Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
From Sea to Shining Sea

Understanding Primary Sources:
Know Your Rights!

Objective: Students read and analyze the Bill of Rights to gain a better understanding of their basic rights and freedoms as American citizens. Students then choose one of the ten amendments and write a letter to a friend explaining what his or her rights are.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
3 hours over a period of 1 or 2 days

Building Background:
Have students look at the image of the U.S. Constitution on page 217 of their textbook. Remind them that the Constitution is over 200 years old, and that it is still the highest law of the land. Ask students to tell what they learned about the Constitution in the unit. Students should be able to explain that the Constitution describes how the nation should be governed, and also specifies the basic rights and freedoms of all people living in the United States. Explain to students that these basic rights and freedoms are described in first ten amendments to the Constitution, which are known as the Bill of Rights. Tell them they will read the Bill of Rights to learn about their basic rights and freedoms.

What To Do:

1. Pass out copies of the Know Your Rights! worksheet to the students. Have them read Part 1 of the worksheet, an introductory paragraph about the Bill of Rights.

2. Have students locate a copy of the Bill of Rights. Be sure that students make a copy of the document. If you have Internet access, students can search the following sites and print out a copy of the document.

The Bill of Rights
(http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/bill_of_rights.html)
This site from the National Archives and Records Administration offers a brief description of debates on the adoption of the Constitution that resulted in the creation of the Bill of Rights. It also contains an image of the original Bill of Rights and a transcription of the document.

The Bill of Rights
(http://www.rain.org/~karpeles/bilfrm.html)
This useful site provides an image of the original Bill of Rights and includes explanations of the various rights and freedoms protected by each amendment. It also provides information on the drafting of the document.

3. As a class, read aloud each of the ten amendments. Help students decipher difficult words and concepts. As they read each amendment have students tell what they understand the amendment to mean and the ways in which it protects people living in the United States.

4. After the class discussion ask students to complete Part 2 of the Know Your Rights! worksheet. When they are done with the section, make sure to check that their answers are correct.

5. Ask students to complete Part 3 of the Know Your Rights! worksheet. Have them choose one amendment and write a letter to a friend that explains the rights or freedoms protected in that amendment. Help students structure and format their letters.

6. When students have completed the letter, have them mail or hand deliver it to the person of their choice.

Wrap-Up:
Have students discuss the amendments they chose. Ask volunteers to describe the basic rights and freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.

Extensions:


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