Constitution

An Exploration of the United States Constitution

Constitution

This is a culminating activity for use following the study of the Revolutionary War and the forming of the United States Constitution. Successful completion of this task will require students to:

  • Identify and explain the main purpose and important facts behind the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and of Constitutional Amendments
  • Make connections between rules/laws, the issues and conflicts that inspire them, and their expected benefit to the citizenry
  • Identify specific concerns in their own classroom/school environment and propose amendments to correct or address these concerns
  • Work together productively with a group of peers
  • Write a persuasive essay regarding a proposed Classroom/School Constitutional Amendment
  • Participate in a "Classroom Constitutional Convention" debate through which their proposed amendments are debated and voted on
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the concept of veto power
  • The purpose of the task is to give learners a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the connections between laws, the rule of law, the issues laws try to resolve, and the intended benefits of the laws we have in our society. This exerciseis intended toberelevant and engaging. To successfully complete this activity, students will need to be able to analyze, evaluate, and write about their analysis of key constitutional concepts. These concepts are also core components of the Middletown, State, and National Social Studies Standards.

    The activity should start with a review of key facts (you may use or create any factual review you feel is appropriate) and concepts. Then proceed to individual work and writing (see the Law/Rule Analysis Framework and essay framework). The final steps are the group work and whole class presentations. The entire activity should take between 2-4 class periods.
    Note: This performance task satisfies The Grade 5 Technology checklist Items 1,2,4
    Student Task

    Congratulations! Because of your excellent performance in our United States Constitution unit, your entire class has just been elected as delegates to the first ever Middletown Public Schools 5th Grade Constitutional Convention. The purpose of the Convention is to explore proposed amendments and additions to the current classroom or school rules. You will be working in small groups to analyze, suggest, and argue for the addition of amendments that you feel address specific problems or grievances that you have regarding how your classroom or school is run. Once you have heard the ideas of all of your peers, your class will select a few of the most compelling choices and have a chance to write in favor or against the change. Finally, you will vote on these changes as official amendments to your classroom or school rules of conduct (your suggestions must pass with a 2/3rd majority vote in the classroom and avoid any possible adult veto to become law).

    Process and Directions
    1. Review the textbook materials and other sources that you have been studying when you learned about the United States Constitution (see the Resources section that follows). With your peers and your teacher, review (he/she may have a specific review activity for you to complete here) the key facts, people and events that lead to the passage of the Constitution. In your review, be sure to pay particular attention to why the rule of law is so important, the similarities between rules for smaller groups (families and classrooms) and laws for citizens, the issues or conflicts they address, and their intended benefit. You may complete this on your own, in small groups, or as a class - your teacher will let you know which one will work best for you.
    1. Once this review is complete, individually or in pairs, complete the Law/Rule Analysis Framework. Save your LRAF so you can work on it. Be sure that there is an item for each column and each row in this Framework (see the Analysis Assessment Sheet for more specific information regarding how this activity will be graded). The purpose of this activity is to ensure that everyone has an understanding of the connections between these important concepts - without them it will be very difficult to propose effective new rules for your classroom.
    1. Work individually to brainstorm new ideas for additional rules that you would like to promote for your classroom or school (Classroom Amendment Framework ). Be sure that you have at least one proposed amendment with an identified issue and benefit that you have thought of on your own. Once again, you can preview how your work will be assessed by checking out the Amendment Framework Assessment. Think of at least one rule that addresses computer use int he classroom. Use your best idea as the subject of a 5-paragraph essay (See the Essay Outline Framework and the Essay Assessment ), which seeks to persuade your peers regarding why they should support your idea for this new rule.
    1. Get together with your group members (your teacher will assign you to an appropriate group) and share your idea and read your essay. As a group, discuss which of the proposed Amendments you like best and then select one to promote to the entire class. Using the individual essay as a base, work as a group to sharpen the arguments and assign presentation roles (each student in the group must be part of the presentation of the rule - you might want to assign a paragraph per student as the best way to make sure that the tasks are fairly shared - check out the Peer Collaboration Assessment).
    1. Listen to the arguments of the other groups. Ask questions or offer opinions to support or reject their suggested changes. Keep track of your thinking (Proposed Amendments Tally Sheet ) and be prepared to vote on the amendments at the end of the arguments. Take note of what the final votes are on your tally sheet and check for a veto. The amendments that pass with a 2/3 majority with no veto are your new classroom/school rules!

    Resources and Support

    Fifth Grade Social Studies Textbook - Building Our Nation

    Web Resources -

    http://www.constitutioncenter.org/

    http://library.thinkquest.org/11572/?tqskip1=1&tqtime=0804

    http://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/charters_of_freedom/constitution/constitution.html

    Images acquired from:

    Assessments

    Student/Teacher Summary Assessment Sheet

    Law/Rule Analysis Framework Assessment

    Classroom Amendment Framework Assessment

    Persuasive Writing Assessment

    Peer Collaboration Assessment