Teaching the U.S. Constitution

With Constitution Day approaching, how do you plan on teaching your students about this historical document?

Constitution of America, We the People with American flag.

The Constitution of the United States is the Supreme Law of the Land. Depending on the grade level you are teaching, your students’ background knowledge on this topic might be very limited. So how do you present this information to your students?

Some basic facts to share with your students that I find are helpful include:

  • There are three parts of the Constitution: Preamble, Articles, and Amendments.
  • The Preamble is a statement that explains the purpose of the Constitution.
  • The Articles explain the three branches of government.
  • The Amendments make changes to the Constitution and include the Bill of Rights which provide freedoms and rights to the citizens.

I recommend showing your students where they can locate America’s Founding Documents which include the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence. Intermediate students can explore these documents on the National Archives website.

I usually begin my lessons with a read aloud. For learning about the history of the Constitution, I usually read A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution, written by Betsy Maestro. This book explains how the Constitution was created. It is a wonderful resource to provide background information about the Constitution to your students. If interested in learning more about it, click on the book.

Now it’s time for the students to practice their comprehension skills and read about the Constitution. I use the text evidence activity below to help students develop a better understanding of the U.S. Constitution. The first read consists of a read aloud by the teacher. After the first read, we review any key words that need further explanation. During the second read, students read the information independently to check for clarity and understanding. Last, the students use text evidence to find and locate information.  Students enjoy color coding the text evidence because it makes it easier for the information to be found and helps them review the important concepts.

Using text evidence while learning about the Constitution activity

Once the close read is finished, I introduce the Preamble. This statement can be overwhelming and difficult for children to understand. I find the best way for students to have a better understanding is to break the Preamble apart. We discuss the different parts and include our own illustrations to help us create meaning for these words.

Illustrating the Preamble activity
Illustrating the Preamble activity

A great book to read to your students while teaching them about the Preamble is We the Kids illustrated and foreword by David Catrow. Students will enjoy the wacky and fun pictures that make understanding the Preamble a little bit easier. Click on the book below to find out more about it.

When discussing the branches of government, I love to use graphic organizers for the students to easily display the new knowledge that they have learned.  This simple organizer easily lets students record information about all of the three branches.

Branches of Government graphic organizer

While teaching the students about the amendments, I mostly discuss the first ten, the Bill of Rights. Similar to the Preamble, I break them apart and have students write about the amendments in kid friendly language as well as illustrate a picture. This enables students to take ownership of their learning in a fun and engaging way.

Bill of Rights illustration activity for kids

I also like to provide opportunities for critical thinking with some open ended questions.  I enjoy seeing the students different responses to these questions:

Why do you think the Constitution has lasted over 200 years?

Explain which amendment from the Bill of Rights do you think is the most important.

What amendment would you add to the Constitution?

Writing about the Constitution activity for kids

If you are looking for the resources described above, click HERE

Click here for Constitution Activities and Graphic Organizers

I would love to hear how you celebrate Constitution Day and how you teach about this very important historical document. Please share your ideas below.