one and steps 3-5 on day 2. A third day is sometimes necessary.
Students will ask you for ideas. Here are some examples students have done and some examples from current events.
- The First Amendment: an example of a newspaper being shut down, someone being arrested for practicing a specific religion, or governments forcing religious organizations to comply with a law that goes against their beliefs; more advanced students may wish to examine the “fairness doctrine” or a political leader endorsing or attacking a specific network or magazine.
- The Second Amendment: gun control laws make good skits; passing a law prohibiting private ownership of guns works.
- The Third Amendment: a skit depicting soldiers forcing their way into a house during peace time is the obvious one.
- The Fourth Amendment: forced entry by police officers into a private home without a warrant; students may want to tackle the issue of locker and backpack searches.
- The Fifth Amendment: depict someone getting arrested, being put on trial immediately, and sentenced without a trial.
- The Sixth Amendment: depict someone being arrested unfairly and being forced to rot in jail for years before a trial.
- The Seventh Amendment: show some inept or crooked judge giving an unfair ruling in a hefty lawsuit without a trial by jury.
- The Eighth Amendment: guards beating prisoners is always a class favorite.
- The 9th and 10th Amendments: show a government official taking rights away from a state or individual. For example, limiting health care choices or forcing states to accept federal funds that create government dependence.
These short stories and novels make for good literary examples of why the Bill of Rights is important.