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Government Lesson Plan

Picking and Choosing Rights from the Constitution


The following lesson teaches students about how each of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution is important and works with the others to protect us everyday. This lesson can be successfully used at all levels grades 6-12.

1. Write the following rights and freedoms on the board. Go over each with the class to make sure they understand them.

  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom of Assembly
  • Freedom of the Press
  • Right to Bear Arms
  • No Quartering of Troops
  • No Unlawful Search and Seizure
  • Right to Trial by Jury
  • Right to an Attorney
  • No Cruel and Unusual Punishment

2. Working independently, have students rank the rights from step number one in order from most important to least important.

3. Place students into groups of 4-5.

4. Have the groups decide on their top five rights.

5. Read the following to the entire class:

The United States has been invaded and is now under the control of a tyrant. He has issued a proclamation that the people of the United States are going to have to give up some of their rights. He has randomly chosen what he considers to be a cross-section of the population to make the choice for the rest of the United States. You are the chosen people. You have been given the task of keeping only five of the ten listed rights. The other five will be taken away from everyone. However, you must all be in agreement. If you do not unanimously agree on which of the rights to keep, all ten will be taken away. You have 15 minutes to make your decision. Good luck!

6. Give the students 2-3 minutes to truly understand what is required of them according to the announcement. In order for them to be successful, a leader must arise from the group. Sometimes a natural leader takes over, comes up to the blackboard and leads the discussion. However, if no one is taking the initiative then you can choose someone to be the leader. You can either do it out loud for all to hear, or you can pull a student aside and charge them with the task. If you are working with a less advanced group of students, you can be the facilitator. However, in all of the scenarios be careful not to express your opinions.

7. After 15 minutes, ask the group for their five rights. Many times one or two students will hold out and cause all of the rights to be taken away. That actually gives you more to discuss in the debriefing.

8. Debrief: Go over all of the rights that were rejected pointing out what the students have given up. Make sure to fully explain the implications of those they rejected quickly. The students will come to the realization after just a few moments that they need all of the rights listed in order to be fully protected.

9. Further points of discussion:

  • Importance of Compromise
  • Importance of Leadership
  • Peer Pressure
  • Possible Reactions if this Actually Occurred (coercion, etc.)
I hope that you find this lesson useful. I have used it every year and found it to be a great way to begin the year.
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