Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
A More Perfect Union

Constitutional Questions

Objective: Students ask and answer questions about the Constitution of the United States.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
2-3 class periods

Building Background:
The Constitution of the United States was written to last. In Chief Justice John Marshall's words, it was "meant to endure for ages to come, and to meet the various crises of human affairs" (McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819). Its original articles lay out the basic principles of the United States government: the form and structure of the government; the separation of powers and the built-in checks and balances among the three branches; and the federal system, that is, the division of power between the states and the federal government. The Bill of Rights and other amendments address the safeguarding of personal rights.

What To Do:

1. Distribute copies of the Constitution and the Constitution Question Generator worksheet. Tell students that the Constitution is a complicated document, written in formal language. But it can made easier to understand by breaking down the content into the most important topics, then asking and answering questions about those topics.

2. Have students form small groups to study the Constitution and generate a list of the topics that are covered by this document. Students' suggestions may include the following topics:

3.Tell students to choose the five topics that they consider the most important for U.S. citizens to know. For each topic, have students list several important terms, and then write a question for each term. Use the topic, terms, and questions below as an example.

Topic Terms to Understand Specific Questions
the three branches of the federal government a) legislative
b) executive
c) judical
a) What is the responsibility of the legislative branch?
b) What is the responsibility of the executive branch?
c) What is the responsibility of the judicial branch?

4. When groups complete their worksheets, have them exchange with another group and answer that group's questions.

The Constitution of the United States
http://earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/freedom/constitution/index.html
This site offers an exact-size reproduction of the first public printing of the Constitution as it appeared in the September 19, 1787, issue of the Pennsylvania Packet. You can also find the text of the Constitution.
Ben Franklin: Glimpses of the Man
http://sln.fi.edu/franklin/rotten.html
Learn more about an important leader of the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin, with primary sources, images, a timeline, a glossary, and more at this site.
National Archives and Records Administration: The Constitution of the United States
http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/charters_downloads.html
Read the text of the Constitution, find biographies of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and uncover fun facts about the Constitution at this site.

Wrap-Up

Bring the groups together and create an outline of the seven articles of the Constitution. Include the basic topic of each article and some of the key points under each article.

Extension:


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