Lesson plan

Constitution Carousel

In this civics lesson, your students will examine artwork and participate in a carousel activity as they discuss the Constitution of the United States.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

Which set of standards are you looking for?

  • Students will be able to participate in small group and whole class discussions to gain an understanding about the Constitution of the United States.
(10 minutes)
  • Use "Visual Thinking Strategies" to examine a painting that depicts the signing of the Constitution (see related media).
  • Show the image on a large screen and give students a few minutes to look at it quietly. (Note: do not tell students the name of the painting or give them context prior to this activity.)
  • Then ask:
    • What is going on here?
    • What do you see that makes you say that?
    • What else do you notice?
  • Give students the chance to share any observations they have in response to each question. Prompt students with the three questions, but do not validate any observations as correct or incorrect (i.e., a lot of men are listening to a speech, I see that everyone is facing a guy who is standing on a stage, I notice that there is someone else on the stage who looks like he's writing something).
  • After your students have had time to observe and discuss the painting, tell students that this painting is "Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States" by Howard Chandler Christy.
  • Explain to students that today they will be learning about the Constitution of the United States.
(10 minutes)
  • Show a short video giving some background about the Constitution, like the History Channel's "Constitution" (see related media).
  • Provide some additional facts about the Constitution:
    • In May 1787, the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia to discuss changes to the Articles of Confederation.
    • Only white men who were landowners were permitted to participate and the entire convention was held in secret, without any press allowed inside the building.
    • There were 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention, who represented every state, except Rhode Island. These delegates, also called the "framers of the Constitution," included James Madison, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.
    • George Washington was unanimously elected as the convention's president.
    • They decided to write a new document called the Constitution that would make the federal government stronger and more effective.
    • The new Constitution was organized into seven articles which outlined a plan for a stronger federal government with three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.
    • In order for the Constitution to formally go into effect, 9 out of the 13 states needed to ratify it (agree to it).
    • The Constitution was signed in September 1787 and ratified in 1789.
(10 minutes)
  • Engage your students in a carousel activity.
  • First, hang up five pieces of chart paper around the room with a numbered question written on each. (Note: these can be prepared ahead of time.)
    • 1) Who was involved in developing the Constitution?
    • 2) Who was left out of the discussion when the Constitution was developed?
    • 3) What was the purpose of the Constitution?
    • 4) Why is the Constitution important?
    • 5) What else should people know about the Constitution?
  • Count off to divide students into five groups, and tell them to stand by the chart paper with their group's number.
  • Hand out one marker to each group, ensuring that each group has a different color so that you can tell which response belongs to each group.
  • Give students two minutes at their chart paper to discuss the question and write a response as a group.
  • Ring a chime or bell to signal that it's time for each group to move to the next question. Be sure to tell students which direction they should move.
  • Continue the activity until each group has responded to all five questions.
  • After students have returned to their seats, read through the responses aloud with the class.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out the Constitution worksheet to each student.
  • Review the text in the scroll at the top of the page and explain that this is the preamble of the Constitution. The preamble was written as an introduction in order to explain the reasons why the framers wrote the Constitution.
  • Instruct students to read the remaining text and answer the questions and opinion writing prompt that follow.


  • Follow up this civics lesson with an introduction to the BIll of Rights.


  • Read a book that introduces the preamble of the constitution, like We the Kids by David Catrow.
  • Provide sentence frames to support students during the independent writing task.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the same image that students discussed at the beginning of the lesson.
  • Invite students to examine the painting again.
  • Ask the same questions to guide student conversation:
    • What is going on here?
    • What do you see that makes you say that?
    • What else do you notice?
  • Gauge students' growth in understanding based on their responses to the image.
(5 minutes)
  • Play a song about the Constitution, like "We the People" (see related media).

Add to collection

Create new collection

Create new collection

New Collection


New Collection>

0 items