Roots of Our Rights

6, 7, 8

We examine the authority to act, whether the authority comes from self or government. This lesson looks at our rights and responsibilities in the founding documents of our country. We discuss the purposes of the Constitution, Preamble to the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

PrintOne Fifty-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • explain the purpose and parts of the Constitution.
  • identify and describe fundamental democratic principles.
  • three signs posted around the room labeled, "You," "State Government," and "Federal Government" 
  • access to an audio or video recording of the Preamble to the Constitution, such as "Schoolhouse Rock! The Preamble to the Constitution"
  • Printed copies of the Founding Documents Analogy document (see handouts below)
  • Access to the video “Analogies by Shmoop

 Center for Civic Education home page:


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask, "Who makes the decision about what you wear to school?" Young people will probably say they make that decision. Ask who else has a say or enforces rules about it? The school may have some rules about dress code that it enforces, and families have a say on what they are comfortable with and what they can afford.

  2. Write the words You, Families, and Leaders on a chart or board.

    Discuss example decisions that are made by each group. For example, you may decisions about time, exercise, and homework; families make decisions about spending, curfew, and chores; leaders make decisions to maintain safety and equity.

  3. Relate this discussion to the government of the United States. Post the signs "You," "State Government," and "Federal Government" around the room. As you name actions in the list below, the learners stand by the sign to indicate who has the authority to make the decisions. Discuss after each. Examples: 

    follow the faith of your choice; create public schools; choose your own beliefs; decide where to live; create post officesset speed and traffic laws; maintain parks, roads, police and fire services; control pricing; collect taxesdeclare war; protect people against housing and job discrimination

  4. Play the video, “Schoolhouse Rock! The Preamble to the Constitution.” Ask learners to listen for who has the agency to decide the things previously discussed. The answer is “We the People.”

  5. Notes for discussion:

    • Explain that in both their personal lives and in the government, the authority to govern belongs to the people.
    • "We the people . . ." is the significant phrase in the Preamble to the Constitution to make it clear, from the beginning, that authority and rights belong to the people. 
    • The Framers developed the Constitution to create a government that would protect the rights and welfare of the people. The Constitution is the set of procedures to make sure it is fair. 
    • The concern that the state and federal governments may have too much power led them to add the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments to the Constitution) to prevent these groups from unfair actions against the people which may limit or infringe upon the welfare of citizens.
  6. Founding Document Analogy

    Distribute the Founding Documents Analogy document. Discuss the definition of “analogy,” and if more explanation is required, share the video “Analogies by Shmoop” (see the link above).

    Allow learners time to complete the analogy writing and illustrating activity, and then share their work with the group.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify individual sovereignty as a basic concept in government.