What our Bill of Rights lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Bill of Rights lesson plan summarizes and analyzes the Bill of Rights, specifically addressing each of the first ten amendments from the United States Constitution. Examples of their use in America and some of the controversy surrounding the amendments are also discussed. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to define the Bill of Rights, list and summarize the first ten amendments, and apply them to their use in America. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.
Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.
Options for Lesson
Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One optional addition to the lesson is to have students create a list of activities in the country and have other students match the event to the correct amendment. You could also invite an attorney who knows about the Bill of Rights to speak to your class. Finally, you could have your students compare the Bill of Rights to similar documents from other countries, assigning each student a different country to research and present to the class.
The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.
BILL OF RIGHTS LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
Rules, Laws, and Policies
The Bill of Rights lesson plan includes four pages of content. Students must follow the rules of their classroom, which they sometimes create with their teacher. Other times, the school or the teacher creates these rules for them.
People also have to follow rules and laws in society. Businesses have rules that they call policies. These rules, laws, and policies help schools, businesses, towns, cities, and states avoid problems. However, rules and laws can be unclear or unfair, and people challenge or change them.
The United States needed a set of rules for its citizens and government in 1776, when it first became a country. They therefore wrote the United States Constitution in 1787, which the states agreed to in 1788. This document is the central law of the United States. The constitution originally did not include any rules about the rights of the American people, which was not fair. The states weren’t happy with it because it only included rules about how the government should run.
Because of this, they added 10 new amendments in 1791, two years after the writing of the original Constitution. We call these 10 amendments the Bill of Rights. They defined the freedoms and rights of the citizens of the United States. The people who wrote the Bill or Rights based in on other historical documents like the Magna Carta, the Articles of Confederation, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the English Bill of Rights. The lesson provides a brief overview of each of these documents.
The Magna Carta, from 1215, stated that King John of England had to follow the laws and that the people had rights. The rights it protected were in the areas of religion, justice, taxes, illegal imprisonment, and more. We consider this to be one of the most important documents in the history of democracy.
The Articles of Confederation acted as the law of the land from March 1, 1781 to March 4, 1789. They wrote this document during the Revolutionary War, and it was a basic agreement between the states and the government about how they would run the government at this time.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights, from 1776, later became part of the Virginia State Constitution. This document states that all men are equal, can enjoy life and liberty, government is for the common benefit of the people, rules for voting, people don’t have to provide evidence against themselves in court, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and more.
The English Bill of Rights, which the Parliament of England passed in 1689, created separation of powers. It also included the limiting of the powers of the king and queen, freedom of speech, limits on taxes, rights for all people to bear arms, and provisions for no excessive bail, fines, or cruel punishment.
These four documents provided the foundation for the Constitution and, especially, the Bill of Rights. The U.S. Constitution, which includes the Bill of Rights, replaced the Articles of Confederation. They officially approved the Constitution with the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791.
Your Rights as an American
James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights to Congress as legislative articles. There were originally twelve amendments, but the states only agreed to ten. They’ve passed one of the remaining two amendments, and the other is still pending.
One of the original amendments, which is now the 27th amendment, passed on May 5, 1992. It prohibits laws that increase or decrease the salaries of members of Congress until the following term. The amendment that is still pending sets the formula for determining the size of the House of Representatives after each 10-year census.
Therefore, the Bill of Rights has ten amendments, not twelve. The lesson lists each of these amendments in its original language, along with common language.
The first amendment is about freedom of religion. It also states that the government can’t establish a religion, which we often call the separation of church and state. It ensures freedom of the press, which means the government can’t censor or tax the press. Finally, it ensures freedom of speech. People can speak out against things they don’t agree with, sign petitions, and protest.
The second amendment is about the right for individuals to have guns, with some restrictions based on age, criminal background, and more. We often debated whether this amendment applies to individuals or just to armies.
The third amendment states that soldiers can’t use private homes without permission during peace time. However, during a war, they can live in a private home without permission, while following the law. They created this amendment because of the Revolutionary War.
They also added the fourth amendment because of the Revolutionary War. It says that law enforcement must have a search warrant signed by a judge to search or seize someone’s property, like their home, car, cell phone, or computer. Police cannot enter someone’s home without a specific reason, unless someone is in imminent danger.
The fifth amendment states that they can’t charge anyone with a serious crime without a jury of their peers meeting to decide if there’s enough evidence. They also cannot try you for the same crime twice. If you are on trial, you can remain silent and do not have to say anything against yourself. Finally, the government cannot take your property without reimbursing you.
The sixth amendment ensures that arrested people have the right to a quick trial, and that the government can’t keep people in jail without a court hearing. Trials have to be public. Also, people have the right to know the charges brought against them, the court must pick a jury from their area, and they can legally have witnesses and a lawyer.
The seventh amendment states that people have a right to have a jury make a final decision in a civil case.
The eighth amendment says that arrested people must have a reasonable bail set and reasonable fines. If a jury convicts someone of a crime, they cannot have cruel or unusual punishments.
The ninth amendment states that people have rights beyond what the Constitution includes. Just because we haven’t written a right down does not mean that it’s not a right.
Finally, the tenth amendment states that Congress is not allowed to do things unless we include them in the Constitution. At that point, it’s up to the states and the individuals.
We talk about the Constitution and the Bill or Rights often during government legislation and during court hearings and trials throughout the country.
One controversy related to the Bill of Rights is that, currently, most adults are allowed to carry a gun. However, many people believe that they intended the 2nd amendment to apply to armies and militias, not individuals. The death penalty is currently legal in the United States, but some people believe it violated the 8th amendment as cruel and unusual punishment. Some people also believed that Social Security payments were against the 10th amendment because there’s nothing in the Constitution about them. They think that the states should have made that decision, not the federal government.
Many people believe many laws in the U.S. are against the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court, the highest court in the U.S., makes decisions about the legality of these laws.
We need the Bill of Rights to help the citizens of the United States maintain their rights. It helps ensure that everyone has certain rights and freedoms.
BILL OF RIGHTS LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Bill of Rights lesson plan includes four worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, a homework assignment, and a quiz. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.
AMENDMENTS ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
Students will work with a partner to complete the lesson activity. Each pair will review different parts of the amendments from the Bill of Rights and explain what would change in the U.S. if that amendment did not exist. They should think about who this would affect, why, and how. They should also consider the potential implications or consequences.
Students can also work either alone or in groups to complete this activity.
MATCHING PRACTICE WORKSHEET
For the practice worksheet, students will first match the fact with the correct historical document. They will then match the Bill of Rights to the correct amendment number. Finally, they will explain the two amendments that they considered alongside the 10 Amendments.
BILL OF RIGHTS HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
The homework assignment asks students to first fill in the blanks in sentences using the word bank. Next, they will choose one of the Amendments from the Bill of Rights and will explain why they would want it changed, added to, eliminated, or kept the same.
Worksheet Answer Keys
This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.