On Friday we had 17 classes participate in a Constitution Day program. It was a smashing success and super busy, so I didn’t get to blog it last week. Here’s a bit of information about what we did.
First Some History
We’ve tried a few things with Constitution Day.
- In 2007 we did a program with our veterans and a local lawyer. It was good but not interactive enough.
- In 2008 we did a pilot of the now TWICE We the Kids program. But it was too soon in the school year for that much prep.
This Year’s Inspiration
This year, I have a graduate student intern from Andrews University who aims to teach history and social studies. He really wanted to facilitate a VC, so I thought we could try again. We aimed to:
- Meet the 4th/5th grade Michigan curriculum on the Constitution; using a lesson idea from the Michigan Citizenship Curriculum.
- Have no prep: the prep would be built into the program. (Since Constitution Day came only 9 days after school started.)
- Include a collaboration idea: students presenting to students. The prep for that part was DURING the program.
It Was a Hit!
We were going to just do 4 sessions with 3 classes each (12), facilitated by my intern. But we had so much demand that I facilitated three sessions with 2-3 classes also.
- We started with each class sharing a classroom rule and a fact about the constitution.
- We had a 10 minute overview of the Constitution, the branches of Government, and the Bill of Rights.
- We played a great little YouTube video rap about the Bill of Rights and students listened for all 10 to check off on their handout.
- Then students worked in groups for 10-12 minutes to generate 3 amendments to their classroom rules that were inspired by the Bill of Rights.
- Then we spent the remaining time rotating through the classes as they shared their amendments.
Kids made great connections between the Bill of Rights and their classroom. Some were humorous and entertaining! For example:
- We should have access to Twitter and Facebook (Freedom of Speech).
- We should be able to whisper quietly to one another if it doesn’t disturb anyone else (Right to Assemble).
- We should be able to bring squirt guns to school (Right to Bear Arms).
- We should be able to have our cell phones on (Freedom of Speech).
- If someone hits me, I should be able to hit them back (Right to Bear Arms).
Of course, some of their ideas started a discussion of balancing my rights and the rights of others!
We also reminded students that their classroom is not a democracy, and so their teacher would be the judge and decide which (if any) of the amendments would stand.
Comments from Teachers
- [Students] were able to think of how they would like to change the rules of their classroom and see how those people who helped to create the Bill of Rights had to think. They enjoyed having “a say” in how they would change our classroom.
- Since we haven’t covered the Constitution yet, our students went from having little or no understanding of the Bill of Rights to having a grasp on what it is and its purpose. I hope this will help them to have a foundation to build from when we actually study it.
- Participating in the Constitution Day fulfilled the federal requirement. We had built prior knowledge in the morning on the Promethean Board which facilitated understanding of the Bill of Rights. Your activity gave the students an opportunity to put that knowledge into action in a meaningful, realistic way.
Since I won’t have this intern next year, and we had such a great demand for it, I would like to figure out how to do it without the facilitator. This way it could scale more easily. Adaptations I’m considering include:
- The teachers could team-teach the overview at the beginning. I heard some great teaching going on as the classes connected before it started.
- Do the prep ahead of time; and share the Bill of Rights activity only during the VC.
What do you think? How did you celebrate Constitution Day? Can you think of another way to do a low prep classroom-to-classroom collaboration?
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