National Constitution Day is September 17th. It can be challenging to come up with something for Constitution Day. For one thing, it kind of sneaks up on you right at the beginning of the school year when you are still getting classroom routines under way.
For another, lesson plans on the constitution tend to be (quite properly) serious lengthy things for older students, not the equivalent of making paper models of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria for Columbus Day. All educational institutions receiving federal funds are required to teach lessons on the constitution on National Constitution Day (Pub L 108-447), but that doesn’t mean that your classroom will actually be studying the constitution at that time, or that it would fit into your curriculum to do so. Accordingly, I’m going to offer you some links to brief lessons that you can jigsaw in on the 17th, and hark back to when it is appropriate.
- Here is EdHelper’s collection of Constitution Day printables,including a coloring page, word search, reading passages, reader’s theater, and more.
- Here is a collection of PDF lessons and audio files from the Center for Civic Education. These range from a story about the value of rules for kindergarteners to a critical thinking lesson for high school seniors.
- Here is a collection of PDF lessons and online stuff designed for Constitution Day.
- Here is a page with links to the text of the constitution and printable basics for K-12. This site has coloring pages, math word problems about the Electoral College, and some ideas for ways to analyze the constitution for interesting language points, among many other things.
- Here is NARA’s Constitution Day collection, including a simulation and a number of interesting activities to do with documents.
Read a book!
- We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States by David Catrow is an excellent choice, probably the best introduction to the constitution for young children. Read the book aloud along with a discussion about rules and the usefulness of having someone in charge or having agreements about behavior. This is a great time to review the classroom rules.
- Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution is as terrific as Jean Fritz’s books always are. This book is comfortable for upper elementary, and a good read-aloud for grade 3.
- Peter Spier’s We, the People is a lovely wordless book full of detail. We like to put this book in a center for free exploration by the youngest students, and to ask older kids to write text for each page.
- A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution, an ALA Notable Book, has the text of the constitution, a timeline, and an accessible history of the writing of this important document.
If you can work a thorough study of the constitution into your September lesson plans, Understanding the U.S. Constitution, Grades 5 – 8+ from Carson- Dellosa is a good one to use. It has reading passages and comprehension questions, writing assignments, and a test, thus limiting your prep time and giving your class opportunities to practice reading, writing, and test-taking skills. It’s recently updated and now includes a CD-ROM.
TCR’s U.S. Constitution Thematic Unit is another excellent choice for elementary school classrooms. Here is a sample from the book in PDF format.
If you don’t already have a copy, you might like an inexpensive chartlet with both the text and pictures of the document.
Finally, here are the words to Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill,” because that is one of the most frequent requests for Constitution Day. Dave Frishberg certainly had a hit on his hands with that one. Here is the whole script, and a link to a YouTube video of it. Here is a lesson plan to use with it.