Principles of the U.S. Constitution

The goal of this lesson is to teach fourth graders the importance of the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution and the principles that are imbedded in the Constitution. The students will be able to identify and explain the three branches of the government and their powers, and analyze the separation of powers between the three branches. The students will also analyze the importance of the words “We the People,” in the Preamble through a written opinion piece.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
4.41
Describe the principles embedded in the Constitution, including:
4.42
Write an opinion piece with supporting detail from primary sources that defends the ratification of the Constitution.
TSS.ELA.4.RI.KID.1
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly; refer to details and examples in the text when drawing inferences...
TSS.ELA.4.RL.KID.1
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly; refer to details and examples in a text when drawing inferences from...
TSS.ELA.8.RI.KID.2
Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an...
 
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Learning objectives: 

In the course of the lesson, students will…

  • Examine the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, paying particular attention to the three words “We the People” and the importance of those three words in the ratification of the Constitution.
  • View a copy of the Preamble and identify key information from the Preamble.
  • Articulate/translate what the words in the Preamble mean.
  • Write an opinion piece on why they believe the words “We the People” were so important and why there was a need for a stronger central government when the Constitution was written in 1787.
  • Identify and analyze the three branches of government and how each branch works.
Essential and guiding questions: 
  • What is the Constitution of the United States?
  • What was the importance of the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution?
  • Explain the Preamble of the Constitution.
  • Why do you believe the three words “We the People” are an important part of the Preamble? Give your opinion based on schema and facts.

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Applying
Extension suggestions: 

Have students compare and contrast the preambles to the Tennessee Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. You can also incorporate analyzing primary sources. Below are links to the primary sources for both. Each link has the option to print off a transcript.

  • Tennessee Constitution
  • Tennessee Blue Book, pgs. 687-710

Primary Source
U.S. Constitution

  • Tennessee Blue Book, pgs. 519-534
  • Primary Source

Helpful Hints

Materials Needed:

  • Tennessee Blue Book (PDF provided)
    • pgs. 519 – 525, Preamble and the first three articles of the U.S. Constitution
  • Book: “If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution,” Author: Elizabeth Ley