Author:
Melody Casey
Subject:
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Level:
Upper Primary
Grade:
5
Tags:
  • IRPSS
    License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Language:
    English

    Education Standards

    The Documents and Ideals Behind the US Constitution (AIG IRP)

    The Documents and Ideals Behind the US Constitution (AIG IRP)

    Overview

    This lesson precedes students’ exploration of the US Constitution and gives them a foundation for their study of it. Students begin by discussing some trivia related to the Constitution and then, through Jigsaw grouping, read and summarize three documents that share basic principles with it. Once they have shared and discussed the connections among the three documents, they consider how democratic ideals are addressed in the documents, the Constitution, and everyday life. This lesson was developed by NCDPI as part of the Academically and/or Intellectually Gifted Instructional Resources Project. This lesson plan has been vetted at the state level for standards alignment, AIG focus, and content accuracy.

    Lesson Overview

    Brief Description of Lesson/Task/Activity: This lesson precedes students’ exploration of the US Constitution and gives them a foundation for their study of it. Students begin by discussing some trivia related to the Constitution and then, through Jigsaw grouping, read and summarize three documents that share basic principles with it. Once they have shared and discussed the connections among the three documents, they consider how democratic ideals are addressed in the documents, the Constitution, and everyday life.  

    Time Frame: 2 class periods

    Type of Differentiation for AIGs:

    • Extension

    Adaptations for AIGs:

    • Process

    Explanation of How Resource is Appropriate for AIGs: This lesson gives AIG students a chance to work collaboratively to make sense of the foundational ideas behind the US Constitution. Once they have shared and discussed these ideas, they then apply them to the real world. This lesson requires a high degree of comprehension of difficult texts as students work to make sense of the texts, summarize them for others, and then apply them to the world around them. 

    Needed Resources/Materials: Copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Plan, and the Articles of Confederation (see http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html and http://www.ourdocuments.gov)

    TEACHER NOTES: Because the three primary documents used for this lesson, the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Plan, and the Articles of Confederation, vary in length and complexity, each student should be assigned an appropriate document for his or her reading level. The Articles of Confederation is substantially longer and more complex than the other two documents, and the Declaration of Independence is likely more familiar to most students.

    Stage 1: Engage

    Explain that the US Constitution is the document that outlines how our system of government works. To get the students talking and inferring about the Constitution, show the following numbers on the board or screen and ask the students to guess what they have to do with the
    US Constitution:

    • 1787 (the year it was crafted and signed)
    • 4400 (number of words in it, not including signatures and later amendments)
    • 39 (people who signed it)
    • 81 (age of Benjamin Franklin upon signing it, the oldest delegate)
    • 100 (days it took the framers to complete it)
    • 0 (the number of times the word democracy appears in it)
    • 2 (languages used in it: English and Latin)

    The students share anything else that they already know about the US Constitution.

    Stage 2: Elaborate

    Explain that the US Constitution has a great deal in common with other previous documents outlining the founders’ ideas for the principles and practices for our new government. These documents include (but are not limited to):

    • The Declaration of Independence
    • The Virginia Plan
    • The Articles of Confederation

    Jigsaw: 
    The students work in small “expert” groups to research an assigned document. This research focuses on the following questions:

    • When was it written?
    • Who wrote it?
    • What about this document sounds familiar?
    • How is this document organized? (text elements)
    • What are the 3 most important points in this document? (main ideas)

    The students then meet in small jigsaw groups to share their learning with others. Thus, each jigsaw group should have a representative for each document, and that representative should share his/her answers to the above questions. Once each document has been shared, the students discuss the following questions:

    • What do these documents have in common?
    • Based on these documents, what issues and problems was our new country facing?
    • Based on these documents and knowing that the Founding Fathers wanted to create a democracy, what would you say are some principles of democracy?
    • Which document outlines best the ideals of democracy? Why do you think so?
    • What do you think is missing in these documents? What important ideas are missing? 

    The whole group discusses predictions about what the US Constitution likely includes based on what the students learned during their research and discussions of the previous documents.

    Stage 3: Evaluate

    Ask the students to define democracy as a whole group: Where have you heard this word (other than in class/school)? In what contexts is it used? If needed, break the word down into its 2 parts: demo (people) and cracy (government). The class discusses democratic ideals: What are the essential components of a democracy? What does a democracy provide and require? The students may mention the following and others:

    • Life
    • Liberty
    • Pursuit of happiness
    • Right to work
    • Right to education
    • Right to food
    • Equality

    The students will work in small groups to brainstorm examples of democratic principles in the real world. Where do they see democratic ideals at work in their everyday lives? Listen for the students’ ability to transform the ideals into practice.

    TEACHER NOTES: As a follow-up to this lesson and as further assessment (if needed), students can write on their own about the term democracy and the way it is represented in a particular text (from the lesson).