Are We the People?

3, 4, 5

Literature and art will be used to describe how the Constitutional Convention resulted in the writing of a new Constitution for the United States. Students will use Articles I, II and III to describe how the federal government is constructed and the work of the three branches of government. Once students understand the three branches of government, they will investigate the three levels: national, state and local. Students will then use the Internet to research their state officials and will design a brochure or newsletter about a state official representing their district. Students will understand how government officials give of their time and talent for the common good and will discuss the importance of electing trustworthy officials.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFive to Six Thirty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • describe the conditions under which the Constitution was written.
  • explain the purpose of the first three articles of the Constitution.
  • represent the three branches of government through a graphic organizer.
  • exemplify diverse roles of the federal, state, and local governments.
  • identify his/her state senator, governor and local representative and describe how they contribute to the common good.
  • Picture or poster “Scene of the Signing of the Constitution” by Howard Chandler Christy (refer to
  • Image of the Constitutional Convention
  • Class copies of the Constitution (refer to Web site:
  • SHH! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz (see Bibliographical References)
  • Graphic organizer
  • Chart paper
  • Markers (three different colors)
  • student copies of Attachment One: Services Provided by Local, State, and Federal Governments Anticipation Guide (Attachment 4, Spanish version)
  • teachercopy of Attachment Two:Answer Key for Anticipation Guide (Attachment 5, Spanish version)
  • student copies of Attachment Three: Rubric for Government Official Brochure or Newsletter (Attachment 6, Spanish version)
Home Connection 

Students will visit a City Hall council meeting or attend a school board meeting with parents and share the information discussed at the meeting with the class.



  1. DAY 1: Anticipatory Set: Display a picture/poster of “Scene of the Signing of the Constitution” by Howard Chandler Christy, and ask students what they think these men are doing in the picture. Tell the students that this picture will become more meaningful as they begin this unit.

  2. Write the term Constitution of the United States on the board. Brainstorm and discuss the purposes of the Constitution. (It covers the way we organize our government and is the supreme [most important] law in the United States.) Why do we need a document such as this? How might the men in the picture have felt about trying to agree on laws for the United States of America?

  3. Read and discuss pages 7 – 13 of Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz.

  4. Close by having students write in their reading response journal: How would you have felt if you were one of the men in the picture? Why would you feel this way?

  5. DAY 2: Anticipatory Set: Dress as a member of the Constitutional Congress in a three-sided hat, ride in on a stick “horse,” or dress in clothes of the era, and read the “Preamble to the Constitution. (Found on the Web at

  6. In a whole group choral read the main parts of the first three articles of the Constitution.

  7. Using each article, generalize about what it says about each of the three branches. Discuss the responsibilities of the three branches of government.

    • Article I: Puts the power to make laws in the legislative branch and covers the rules for forming and running Congress. Congress is divided into two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Basic requirements for candidates for the House and the Senate are stated, and the duties of each house are given. The powers of Congress are also listed.
    • Article II: Gives the President the power to carry out the nation’s laws. The President’s term of office is four years, and procedures for electing the President are provided. Requirements for presidential candidates are listed. The President’s powers are enumerated, and finally, it outlines grounds for the impeachment for the President.
    • Article III: The Supreme Court is established as the interpreter of laws in case of dispute. All cases over which the judicial branch has power are listed. A definition of treason is stated along with the listing of laws for dealing with treasonable behavior against the United States.
  8. Define and discuss vocabulary terms to enhance background knowledge:

    • Constitution – the document that explains the organization and laws of our government.
    • Constitutional Convention – the meeting at which the Constitution was written and signed.
    • Branches of government – the government is divided into three parts, each with separate powers.
    • Executive branch – the branch of government that enforces or carries out the laws.
    • President – the head of the Executive branch. He leads the country, signs or vetoes laws and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
    • Legislative branch – the branch of government that is responsible for making laws.
    • Congress – the lawmaking body made up of two parts, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
    • Judicial branch – the branch of government that interprets the laws that are being disputed.
    • Supreme Court – the highest court in the country. Its decisions cannot be appealed to any other court.
    • Federal government – the national government, located in Washington, D.C., composed of three branches.
    • State governments – every one of the fifty states has a government, located in its state capital, which is also composed of three branches.
    • Local governments – these smaller forms of government, which are located in cities, towns, villages, counties, school districts, etc., are responsible for rules and services in their communities.
    • Constitutional principles – the basic ideas of the Constitution which include: the rule of law, separation of powers, representative government, checks and balances, individual rights, freedom of religion, federalism, civilian control of the military. These are also known as the core values of American constitutional democracy.
    • The rule of law – every person must follow the laws and the Constitution.
    • Separation of powers – each branch of the government has its own work to do with distinct powers.
    • Representative government – the government officials are elected to represent the interests of the people, and if that does not happen, they can be removed.
    • Checks and balances – no branch of the government is more powerful than the others; each branch can limit, in some way, the power of the other branches.
  9. Using a graphic organizer, model how to organize the three branches of government, their responsibilities, and who makes up each branch.

  10. Have students get into groups and design their own creative graphic organizer to organize information and vocabulary learned about the branches of government.

  11. As a closing assessment, on a blank wall, project the image of the Constitutional Convention for students to see and have students create a human tableau (pose as members of the Convention). While they are in their pose, become a “roving reporter” and ask them assessment questions about the purpose of the Constitution, the first three articles, and the various people and responsibilities involved in the three branches of government.

  12. DAY 3: Anticipatory Set: Review previous lessons by hanging three large pieces of chart paper around the room. On each piece of paper, write one of the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial). Students count off by threes, and each group assigns a recorder who records the discussion, with a different colored marker, of everything they know about the branch written on their sheet. They have two to three minutes. At the end of that time, the groups will rotate to the next sheet to add or correct information about that branch, using their color of marker. Finally, each group rotates to the last branch and does the same to that sheet. Each team gets one point for accurate information or corrections written in their color of marker.

  13. Discuss each sheet from the above game and make any corrections necessary.

  14. Explain that there are three levels of government: federal (covered in the above lessons), state, and local. Describe the general differences and responsibilities of state and local governments.

  15. Have students complete the “Before Lesson” section of Services Provided by Local, State, and Federal Governments Anticipation Guide (Attachment One) covering the services provided by local, state, and federal governments.

  16. Discuss each organization and discuss which government agency provides the service and why. Students will then complete the “After Lesson” section of the anticipation guide as an assessment. Use Answer Key for Anticipation Guide (Attachment Two) to evaluate student answers.

  17. DAY 4-6: Anticipatory Set: Ask students if they know the name of the governor of their state. Next ask them if they know their State Senator and State Representative. Tell them that they will be going on a technology scavenger hunt to find the answer to these questions.

  18. Ask students to describe the qualities they would like the people who represent them to have. Explain that government officials work for the common good, that is, for the betterment of all citizens. Discuss the meaning of trust and how important it is for a representative of the people to be trustworthy. Explain that persons who give of their time, talent and treasure (goods) and take action for others are philanthropists. Ask students for examples of others who give of their time, talent or treasure.

  19. Students will begin an Internet search to find the “five Ws” (who, what, when, where, why) of their state governor, state senator, and representative for the area. After recording this information, students will choose one of these people to research and design a brochure or newsletter to report about their government official. Discuss the Rubric for Government Official Brochure or Newsletter with students (Attachment Three). When finished, students will present the project to the class.


Reading Response Journal self-reflection about Constitutional Convention Human Tableau with questions about the three branches of government Anticipation Guide about three levels of government (Attachments One and Two) Writing rubric on brochure or newsletter about government official research (Attachment Three)

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define the word <em>trust</em> and its role in all communities.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.6 Identify and describe fundamental democratic principles.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.