Civic Literacy Curriculum
Question 3: What does the Constitution do?
What does the Constitution do?
A. sets up the government
B. defines the parts and powers of the government
C. protects basic rights of Americans
D. All of the above
Writing the Constitution was not an easy task. The Founding Fathers knew that the document they would create would shape the future of the nation. They needed to find the right balance between a federal government strong enough for the needs of a growing nation but that also protected decentralized local governance and individual rights. In setting up and defining the powers of the federal government, they created a balance of power by outlining three branches rather than just one. This prevented any one branch from taking control of the other two.
Another concern was ensuring that the new government would stand the test of time. The document they wrote could not be so inflexible that it would crumble within a few generations. The Founding Fathers recognized that times would change and that the needs of the new nation would change as well. To address this, they added the ability to amend the Constitution. The framers knew, however that amending the Constitution was essential but should not be too easy, and they thus designed a process that both Congress and the states would have to agree to. Thus, to pass an amendment, two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states would have to approve it, ensuring the Constitution could be changed—but not by narrow or temporary majorities.
- Divide students into groups of 3-4, mixing support, core, and enrichment students.
- Print a copy of the sample brochure for each group.
- For your references, you may want to print out a template as well.
- Print a copy of the Constitution Resource Guide for each student.
- Provide each group with paper to create the brochure (an 8x10 piece of plain white paper).
- If this is a graded activity, provide each group with a copy of the rubric.
The Teaching Materials for this exercise include a (completed) sample brochure and rubric.
- Divide the class into groups of 3-4 based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Each group should have at least one student from Group A, one from Group B, and one from Group C.
- Provide each group with the appropriate handout and a copy of the sample brochure to use as a guide.
- Demonstrate how to fold the brochure.
- Explain how the brochure will look, holding up the sample for the students to see:
- The front cover needs a title and an illustration.
- The inside will include a definition/explanation of the Constitution.
- The back will list three benefits to the Constitution.
- The three inside panels will explain the purpose of the Constitution and include at least one illustration.
- Once finished explaining, pass the brochure around for the students to look at.
- Instruct students to work together to create their team’s brochure.
- Students should divide the work between them. If grouped based on level, Group A students may want to focus on the facts, such as explaining what the Constitution is. Group B students can focus on explaining what the Constitution does. Group C students can focus on the benefits of the Constitution. This is only a suggestion.
- The students should discuss the content that they need to provide and create a rough draft prior to creating the final product. (You may wish to check the drafts prior to the teams starting the final copy.)
Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting. The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question. The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events, and historical events.
The Constitution created the government that we have today, a government in which power is divided between the states and federal government and between different parts of the federal government. This was so no institution could dominate the other or the nation’s citizens. The framers were determined to craft a republic that would stand the test of time. To ensure this, they not only created three equal branches that would balance each other, they also provided guidelines to amend the Constitution as needed. This is generally seen as beneficial, but it can sometimes frustrate the efforts of one branch to pass legislation or change laws.
How did the Founding Fathers ensure that the people’s rights were protected and that the new government would not become another monarchy? Explain your answer.
How does the existence of three branches limit the government and protect the rights of the people? What would happen if one branch tried to make all of the decisions? Provide real-world scenarios that show the check-and-balance system in action.