I begin the lesson by writing the word freedom on the board and asking scholars to complete a word web for the word freedom. I ask them to write whatever comes to mind when they hear the word freedom. They can write synonyms for the word freedom, definitions, etc. Then I allow them to show and share what they wrote. Next, I relate the lesson to students' prior knowledge by asking them if they remember us discussing the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights during social studies lessons. I ask for volunteers to share and explain what is the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I confirm that the U.S. Constitution is the fundamental law on which our nation was founded. I further explain that the founding fathers of the U.S. Constitution wanted to ensure that the Constitution was able to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and evolve or change as times changed. Therefore, there have been 27 amendments, or changes, to the U.S. Constitution. The first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights. I tell them in this lesson, they will learn about the Bill of Rights in detail and gain an understanding of its importance and relevance to them as U.S. citizens. I review our lesson agenda, objectives, focus skill and strategies, and guiding question - What is the Bill of Rights and why is it important to me?. (Teacher may use attached Powerpoint presentation throughout lesson.)
In order to build a bit of background knowledge, I show scholars a Brainpop video on the Bill of Rights. To aid in their focus, I show scholars the discussion questions that we will use to check their understanding after they watch the video. I instruct them to take notes as active listeners and viewers. After watching the video as text, we discuss some text-based questions about the video.
During the close read of the Scholastic News article, "The Right Stuff" by Natalie Smith, scholars discuss the author's purpose for writing the article (to inform, entertain, persuade, and/or to express ideas and feelings) and justify their responses. As we read, we discuss the meaning of Tier 2 vocabulary such as: amendments, abridging, assemble, petition, grievances, redress, publish, censored, and party using context clues from the text. We discuss the text structure (description, compare/contrast, problem/solution, cause/effect, chronological) used by the author in the text and what we see as evidence of that text structure. Scholars express the main idea, supporting details, and conclusions that can be drawn from the text. We also answer student-generated guiding questions. I like using close reads because they provide scholars an opportunity to use appropriately complex texts and activities to move beyond their current mastery level.
I separate my students in differentiated small groups and explain their tasks:
The Achievers (Tier 3) have an analytic thinking task. They are to categorize given examples according to the appropriate amendment from the Bill of Rights. I model categorizing an example for students - You write a letter to your Congressman is an example of your First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. (Use Bill of Rights Exercise worksheet and Answer Key.)
The Superstars (Tier 2) have a creative thinking task. They are to generate ideas to improve the Bill of Rights by evaluating the Bill of Rights for relevant and irrelevant information. What's missing? Is anything no longer needed today? Add or delete amendments and justify your decisions. I model adding an amendment and justifying my decision - The right to free medical care. (Use Bill of Rights Exercise Template.)
The All Stars (Tier 1) have a practical thinking task. They are to generate ideas to create a list of real life examples for 5 of the amendments from the Bill of Rights. I model creating one example for one of the amendments from the Bill of Rights - At a court trial, a defendant chooses not to testify against himself is an example of the 5th Amendment. (Use Bill of Rights Exercise Template.)
In preparation for whole group sharing, I instruct my students to select a presenter/group leader, recorder, and time keeper from their groups. (Teacher may place the attached Group Instructions on each group's table.)
I chose these activities because they are appropriately scaffolded according to Bloom's Taxonomy levels (Achievers are analyzing, Superstars are evaluating, and All Stars are creating) and they actively engage scholars in the process of connecting learning to their own prior knowledge and experiences.
To close the lesson, students complete an exit ticket in which they tell what they learned from the lesson, whether they believe the Bill of Rights is still needed and why, and what burning questions they still have. I review the essential understandings that I wanted students to gain from the lesson and review their homework assignment, which is to create a Bill of Rights for our class.
I end by telling my scholars a life lesson - This lesson on the Bill of Rights is about protecting our rights and freedoms as U.S. citizens. Some people see freedom as a way to be somebody important. Some people see freedom as a way to do something important. We all were created for a specific purpose so rather than focus on being somebody important, it is far more important and productive to focus on doing something important with our lives. We all are important, but what we do in our lives is a much greater measure of excellence.
Our final words are our class motto - "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again because failure is not an option. I'm getting better and better everyday in every way!"