Lesson plan

A Deeper Look into the Preamble to the Constitution

Understanding the Constitution is an important civic duty. This lesson gives your students a chance to break down the Preamble to the Constitution into manageable chunks, and translate it into student-friendly language.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to write a paragraph explaining the purpose and meaning of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

(5 minutes)
  • On a piece of chart paper, write 'The Constitution' in the middle, to begin creating a concept map on this topic.
  • Ask students their background knowledge on the Constitution of the United States.
  • Record students responses around the title in the middle, and draw lines to connect the concepts. (Note: It is understandable if the students have limited background knowledge at first. You will add to this concept map throughout the lesson.)
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that the Constitution was written after the United States of America gained independence from England in 1776.
  • Inform them that the Constitution lists basic rights of citizens, outlines the rules or laws of the country, and states how the government will work.
  • Explain to students that most countries have a written constitution like ours that form the fundamental principles of the country, and that it is an important civic duty as a citizen to know the history and meaning of the Constitution.
  • Show students some images of the original documents of the Constitution (see resources).
  • Tell them that today they will learn about the meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution. Explain that preamble means an introduction to an important document, often used to explain its purpose.
  • Hand out the Vocab in History: Preamble to the Constitution worksheet to each student.
  • Read the preamble aloud, and pause to explain some of the key vocabulary words. As a class, complete the worksheet, matching the synonyms for terms in the Preamble.
(20 minutes)
  • Write each 'line' of the Preamble on a sentence strip as follows: (1) We the People of the United States, (2) in Order to form a more perfect Union, (3) establish Justice, (4) insure domestic Tranquility, (5) provide for the common defence, (6) promote the general Welfare, (7) and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, (8) do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Note: These sentence strips could be prepared ahead of time.)
  • Divide students into 8 groups and assign one sentence strip to each group. Give each group a second sentence strip.
  • Instruct students to read the 'line' assigned to them, discuss with group members what the line means, and rewrite it in student-friendly language.
  • Circulate to offer help as needed.
  • Compile the sentence strips of the student-friendly Preamble, and have a student read it aloud. Ask students what they think of this version of the Preamble and if they find it more meaningful to them.
  • Hand out The Constitution and the Informative Essay: Idea Map worksheets.
  • Read the first paragraph of the Constitution worksheet and instruct students to read it to themselves also.
  • Have students read the information about the history of the Constitution, and guide them through the questions.
  • Invite students to add to the concept map started earlier in the lesson as they gain more understanding of the Constitution.
  • Tell students to use the idea map graphic organizer to prepare to write a paragraph on the Preamble of the Constitution. (Note: If need be, begin the process with your students for an extra scaffold.)
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute lined paper to students.
  • Instruct students to write a paragraph about the purpose and meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution.
  • Remind students to use the concept map made earlier in the lesson, along with worksheets, as a reference to guide their paragraph.

Support: what to change

  • Pre Teach the challenging vocabulary in the Preamble to a small group of students who may struggle with this civics lesson.
  • Read aloud a book about the Preamble to the Constitution (see additional resources) to give them a visual interpretation of the text.

Enrichment: what to change

  • Have students work together in groups to write a preamble and constitution for their classroom (rules, rights, and how governing or 'teaching and learning' should work).
  • If time permits, ask students to type their paragraphs on the computer.
(8 minutes)
  • Hand out an index card to each student.
  • Tell them to complete a 3-2-1 activity, in which they will write: Three things they learned in today's lesson Two questions they have regarding today's topic ** One way they will apply the knowledge learned today
  • Use the index card as an exit ticket assessment to gauge their understanding of the topic.
(2 minutes)
  • Ask students to discuss what our country might be like if we did not have the Constitution.

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