Our Classroom Constitution

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1 Our Classroom Constitution Author: Jessica Kodys Milford Public Schools About this Lesson The first few weeks of school are filled with getting-to-know you activities. You introduce students to classroom rules and academic expectations. In middle school, students are introduced to multiple sets of rules and expectations in each of their academic core subjects. In this lesson, students will discuss, debate, deliberate, and compromise on their supreme law of the classroom as they help to create a Classroom Constitution. With their participation they become invested in the rules and expectations and understand their importance for the success and safety of all. Background General classroom and school rules and expectations should be introduced during the first few weeks of school. This lesson is designed to be used in observation of Constitution Day, September 17 th. If students study the Constitution during the spring as the final unit of the school year, this three day plan provides a lesson to observe the federal holiday, introduce the Constitution and relate the concept to their lives as students. For three days, my classroom will be set up as the Assembly Room in Independence Hall was during the summer of Green table cloths will be draped on the classroom tables. Books, parchment paper, candles and quills will be scattered on each table. (See attached, Sample A photograph) Grade(s) Level Elementary/Middle School Classroom Time Three 50 minute class periods culminating on Constitution Day, September 17 th. Handouts Constitution Review Sheet (to follow class discussion) Copy of created Classroom Constitution Constitution Journal Prompt Objectives Students will: discuss the Constitution and by whom and how it was created. brainstorm rules that have and have not worked in their previous classrooms. discuss each rule included in our classroom Constitution. understand why specific rules are important to their classmates and teacher.

2 Standards 5.24 Describe the basic political principles of American democracy and explain how the Constitution and the Bill of Rights reflect and preserve these principles. (C) A. individual rights and responsibilities B. equality C. the rule of law D. limited government E. representative democracy 5.25 Identify the three branches of the United States government as outlined by the Constitution, describe their functions and relationships, and identify what features of the Constitution were unique at the time (e.g., the presidency and the independent judiciary). (H, C) 5.26 Identify the rights in the Bill of Rights and explain the reasons for its inclusion in the Constitution in (H, C) Activity Day One: 1. As students enter the classroom ask them to stand near classmates with whom they shared a teacher last year. This will work especially well with students who are coming from self-contained classrooms. 2. Seat students at tables with these classmates. If there are students who are alone, with no others representing that classroom, seat them where there is space available. (5 minutes for steps 1 and 2 allow time for students to look at the artifacts on the tables, observe the changes in the classroom, and begin to imagine what the lesson will entail) 3. Write the following words on the board: rules, rights, responsibilities, non-negotiable. Brainstorm the definitions of each of these words in kid-friendly words. (5 minutes) 4. Each group of students will be given a sheet of chart paper and four markers and will be instructed to divide it into four boxes. Each box will be labeled with one of the words on the board. 5. Students will be asked to remember the classroom they came from last year. What rules, rights, responsibilities, and non-negotiable rules made the classroom successful and insured each student felt safe. Students will be given 16 minutes to brainstorm ideas on their chart paper (about 4 minutes per box, a bell will ring when students should move from one box to the next.) One student will be the writer and another student will be the reporter when it is time to share as a whole class. Students who do not have classmates to work with must work alone and be both the writer and reporter. Rules Rights Responsibilities Non-negotiable rules 6. Lecture on the connection of this activity to the Philadelphia Convention and the formation of our government. Talk about delegates who represented the states they lived in and the state constitution they had developed after the Declaration of Independence. Talk about how some states were represented with more/fewer delegates at the convention. They all came from different places with different ideas of what was the best government for a successful country you come from different experiences in fourth grade and have different opinions as to what makes a successful, safe, and fun classroom. (5 minutes)

3 7. If time allows, students will share their ideas with the class and notes will be taken by the teacher as to common responses and controversial responses. Encourage discussion as students are presenting. Model comments they could make as students are presenting. (15 minutes) 8. Explain to the class that each of the other class sections will follow the same procedure. By the end of the day, we will have added to the list of common responses. Tomorrow we will vote on these common responses and begin writing our Class Constitution. (5 minutes) Day Two: 1. Read We the Kids by David Catrow and talk about the Constitution that was created in the summer of (See attached, Sample B) Discuss the parts of the Constitution: preamble and the articles outlining the three branches of government. Discuss the process of amending the Constitution. (See attached, Sample C) (20 minutes) 2. Present the preamble for our class constitution students should have some input on the word changes to make it relevant to our purpose. (5 minutes) 3. Review the rules, rights, responsibilities and non-negotiable rules that were common to each class. Add any ideas to the list that you feel have been left out. Open the floor for discussion of each and VOTE! (remainder of class time) 4. At the end of the day tally the votes and create the written Constitution. Students will hear the full written Constitution on day three. (See attached, Sample D for version and example) Day Three: 1. Discuss achievements and challenges in creating our Class Constitution. (5 minutes) 2. Unveil the Class Constitution hand written on parchment paper with an ink pen (to imitate the look of a quill/ink created document) and a poster sized laminated version to hang on the classroom wall.) (5 minutes) 3. The signing process will allow the students the chance to write with a quill pen and ink. They will be asked to practice their signature on chart paper and then proceed to the actual document. A copy of the Constitution will be placed in their binder and also scanned onto our class website. (Steps 4,5, and 6-30 minutes) 4. After students have signed the document they will proceed to the photo-station where they will have their picture taken as a delegate of the Room 108 Convention. The pictures will be displayed near the Constitution in the classroom or hall. A responsible student or teaching assistant will be taking digital pictures at this photo-station. (See attached, Sample E photographs) 5. When students return to their desk they will write a journal entry: It is important for the United States to have a Constitution. Explain why it is important for Room 108 to have a constitution. Include in your answer at least one rule, responsibility and right from our newly created Constitution. Remember to answer in complete and detailed sentences. Remember to include a heading. Include a topic sentence, three detail and support sentences and a closing sentence. Finish for HW if necessary. Assessment Option 1. Compare and Contrast Essay/Journal Assignment: Prompt: Explain how your experience writing the Classroom Constitution compares to the founding fathers experience writing the United States Constitution (See attached, Sample F)

4 Sample A

5 Sample B We the People INSIDE COVER A long time ago some smart guys had some smart ideas. Then they wrote them down. And because of that, kids today can look forward to, and strive toward lives of unique promise and possibility. in order to form a more perfect Union David Catrow is an artist, political cartoonist, and another smart guy who wanted to help kids understand that they are a part of our country s founding ideals as expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution (even if the words are from the olden times ). to ourselves and our posterity Sure to inspire discussion around classrooms and kitchen tables, this original and fun-filled book offers a distinctive expression of America s most celebrated principles for citizens of all ages. (P.S. Posterity means all future generations in other words: kids!)

6 Sample C The Constitution of the United States of America Preamble: DIRECTIONS: Look up the crossed out words using a thesaurus and replace them with synonyms. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Branches of Government: DIRECTIONS: Fill in the boxes with the correct number of representatives in each branch. Legislative Branch makes laws for the whole nation Executive Branch carries out the laws President can stop laws passed by Congress Judicial Branch makes sure the laws are fair decides whether laws agree with the Constitution Amending the Constitution: =President s Cabinet DIRECTIONS: Read, discuss, and decide on the amendment you feel is MOST important. Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments (changes) to the Constitution. 1 st amendment: The freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. 2 nd amendment: The right to bear arms (own weapons). 3 rd amendment: Citizens do not need to house soldiers in their homes. 4 th amendment: Right to privacy. A citizen s home or person cannot be searched without a warrant. 5 th amendment: Rights of a person accused of a crime. You cannot be tried for the same crime twice. You cannot be forced to speak against yourself (self incrimination). 6 th amendment: Right to a fair trial. You have the right to a speedy trial. You have the right to a local and fair jury. You have the right to a lawyer and if you cannot afford one the court will provide you with one. 7 th amendment: You have the right to a jury in a civil case (a case where no crime has occurred) 8 th amendment: The punishment must fit the crime. You have protection from cruel and unusual punishments. 9 th amendment: Just because a right is not in the Constitution, doesn t mean you do not have it. 10 th amendment: The states have the right to make laws about things not listed in the Constitution.

7 Sample D We the Students of Room 108, come together to make our classroom better for all who enter. We promise to treat everyone fairly, to try our best to get along with our peers, and to help make school a positive experience. We write down our rules and promise to follow them in order to establish a better learning environment. Article 1:Non-Negotiable School Rules We promise to be safe, be responsible, and be respectful in school. We promise not to participate in bullying behavior and to report any bullying we see to a trusted adult. We will use only appropriate language. Article 2:Classroom 108 Rules We promise to follow the Golden Rule by treating others the way we want to be treated. In class, we promise to listen when our teacher is talking and do our work so that we do not distract those around us. Article 3:Classroom 108 Responsibilities We understand that we are expected to be a friend if we see someone who needs a friend. We are responsible for completing our homework when it is assigned. We are expected to come prepared to class with our agenda, pencils, textbook, binder, homework, and silent reading book. Article 4:Classroom 108 Rights Our Class Constitution If we are committed to following school and classroom rules and are responsible students there is a certain right that we may earn. Individuals may earn free homework passes. We understand that this right is a privilege and must be earned. Sample E

8 Sample F

9 Constitution Journal Prompt Prompt: Explain how your experience writing our classroom Constitution compares to the founding fathers experiences writing the United States Constitution.

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