Overview: Many teachers begin their study of the Preamble by having their students memorize all of the words contained therein. I have developed strategies that when practiced over time will add to the preliminary knowledge gained through memorization, and which will ultimately make this portion of the Constitution more meaningful.
- The students will learn the meaning of the words within the Preamble to the Constitution in order to give them a better understanding of its content.
- The students will learn the Preamble in order to better understand the meaning of the Constitution.
- The students will write a Found Poem to represent what they have learned from this lesson.
Time Needed: two or three 60-minute class sessions.
Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:
- Idea Development (writing with a clear, central idea or theme in mind; putting researched ideas into one's own words)
- Voice (conveying passion towards the message of the writing or the topic; thinking about and making decisions to acknowledge the intended
Setting the Stage:
The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States introduces the document authored by our Founding Fathers, and lays out its purposes for our constitution. We believe that it is important for students to understand the words contained in the Preamble. We further believe that it is through this literal understanding that students acquire a refined sense of the meaning of the Constitution and the commitment, struggles, and beliefs of those who first breathed life into our nation.
- (Activate Prior Knowledge) Give each student a half sheet of paper. Ask the students to answer this question: What is the Preamble to the Constitution?
- The class will share their thoughts aloud. The teacher will write student ideas on the board.
- The teacher will tell the students that the Preamble is an introduction to the Constitution. Using primary source documents, the teacher will provide each student with a copy of the Preamble and information about the Constitution.
- The teacher will write the preamble out on chart paper and ask the students to read it to themselves.
- The teacher will ask the students to write down any unknown words.
- The teacher will go over the following vocabulary words to help give the students a better understanding for the content: Union, Posterity, Justice, Ordain, Tranquility, Establish, Defense, Constitution, Liberty, Promote
- The teacher will then ask the students what the preamble means to them after reading it and write new thoughts on the board.
- Share the book We the Kids by David Catrow. This is a book illustrating the preamble. It allows children to make meaning of the text through the illustrations. The teacher will ask students what the words mean. The illustrations should help them give the words a new meaning.
- The teacher will re-read the book to the students with the instructions, "We will now read the story. See if you can find a connection to the text illustrations with the words of the Preamble."
- The teacher will have the students pair up into groups of 2-4. Each group will be assigned one portion of the preamble. (These can be found in the We the Kids book)
- The students will be asked to create a poster to illustrate the meaning of their portion.
- These posters will be hung up in order in the classroom. These posters will be recited daily. The illustration will allow students to understand the meaning of the words.
- The students should now have a new understanding for the Preamble and the purpose of the Constitution.
- Finally, have the students write a "Found Poem." To do this, the students will copy the words that they find most meaningful from the preamble onto a piece of paper, then arrange their best words into a rough draft that can go below the following sample.The students must space or arrange the words so that they take the shape of a poem. Students must pay attention to line breaks, layout, and other elements that will emphasize important words or significant ideas in the poem. The students will:
- Read aloud as they arrange the words! Test the possible line breaks by pausing slightly. If it sounds good, it’s probably right.
- Arrange the words so that they make a rhythm they like. They can space words out so that they are all alone or all run together.
- They can also put key words on lines by themselves.
- They can shape the entire poem so that it’s wide or tall or shaped like an object.
- The words can be typed, enlarged, and glued onto construction paper for display.