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September 14, 2021

Lesson Plan: Constitution Day — Civic empowerment and active citizenship

A member of Congress holds a copy of the Constitution of the United States. Photo By Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

For a Google doc version of this lesson, click here. (Note: You will need to make a copy of the Google doc to edit it.)

Overview 

Constitution Day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. In this lesson, students will hear from constitutional scholars and see an excerpt of the Broadway play “What the Constitution Means to Me.” Students will assess the importance of the U.S. Constitution and the necessity of learning about the document and our constitutional system. Students will also have the opportunity to propose their own amendments to the Constitution.

Subjects: U.S. Government, U.S. History, Social Studies

Estimated time: One 50-minute class

Grade level: 6-12

Objectives

  • Students will examine the importance of Constitution Day.
  • Students will research why the Constitution was necessary and understand the powers and limitations of the government created by the Constitution. 
  • Students will analyze the existing structure of the Constitution to determine if changes to the document are necessary and then create proposals for constitutional amendments.  

Warm-up activities

  1. Think, write and share with a partner (if your class is virtual on Zoom or another platform, form breakout rooms). Have students write a response to at least one of their partner’s thoughts. You can use page 1 of the Google Doc worksheet for responses. (Let participants know they’ll need to make a copy of the document, so they can add their names, and input their answers. See top left of the screen → Go to File → Make Copy)
  2. Ask students
    • Why do you think the federal government passed a law in 2004 requiring public schools and government offices to provide information on the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day? 
    • Do you think the Constitution Day law was necessary or unnecessary? Explain your answer. 

Main activities

Activity #1

Have your students watch the video clips and answer the questions below. You can use page 2 of the Google Doc worksheet for responses. (Let your students know they’ll need to make a copy of the document, so they can add their names, and input their answers. (See top left of the screen → Go to File → Make Copy)

The Big Bang Theory (Constitution USA with Peter Sagal, 4 min)

Philadelphia and the Constitutional Convention (Constitution USA with Peter Sagal, 6 min)

Activity #2

Using page 3 of the Google Doc, (Let your students know they’ll need to make a copy of the document, so they can add their names, and input their answers. (See top left of the screen → Go to File → Make Copy) have your students answer the prompts provided. Ask for a few volunteers to share their answers to the prompts. See how many students in your class would be open to making changes to the Constitution and how many students would be opposed to making changes. After students have shared their answers to the prompt, play the video link provided for Activity #2. 

Activity #2 video Broadway play reexamines the U.S. Constitution (Clip from PBS NewsHour,  4/13/19)

 

Activity #3 (time permitting): Constitutional Convention 2021

Place students in small groups (3-5 students recommended) and have them create 3 proposals for constitutional amendments. Using page 4 of the Google Doc, (Let your students know they’ll need to make a copy of the document, so they can add their names, and input their answers. (See top left of the screen → Go to File → Make Copy) Groups should create 3 proposals for constitutional amendments. Groups should consider who would favor and who would oppose their proposed amendments. Groups should share their proposals with the class. Students may want to consult the Constitution as they participate in this activity. Here is a link to the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution.


Ryan Werenka has taught Social Studies at Troy High School in Troy, Michigan, for over twenty years. Ryan teaches AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP Comparative Government and Politics, and Government and Civics. Ryan has a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Social Sciences from Western Michigan University and a Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College.

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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      [Standardheading]The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards[/Standardheading]

    • D2.Civ.3.6-8. Examine the origins, purposes, and impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements.
    • D2.Civ.3.9-12. Analyze the impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements on the maintenance of national and international order.
    • D2.Civ.5.6-8. Explain the origins, functions, and structure of government with reference to the U.S. Constitution, state constitutions, and selected other systems of government.
    • D2.Civ.4.9-12. Explain how the U.S. Constitution establishes a system of government that has powers, responsibilities, and limits that have changed over time and that are still contested.

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