U.S. Government, Civics, U.S. History
The general purpose of this unit is to teach students the amendments to the Constitution through the use of CongressLink, Internet resources, and creative activities. In this unit students will gain a sense of their rights as United States citizens, as well as the reality that many rights are limited and controversial.
Divide students into pairs and have students access the United States Constitution using the CongressLink website in order to complete an amendment scavenger hunt. Be sure that your scavenger hunt includes all the major provisions in each amendment as well as uses the glossary and historical notes on the site. After the students have finished the scavenger hunt, give credit to those students who answered the questions correctly then review the scavenger hunt worksheet in its entirety. While reviewing the amendments that have just been researched it would be a good time to introduce current controversial issues that have arisen with numerous amendments. (For example: Death Penalty/8th amendment; Firearms/2nd amendment; etc.)
Begin this day with a quick review of the amendments. Pass out a copy of the amendment song entitled “The 27 Amendments.” The song is located at the end of this lesson. Depending upon class size, assign each student an amendment. The song provided should be sung to the tune of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” The first student begins by singing the part not in parentheses. The second student sings the part not in parentheses. Then, the first person sings the part in parentheses. The third student sings the part not in parentheses followed by the second and first student singing their parts in parentheses. This pattern should be followed all the way through the 27 amendments.
Have each student choose an amendment in order to create a political cartoon. This illustration should exemplify what the amendment is about, as well as integrate current issues involved with the amendment. After the students have completed their cartoon, allow time to share with the class or to hang them on the wall. If time allows in class or for homework, pass out the situational exercise worksheet. The worksheet is located at the end of this lesson. This worksheet provides situations that occurred in colonial America at the hands of the British. Each student should decide which future amendment would apply to each situation. This activity should provide a realization that the amendments were needed by the citizens in order to assure that rights would never be taken away again.
Students should be provided access to the Internet in order to access CongressLink and other related websites (CNN, MSNBC), as well as magazines and newspapers. Advise students that many of the amendments are very controversial. Place students in groups of two or three to research one controversial amendment and find articles that relate to the amendment. For example, the 8th amendment has been used in arguments against the death penalty. Students should find articles dealing with death penalty and create a bulletin board showing the pros and cons of the death penalty through the use of articles from the internet, as well as explain the 8th amendment. Then have students present their issue to the class.
Using the same amendment that was chosen for the bulletin board, have each group assume that they represent an organization promoting a particular issue related to their amendment. For example, the students could represent an anti-death penalty organization or a pro-death penalty organization. Have each group create a pamphlet promoting the organization. The pamphlet should contain reasons why one should support the group. The pamphlets should make references to the appropriate amendments. (Some states require portfolios for graduation requirements. Pamphlets are excellent portfolio pieces. In such a case each group should type their pamphlet.)
From research conducted previously on the Internet using CongressLink and other sources students should have found examples of rights or limitations of rights in other countries. Have students share incidents in other countries where rights have been denied. As a final evaluation, have students write an editorial or essay explaining to what extent do Americans use their Constitutional rights. Have students decide which amendments should be eliminated and why? Also, what amendment, if any, should be added?
CRITICAL THINKING EXERCISE: IDENTIFYING VIOLATIONS OF RIGHTS
Each of the following situations is based on the experiences of colonists in America. Each contains at least one British violation of a right that Americans thought they should have. If you had been an American colonist of the time, what rights would you claim on the basis of such experiences?
1. Your name is William Bradford. You have been arrested and your press in Philadelphia destroyed for printing an article criticizing the deputy governor. In the article you said the governor was like "a large cocker spaniel about five foot five."
2. Your name is Mary Strong. You have lived in Charlestown most of your life and have strong opinions about how Massachusetts is being governed. Whenever you speak your mind too freely, you find yourself arrested and put in an iron device that fits over your head like a mask to prevent you from talking.
3. Your name is Elsbeth Merrill. While baking bread this afternoon and awaiting the return of your husband, an agent of the king arrived to inform you that four British soldiers will be quartered in your home.
4. Your name is Lemuel Adams and you have a warehouse full of goods near Boston harbor. the king's magistrate gives British officials a writ of assistance that enables them to search all the homes, stores, and warehouse by the harbor to look for evidence of smuggling.
5. Your name is James Otis. You represent colonists who have been imprisoned and are being denied their right to trial by a jury of people from their own communities. You argue that to deny a person his traditional rights as an Englishman is illegal because it violates the principles of the British constitution. The royal magistrate denies your request and sends the prisoners to England for a trial.
Amy Anderson and Jennifer Mantlo
Warren East High School
6867 Louisville Rd.
Bowling Green, KY 42101