Debating Hypothetical Constitutional Issues

Recommended Grade Level: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Teacher: Rupert Leeming

General Description

Lesson Goal(s):
Students will understand how the constitution is a document that is constantly being debated, and that the there are multiple interpretations of the constitution. 

Essential Question(s):
Why is the constitution an effective framework for government?

Lesson Plan:
  • Break students into groups of four or five.  Give each group a copy of the constitution.
  • Working in groups students should read the constitution and create a constitution map. This map of the constitution could be created as a digital infographic or a large poster paper.  It is important that this be a visual and not just a written summary or paraphrasing of the constitution.  Essentially group members should have to work to imagine how to design a government that would be based on the constitution.  Considering using the metaphor of a blueprint to help them “see” what they are trying to create.
  • To help ensure each group shares evenly distributed responsibility for the final work product work process each group member should have a clear role within the group.  One strategy for assigning roles would be to assign sections of the constitution to each group member and have each group member responsible for sharing out with the rest of the group.
  • Prompt groups to identify, institutions, powers, and limitations (it may be helpful to define these terms for the class).
  • After students have completed their maps in groups have groups share out and make a common map of the constitution as a class.
  • Next distribute the three hypotheticals and their supporting questions. Working individually or in pairs students should read the hypotheticals and answer the questions, including giving their opinion on the issue.
  • When students have had time to prepare their thinking for each hypothetical engage in roundtable debate on each of the hypothetical issues, giving balanced time for each issue.  Be sure to help student keep their debated oriented towards the significance of the constitution relative to the issues. 

Have students take their notes in preparation for the debate, notes & new ideas they garnered through engaging in debate with their classmates and completed a typed report on each hypothetical. For each hypothetical students should first state their opinion and then respond to each of the “questions to consider” explaining how they relate to their opinion.  Encourage students to refer to specific pieces of the constitution in crafting their work product. 

Materials and Documents

I am ready to go back and teach my students about voting and the court system! Everything was GREAT!
- Teacher, 2016
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