The United States Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, an event that is commemorated each year as Constitution and Citizenship Day. Americans are reminded of the opportunities provided to them as citizens, and the responsibilities of citizens participating in a democracy. This is a terrific opportunity to discuss civics and citizenship with students, while recognizing the living document that governs the nation. Here are some ways to commemorate this day with your class.
1. Scholastic provides numerous lesson plans surrounding Constitution and Citizenship, including asking students to analyze the impact of civic involvement. Students are also asked to critically view the Constitution, an essential skill for success.
2. iCivics uses role playing and real life scenarios to teach students about their responsibilities in government, while analyzing the role of the citizenry in maintaining democracy. Founded and led by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the free resources provided by iCivics include lesson plans, printables, and digital interactives.
3. Patriotic songs are a great way to introduce students to the tenets of democracy and citizenship. Use Help Teaching’s Character Traits graphic organizer after reading lyrics and/or listening to songs about America to chronicle the roles of a citizen in America.
4. Start with Help Teaching’s KWL chart, and then use Constitution Facts for a Treasure Hunt of the history and details behind the Constitution. Encourage students to find out more about the living document to fill in the pieces of information they would like to find out.
Middle/High School Students:
5. Quiz students on major American historical documents using Help Teaching’s pre-made worksheets, including Creating the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. This enables them to review the history behind the creation of these seminal American documents.
6. Utilize the National Archives’ interactive Docs Teach, which provides various activities that allow student collaboration and creativity, all surrounding the Constitution. Each activity can be printed for desk work or completed online with terrific graphics and methods for student understanding. Docs Teach also allows teachers to create their own interactive work to better meet the varied needs of their students.
7. The Bill of Rights Institute provides lessons, resources, and videos for use in the classroom. One activity asks students to interpret which Founding Fathers were proponents for ratification of the Constitution and which were critics. Use Help Teaching’s Fact or Opinion organizer to group their responses and thoughts.
8. The National Constitution Center has an interactive Constitution that allows students to choose the section of the Constitution they’d like to view. Breaking down the document into smaller chunks makes it easier for students to comprehend each section, and allows for the teacher to use various strategies for analysis. Teachers may choose to participate in a Think, Pair, Share with the different sections, chunking the information even more. The National Constitution Center also provides a series of videos that explain the different branches of government and their role in supporting the Constitution.
9. Constitution Day isn’t just for history class. Use Help Teaching activities on the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence to reinforce important skills of vocabulary, context clues, and rhetoric. Cross curricular activities like these not only inform about facts and history, but can be a friend to the ELA teacher, as well.
For all students:
10. Constitution Facts is sponsoring a poster contest open to all K – 12. Previous winners are posted for inspiration. Good luck!
Constitution and Citizenship Day is a reminder of what makes America great. It also gives teachers the ability to use primary source documents to reinforce common core skills and activities. For more creative, patriotic activities check out Creative Ways to Teach about US Presidents.