September 17th Constitution Day

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TSWBAT analyze the meaning of academic and domain specific words in the U.S. Constitution's Preamble before comparing it to its original draft.

Big Idea

We the people in the classroom will form a perfect way to understand what our founders were talking about in the Preamble!

Warm Up

10 minutes

In the 5th grade curriculum, we won't be immersed in government until we're over halfway through the school year, but on Constitution Day, it's a great time to engage the kids with a preview.

Nobody does it better than good old School House Rock.  As an original SHR tv watcher of the 70s, I know firsthand how helpful the little tunes were for me all through school.  After an overview on what a constitution is and a bit about ours, I let, "The Preamble," from SHR do the introductions. 


Application Part I

25 minutes

After the first showing of, "The Preamble," I pass out a worksheet with the lines of the Preamble, written out, with a space for each section's meaning.  As the kids take their best guesses as to what each line means (in a large group) I write some of their correct answers onto the lines on the Smartboard--Kids' Rewrite of the Preamble--as they copy on their page.  After the entire Preamble has been transcribed, I recite what the class has created. Student example: The Preamble in Basic Words.

Our final activity is to watch the School House Rock video again with clearer understanding.  The images make a lot more sense this time around!

Application Part II

35 minutes

One of the great examples to share with the students about the subject of rough and final drafts of writing is the United States Constitution. 

Now that they're better informed about what the constitution means, it's time to let them in on the hard work it took to actually get the thing done.  I talk to them about the sweltering heat in Philadelphia, PA in August; the fact that they needed to keep all of the windows closed and locked for privacy (and of course there wasn't air conditioning); how formally the members of the Constitutional Convention dressed, despite the circumstances.  By painting this uncomfortable scene, I'm trying to show tension with the situation before the real stresser- trying to agree on how our new government should look - even takes place.

The discussion revolves around the states compromising on the legislative body and representation equality.  The students learn through the lesson about the Great Compromise, for there to be two houses in Congress...House of Representatives-based on population and the Senate-each state would have two representatives regardless of how many people lived there.

We also discuss the visible difference between the Preamble in the two drafts.  In the older draft, the states are listed separately and take up most of the Preamble with just state names (in the words of one of my kids.)  In the final, the states have instead become, "We the People" and the Preamble becomes rich with all of the lines we discussed in the first activity.

The kids fill out a Constitution draft comparison worksheet including a  Venn Diagram to display this knowledge. Here they are Working on Venn Diagrams.

Student Venn Diagram example: Comparing Constitution Rough and Final

Summary of Activity

Only so much time can be allotted for Constitution Day, so summarizing on this worksheet will be done at home.  At the end of the day, I review and remind the kids about our Constitution Day activities.  Next, encourage them to use both the Preamble page and the Venn Diagram about the two drafts of the Constitution to complete the assignment.

They are to write three paragraphs, one for each of the sections of our lesson:

-explain what a constitution is

-detail the activity with School House Rock and "taking apart the Preamble"

-using a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast a rough and the final drafts of the U.S. Constitution

The following day I'll collect to evaluate.  As mentioned in the first section of this lesson, about February, we're studying US Government, and it's my hope that this mini-lesson will be something they'll remember and can apply to the new lessons.

Student Example Why a House AND a Senate?

Student Example HW

Link to Balance of Powers lesson (US Govt)

Link to "Colonists in Crisis" unit


5 minutes

I added this copy of the Constitution Preamble because it's something I do with my kids later in the year when we're studying US Government.  They already recite the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence after the Pledge of Alligiance each day, and this is the perfect time for them to learn the Preamble to the Constitution.  Speaking and Listening SL.5.1 is a standard we perfect throughout the year. Most will remember the School House Rock song and it won't be difficult.  Once they've learned about its meaning, I require them to recite in front of the class.