Are We the People?
Literature and primary documents help students understand the role of the Constitution for the United States. Students overview the three branches of government described in the first three articles. 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.
The learner will:
- describe the importance of rules.
- explain the purpose of the Constitution.
- represent the three branches of government through a graphic organizer.
- identify the state senator, governor, and local representative and describe how they contribute to the common good.
- Interactive Picture of “Scene of the Signing of the Constitution” by Howard Chandler Christy
- Internet copies of the Constitution (refer to https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution)
- Kid version of the Preamble of the Constitution: We the Kids by David Cattrow or School House Rock: The Preamble
- student copies of handout below Services Provided by Local, State, and Federal Governments Anticipation Guide (also includes Spanish version)
- teacher copy of handout below Answer Key for Anticipation Guide (also includes Spanish version)
- student copies of handout below Rubric for Government Official Brochure or Newsletter (also includes Spanish version)
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.
Display a picture of “Scene of the Signing of the Constitution” by Howard Chandler Christy, and ask students to look for clues of what they think these men are doing in the picture. "What do you see? What do you notice about how they are dressed? How can you tell this is an important event?"
If they don't recognize it, tell them these men are writing the Constitution of the United States, which is the law of the United States. It defines how our government is structured and the roles of the people and institutions involved. You can click on people and learn more about them.
Talk about why we need rules for the common good. Talk about how having rules and procedures makes things better and more fair for everyone.
The Preamble to the Constitution tells about its purpose, but it is full of big words. Introduce the Constitution's purpose with a kid version of the Preamble of the Constitution: We the Kids by David Cattrow or School House Rock: The Preamble
Optional extension: Assign sentences of the Preamble to students to define and illustrate.
The strength of this document and our way of government is that it is balanced by three branches and monitored "by the people." Our country stays strong if we stay informed and don't let one branch get too much power. We have to learn the facts, listen to others, state our opinions, and discuss.
The entire Constitution is on the Internet. The language is tough for this age group, but it is impressive to see and read parts of this primary document that strongly defines how this country works
Below is a summary of each of the first three Articles. Use your own words to describe how the responsibilities of the three branches of government check and balance the power and responsibility of our leaders.
- 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.
After scanning and discussing the first three Articles, have students work in groups to design a simple creative graphic organizer to show the main role of each of the branches of government.
Optional Extension: Have students complete the handout below, Anticipation Guide, to evaluate how much they already know about services provided by local, state, and federal governments.
Extension: Local Representation and Advocacy
Ask students if they know the name of the governor of their state. Some may know their State Senator and State Representative. Tell them that they will each learn about one person and tell the others what they learned.
Display the Internet to show students where to find the state governor, state senators, and the representative for the area. Talk about who they are and show students how to read about their voting record and what they have done for the state.
Students work in groups to learn and report about these people - assign one per group. They will design a flyer to tell others about their government official. Discuss the Rubric for Government Official Brochure or Newsletter with students (handout below). When finished, students will present the project to the class.
Explain that government officials work for the common good, 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 as they serve us. Explain that persons who give of their time, talent and treasure (like politicians) and take action for others are philanthropists.
- Invite a state representative to talk to the class about their work for the common good.
- Go on a field trip to a city or state government building. Get a tour, sit in the meeting hall, and meet with representatives about an issue the students care about.
Write a paragraph summary and opinion of what it means that we are the people referenced in the Preamble to the Constitution.
Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
Benchmark E.1 Define the word <em>trust</em> and its role in all communities.
Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
Benchmark E.6 Identify and describe fundamental democratic principles.
Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.