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Government of the people, by the people and for the people

Subject:Social Studies, United States History and Government, Participation in Government

Grade Level: 11-12

Description: In this project, students learn the purpose of the Bill of Rights, the motivation behind its creators, and how the Bill of Rights protects (or fails to protect) citizens throughout United States history and today.

How it Works: Students learn how the Bill of Rights influences their everyday lives in America, and they analyze the role of government in the lives of its citizens and non-citizens. They learn the principles of the Bill of Rights, the influences behind the amendments, how the Constitution has changed since 1787, and the Supreme Court cases that challenged the United States Constitution. They also analyze how individuals have changed our government and how some rights of the minority (or individual) have been abridged in order to protect the majority of society or continue the social norms.

They begin with the basic principles of natural rights and what people should and should not be able to do in various situations, and they study the actual text of the Bill of Rights in order to further understand the purpose of the document. Students are also taught about the amendment process and how the Constitution has changed since its creation in the late 18th Century. It is vital that students realize who was protected by the Bill of Rights after its creation and who is protected today and how and why these changes came about. In groups, students create “television program” (such as a news broadcast, drama, or soap opera) role- playing skits or plays to show how groups or individuals have challenged the government in order to be included in the phrase “We the people.”

Final Project/Product: Students use cooperative learning to create a “television program” (such as a news broadcast, drama or soap opera) role-playing activity. They present this program in front of the class.

Overall Value: Some of this program's best features are the students using information that they learning in the classroom (through research, cooperative learning, and mini-lessons) and utilizing them in a fun, creative, and student-centered activity. Students participate in thorough group research and work together creatively to produce a program that they present in front of their peers. This unit allows for several forms of student assessment and lets each student achieve academically and socially in his or her own way.

English Language Learners: The students work together on several small projects and two presentations. Working together in groups, acting, and presenting information teaches ELL students to cope with public speaking. Many ELL students dread speaking because of their accents or their lack of English. Since each student must speak and participate in this unit, it shows them that the classroom is a safe environment where they are all learning English together, although they maybe at different levels.

Tips for the Teacher: Create a fun environment for this project. The Constitution and Bill of Rights can be very boring and dry. If you show the students that their everyday rights are given to them by the Bill of Rights they will participate more actively.

In the final assessment, the students answer questions (through a presentation) about a particular amendment. The other students fill out notes about the amendment during each presentation. I suggest giving the students a unit quiz or test based on the answers each group should have given.


 Standards Addressed
Students use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental system of the United States and other nations; the United States Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.
  Grade: high school Subject: Social Studies
Students read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts and performances from American and world literature; relate texts and performances to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts and performances represent. As speakers and writers, they use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for self-expression and artistic creation.
  Grade: high school Subject: English Language Arts
Students listen, speak, read, and write for critical analysis and evaluation. As listeners and readers, students analyze experiences, ideas, information, and issues presented by others using a variety of established criteria. As speakers and writers, they use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to present, from a variety of perspectives, their opinions and judgments on experiences, ideas, information, and issues.
  Grade: high school Subject: English Language Arts
Students listen, speak, read, and write for social interaction. They use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language for effective social communication with a wide variety of people. As readers and listeners, they use the social communications of others to enrich their understanding of people and their views.
  Grade: high school Subject: English Language Arts

Day 1: What are we allowed to do and why are we allowed to do it?
Students will analyze the roles of various members of a society.
Students will use their own opinions to form ideas of how various members of a society should and should not act.
Students will work together in groups to formulate ideas and create a brief presentation.
Students will share out ideas through a presentation and class will develop new ideas after the group presentations.
chart paper
colored markers
Society, social, norms
Procedure 1
The teacher writes the Aim and the Do Now on the board as the students walk into class.
a. The Aim: How do individuals have an affect on society?. The Do Now will be- ________________ should be able to ________________.
b. The teacher places different individuals in society in the first blank and let the students brainstorm about filling in the second blank.
c. The second blank should include freedoms or privileges that the aforementioned group should have.
d. For example, a good first example would be… Students should be able to __________________.
Procedure 2
Students think pair and share their answers with the students sitting next to them.
a. Teacher facilitates discussion with the students and have them write any shared answers on the board.
b. The students make a list of all “rights” or privileges students should have.
Procedure 3
Class is broken up into groups of three or four students and the teacher assigns new members of society like children under the age of 12, teenagers, parents, teachers, citizens, illegal aliens, and the government.
a. Groups are given chart paper and colored markers to create T Charts based on what their groups should be able to and should not be able to do.
Procedure 4
Groups present their charts in front of the class.
a. Students discuss the answers groups have shared and add or change ideas.
Procedure 5
No homework is needed for the first lesson.
Students present their charts in front of the class as their assessment for this lesson.

Day 2: Explain our Social Roles
Students will use information from the previous lesson to develop more complex ideas and explanations of social roles of individual groups in society.
Students will develop a small PowerPoint presentation based on social roles of individual groups in society.
Students will present ideas to class.
Computers with Internet access
PowerPoint or other presentation software
Procedure 1
Teacher brings class into library or computer lab for the next lesson. Students should be able to access the Internet individually.
Procedure 2
Teacher writes the Aim and Do Now on the board.
a. Aim: How can we further explain the freedoms and limitations of our social groups?
b. Do Now: Get back into your groups and get your T Charts.
c. Test
Procedure 3
Students bring their T Charts from the previous lesson and begin to work in their groups from the previous lesson.
a. Teacher explains that the groups must work together to give explanations and reasoning behind each right they have given their social groups. For example, students who are in the parents group must give detailed explanations on why parents should be able to give their children a bed time.
Procedure 4
Groups must work together to create a 2-slide PowerPoint presentation containing their specific explanations of the rights and limitations of their specific social group.
Procedure 5
Students open Microsoft PowerPoint.
a. Students create one slide based on the detailed rights of their social group.
b. Students create one slide based on the limitations of their social group.
c. Students save their presentations on a flash drive or compact disc.
Students must save their project on a compact disk or flash drive. Each group must create a brief presentation for the next class in which each group member will participate. During the next class, each group will present their brief PowerPoint presentations.

Day 3: Social Roles Presentations
Students will share their fully developed ideas on social roles of specific groups in society.
Students will use a lap op and projector to present their PowerPoint presentations in front of the class.
Students will analyze why the Bill of Rights was created and why it was and is so important to our everyday lives.
laptop computers
LCD projector or display device
overhead screen
group projects (on flash drives or CDs)
Procedure 1
Teacher writes the Aim and Do Now on the board.
a. Aim: How can our presentations show us the need for social limitations and freedoms?
b. Do Now: Sit in your groups and get ready to present.
Procedure 2
Each group is selected based on a prior order. and presentations are made.
a. The last groups to present should be governments, illegal aliens, and citizens.
b. These groups directly connect the students with the basic principles of the Bill of Rights, the New York Constitution, and the United States Constitution.
Procedure 3
Each group will present their power social group.
a. Each group will open their project on the laptop and project their slides on the overhead screen.
b. Each group member will present their portion of the project.
c. Students will discuss each group’s ideas on social roles for their group.
Procedure 4
Students discuss how the social and political roles of the government, illegal aliens, and citizens affects our country and world today
a. Teacher elicits connections between these social groups and their freedoms and limitations and the Bill of Rights
b. Students discuss how these groups fit in with the Bill of Rights.
Creative Writing (Size 12 Font, Double Spaced, Times New Roman): Type a one-page paper about a time when you felt your rights were abused or you felt unequal. What happened? When did it happen? Who was treating you unequally? Why did you feel like your rights were abused? Was this situation resolved? If so, how was it resolved? What did this experience teach you?
Students are presenting in front of the class, sharing out their ideas after presentations, and completing homework about social roles and natural rights.

Day 4: Bill of Rights- Who, What, Where, Why, When and How?
Students will understand the Bill of Rights and what each amendment stands for.
Students will research the history behind the creation of the Bill of Rights.
Students will work in groups to produce a creative presentation using technology.
computers with Internet access
Procedure 1
Teacher brings students back into the computer lab.
a. Teacher writes the Aim and Do Now on the board.
b. Aim: Why were the Bill of Rights created and how do they affect us today?
c. Do Now: write out a research chart in your note books (5 Ws and and H).
d. Students use the Internet to research these answers.
National Archives http://archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/bill_of_rights.html
Procedure 2
Students work together in their groups to fill in their research charts in their notebooks.
a. Each group splits the workload to complete the research chart quicker.
b. After 15 minutes, groups share their answers with the class.
c. Teacher creates the research chart on the board so students can see any different answers or answers they could not find.
American Civil Liberties Union http://aclu.org/crimjustice/gen/10084res20020304.html
Procedure 3
Students test their knowledge of the Bill of Rights.
a. Teacher instructs students to visit the Bill of Rights quiz website to test their research and previous knowledge of the Bill of Rights.
b. Students access the Bill of Rights quiz.
c. Each student tries to get all 10 amendments correct.
d. After each student has matched each amendment, he or she will copy the answers into his or her notebook.
The Bill of Rights - quiz http://home.att.net/~betsynewmark/TrivBillofRights.html
Procedure 4
After students complete the Bill of Rights quiz and copy the information into their notebooks, they are given their unit project in their groups.
a. Each group will be given a specific amendment from the Constitution.
b. Each group produces a creative presentation on their amendment using some kind of technology.
c. Each group answers specific questions relating to the history of their amendment and how it has changed our lives since its inception.
Bill of Rights http://billofrights.com
Procedure 5
The United States Constitution http://usconstitution.net/const.html
Groups work on their unit projects for homework.
Students completed research, shared out ideas, took an online quiz, and began working in groups on their unit project.

Day 5: Unit Project- The Bill of Rights
Students will produce creative unit projects using at least one form of technology.
Groups will answer various questions about their specific amendment in their presentations.
Groups will present their projects in front of the class.
Students will asses their peers’ presentations.
Students will fill out note sheets during their peers’ presentations.
Note sheets: created by the teacher with specific questions each group must answer about the amendment in their presentations
various forms of technology to fit each groups needs: speakers, laptop, projector, smart board, overhead screen and projector
Procedure 1
Teacher hands out instructions for the unit project (see attachment for these instructions).
Procedure 2
Teacher writes the Aim and Do Now on the board.
a. Aim: How can our projects teach us about how the Bill of Rights have changed over time?
b. Do Now: Get into your groups and read project instructions.
Procedure 3
Teacher hands out Bill of Rights Project and goes over project instructions with students (see attachments).
Procedure 4
Teacher hands out several copies of the Amendment Note Sheet (see attachments).
a. Teacher explains that students will fill out the Amendment Note Sheets during the class presentations.
b. The unit quizzes or tests should be based on the information the groups were presenting.
Procedure 5
Students present their unit projects in front of their class.
a. Students fill out note sheets, provided by the teacher, for each amendment, to keep in their notebooks.
b. Each group will also hand in a copy of a 4-page paper with the answers to the project questions along with their sources and the scripts to their performances.
Student presentatons and note sheets

Christopher Gill


Newcomers High School
28-01 41st Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101

Christopher Gill has been a member of the Social Studies Department at Newcomers High School for the past three years. He has taught U.S. History and Government, Participation in Government, Economics, and Global Studies. As a first-generation American, Christopher is familiar with the struggles of ESL and bilingual students and has had many experiences with both populations in his professional and personal life. He strives to bring history alive for his students through various methods of assessment including role playing and other student-centered activities.

Important documents for this lesson plan.

Bill of Rights Project.doc
Amendment Note Sheet.doc


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