Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

TITLE:   You and the U.S. Constitution

AUTHOR:   Kim-Scott Miller

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:   Fourth Grade   

* A constitution contains basic laws that govern people.
* The U.S. Constitution contains rules that govern our country.
* The U.S. Constitution protects the rights and freedoms of America's 
* The U.S. Constitution is over 200 years old.
*  Social Studies is the study of past and current events of a society - the 
   ongoing history of people, places and things.

PURPOSE:  To understand why people who work and play together need to
follow rules;  and how these rules are developed.


*To develop awareness of the necessity for rules.
*To use logic to decide whether things are right or wrong.
*To give practice in classifying.

   *     Copy of the U.S. Constitution.
   *     Instant Camera (Polaroid) w/film.
   *     Poster (We The People ).
   *     Colored construction paper.
   *     Colored chart paper.

Activity 1.
Introduce the Topic 
   Ask:  What do you celebrate on your birthday?  (the anniversary of your
birth) What other kinds of anniversaries call for celebrations?  (weddings, 
special occasions) What does our country celebrate on the Fourth of July?
(its birthday-the anniversary of the founding of the United States of
America) Explain that our country is over 200 years old and that once it
became a country, it needed rules to follow.  
   Display a copy of the U.S. Constitution.  Explain that this document tells
the laws of our country.  It lists our country's rules and the rights of its
citizens.  Without much detail, point out certain parts of the Constitution
that spell out the three branches of government - Executive(The branch of
government concerned with putting a country's laws into effect.),
Legislative(Having the power to create laws.), Judicial(Of or pertaining to
courts, judges, or the administration of justice.) - and how they balance
each other to keep power in check, the rights of citizens and how changes,
amendments, can be made.

Activity  2.
Open Discussion     
   Have students give opinions about how people who lived in the U.S. 200
years ago might have dressed, the kinds of homes they lived in and the
kinds of schools students might have attended.
   Take full-length photographs of each other (if possible, used instant
photographs).  Ask:  How do the people in the these photos differ from
people who lived in 1787?  Establish that people who lived 200 years ago
might have looked much like the people of today.  Differences in manner of
dress and hair styles should be noted.  Look at things around the classroom
and identify the  TV, telephone, automobile, computer, book, etc. and
discuss which objects would be familiar to people who lived 200 years
ago?  Which would be unfamiliar?  Why?  Do you think anyone took
photographs of the men who wrote the Constitution?  Why not?  (cameras
had not been invented)  If photographs had been taken, what do you think
they would have shown?  If people met today to make changes in the
Constitution, could there be photos of the meetings?  What might be in the
photos to let you know they were taken in the 1990's and not in the 1700s?  
   Display side one of the poster (We The People)  in a prominent place.
Discuss the illustrations and what each means to the students.  Invite
students to tell of any bicentennial celebrations they have heard about.
Ask them to read the first three words (We the People . . .) of the
Constitution.  What do the words mean to you?  If you could take one
photograph to show the meaning of the words, what would be in the
photograph?   Discuss various ideas and have students bring photographs
of themselves.  Duplicate the poster design to create a bulletin board
display.  Use colored construction paper to make the tree's trunk, branches
and leaves.  Have each student write his or her name on one leaf.  As the
unit progresses, have students write about the rights depicted on the
poster and add these writings to the bulletin board as they are done.

Activity 3.
Following Rules 
   Have students take a walking tour of the school in action (classroom,
hallways, lunchroom, playground, etc.)  Discuss what is observed.  
Ask:  Are there rules involved in these places?  What are the rules?  How
did they come about?  Are they good or bad rules?  What or whom do they
protect?  Why do you think we have rules?   Continue by asking:  If you
play a game for the first time, how do you know in what way the game
should be played?  (Learn the rules.)  Why is it wrong to run in the school
hallways?  (against school rules) Through discussion, help students
understand that rules give order, ensure fair play and protect people's
rights and welfare.  
   Have students suppose you made a rule stating that only children with
blue eyes are allowed to have play periods.  Why would such a rule be
unfair?  Stress the point that rules are best when they protect the rights
of all people.
   Write the words Safety, Health,Game  on the chalkboard.  Invite students
to think of rules for each category and write them under the proper
heading.  Explain that a government makes rules called "laws."  Our
Constitution is a set of rules or laws all people in our country must

   Help the students make a "visual reference" bulletin board of specific
classroom procedures.  Title the bulletin board:  The Right Things To Do.
Subheads can read:  Working Quietly, Cleaning Up, Waiting To Speak,
Playing Fairly, Asking Permission, Raising Your Hand, Sharing, Using
Equipment, Taking Turns.  Have the students draw pictures to illustrate
each of the subheads.  Display the drawings on the bulletin board to create
a visual reference.  Write a "Classroom Constitution" by having students
suggest rules that will help make things run smoothly in the classroom.
As each rule is proposed, have the class vote on whether or not it should
be included in the document.  If two-thirds or more votes yes, the rule
becomes part of the constitution. If not, the rule cannot be passed.
Students might, at your direction, discuss the following:

1.  Should students be allowed to bring any kind of toy to use at recess?  

What kinds should be allowed?  What kinds should not be allowed?
2.  Should there be a "court system" to judge students who break rules?  
   How many judges should there be? Should all class members take turns 
   being judges?  What would be a reasonable punishment for breaking 

   Have students observe various sports or other activities where safety
devices are evident.  Discuss the special equipment needed as protection
while playing certain sports (baseball, football, ice hockey, etc.) . Ask:
What do you use to protect yourself when it is very cold outside?  What
are the people who protect you from harm? (parents, firefighters, police
officers, government officials).  Help students understand that the
Constitution protects their rights just as an umbrella protects them from
   Explain to students that a symbol is a picture, sign, sound or object that
stands for something else.  Ask:  What bird is a symbol of the United
States?  Why might an umbrella be a good symbol for the Constitution?
Discuss other symbols the students might know.


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