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The Constitution

145 min

Guiding Questions

  • How does the Constitution create a government with limited and specific authority that is strong enough to protect liberty and justice?


  • Students will analyze the principles of the Preamble.
  • Students will understand the basic structure and purpose of each article of the Constitution.
  • Students will locate examples of the basic principles in the Constitution.

  • Inalienable rights
  • Virtue
  • John Adams
  • Federalism
  • Separation of powers
  • Confederation

Provide 7 sheets of poster paper to be hung on the classroom walls and markers in 7 different colors (poster-sized sticky sheets recommended). On each sheet, write one of the phrases from the Preamble as shown on Preamble Posters. At each poster station, provide a roll of tape. Underneath this title, make 3 columns and label them

  • In your own words
  • Example
  • Non-example

Provide scissors and tape for Constitution Cube activity.

Write these principles of government on the board, where they will be visible throughout the lesson. Encourage students to share what they think each term means, and then provide correction as needed.

  • Separation of Powers/Checks and Balances
  • Representative Government
  • Limited Government
  • Consent of the Governed
  • Inalienable Rights
  • Federalism

Activity 1: Preamble Posters (40 minutes)

Before class, prepare and post the 7 preamble posters.

Divide the class into seven groups and give each group one of the markers. Have groups move from poster to poster, spending about 3 minutes at each. At each poster station, students write

  • The meaning of the phrase in your own words
  • An example of the idea in action in America today
  • A non-example (the opposite) of the idea

Demonstrate the procedure at one of the posters: Groups will start writing at the bottom of the paper, and then fold the poster to the back and tape up the paper so that the next groups cannot see what others have written. Set a timer for 3 minutes at each station. After giving students time to visit all seven posters, have groups remain at the last poster for discussion and sharing.

Ask students to share similarities and differences that they note in the various groups’ responses. Then invite a few students to share which purpose of government they think is most important.

Discuss the following question as a large group: If the Preamble is the promise of what good government should be, how did the Framers of the Constitution make that promise a reality?

Activity 2: The Constitution Activity: A Second Study (60 minutes)

Give students a copy of Handout A: The United States Constitution. Ideally, students will read the entire document and then break up into seven groups. Or, if you prefer, divide the class into 7 Study Groups and assign the readings in this manner:

  • Article I, Section A
  • Article I, Section B
  • Article I, Section C
  • Article II
  • Article III
  • Articles IV and V
  • Articles VI and VII

Have each group fill in Handout B: A Second Study for their assigned Article(s)/Section. After the groups have completed their sections, regroup the class into Sharing Groups so that each new group includes one student from each of the study groups, jigsaw style. Each student should share information so that everyone will complete the entire Handout B: A Second Study.

Activity 3: Constitution Cube (20 minutes)

After students are familiar with the principles, break them into groups of 4-6. They will cut out and tape the cube from Handout C: Constitution Cube. They will then role the die, and locate an example of that principle in the Constitution.

After 10-15 minutes of play, bring the class back together and ask for examples in the Constitution of each of the principles on the cube.

Write a “twitter chat” of 350 characters explaining either the importance of the US Constitution, or one of the constitutional principles listed on the board.

Student Handouts

Next Lesson

Equal and Inalienable Rights

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