"We, The People..."
Students will explain that, in the United States, it is the people who hold the power, not the government.
The learner will:
- describe the importance of "the people" in American government.
- participate in a simulated voting experience [optional]
- briefly compare/contrast some aspects of life under voting and non-voting governments.
- Facsimile of original U.S. Constitution
- Video - "The Preamble" (Schoolhouse Rock: America Rock, Walt Disney Videos)
- Clearly printed words to "The Preamble"
- A Voting Experience (handout below)
- Student copies of Sample Family Letter (Spanish version below)
- Several (clean) empty cans with lids (coffee cans or Pringle's potato chips)
- Writing and drawing materials
- Index cards
- "Sticky notes"
- Poster board
If you choose to do the voting simulation, it is advisable to send an explanatory note to parents. Use Sample Family Letter (see handout below).
Display the facsimile of the U.S. Constitution in the classroom for a day or two prior to the lesson. Answer student questions that may occur.
At the beginning of this lesson, play the video entitled, "The Preamble." Ask the students if the words are familiar. Guide them to recognize that these words are the beginning of the Constitution. Circulate copies of the words (one per student) and provide an opportunity for the students to sing along.
After the students have become quite familiar with the Preamble song, direct their attention to the first three words on their copies: "We, the People..." Engage students in a discussion to determine the meaning of this phrase.(We have the right to vote to make our own laws and choose our own leaders.)
In small cooperative groups of four to six, allow the students two or three minutes to explain (to each other) the meaning of, "We, the People."
To the entire group, pose the question, "What would life be like it we did not have these rights?" Also challenge the groups to see if they can think of other places in the world where some citizens do not have the right to vote. (Allow three to five minutes for discussion in small groups.) Refer to "Voting Rights" in the Bibliography for examples
Bring the entire group together and solicit answers. For some classes, it may be necessary for the teacher to prompt the students somewhat, in order to guide them toward recognizing places where some people do not have voting rights.
Pose the question, "What if citizens in our country did not have the right to vote?" Have students write their answers on sticky notes and draw icons to represent their words. At the close of the lesson, ask students to place their sticky notes on the poster board entitled, "What If We Were Not Allowed To Vote?" Leave this in a visible place until the next day.
Optional Day Two:
Briefly read the students' answers (on the sticky notes) aloud to the class.
In small cooperative groups of four to six students, ask each group to create a brief commercial that shows the benefits of voting. Allow five to ten minutes for groups to prepare, then let each group perform their ad for the class.
Introduce the voting simulation experience using A Voting Experience (handout below).
Closure: Following the election and purchase of the item, call the students into a community circle. (This can also be written.) Each student will be asked to finish the following sentences:
- One thing I learned from the activity was…
- One thing I liked about this activity was…
- One thing I wonder (about this) is…
For most classrooms, it is recommended that the assessment be an informal one, based upon teacher observation of participation. For some classes/curriculum requirements, it may be desirable to have a vocabulary test (election, poll, campaign, etc.) or a test of concepts. (Explain the purpose of the U.S. Constitution, Why does the Preamble begin with "We, the People," etc.)
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
Benchmark E.5 Discuss the relationship between individual freedom and government power in a democracy.
Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
Benchmark E.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.