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Social Studies
Grade: Middle

#1243. Developing a Class Constitution

Social Studies, level: Middle
Posted Tue Aug 10 17:55:38 PDT 1999 by George Cassutto (nhhs@fred.net).
The World of Social Studies
North Hagerstown HS, Hagerstown, MD
Materials Required: Blackboard, newspaper, Computers, Internet access
Activity Time: 2-3 class periods
Concepts Taught: Civics, Government, Democracy, Compromise

Objectives: The students will

I. Become familiar with the course requirements and class procedures for US Government and relate this process to the development of the US Constitution.

II. Receive instructional materials and be instructed on how to use them.

III. Identify areas of American life that are influenced by and have an influence on American Government.

Warm Up Activity: Why Study Government?

A) Have students list orally all of the services government provides. Place student responses on the board.

B) Ask the students what society might be like if there were no form of government. Discuss the roles that government plays in our society.

C) Place the following three terms on the board:


FEDERAL STATE LOCAL
Have students place their previous responses under what they believe is the correct column. Then carry out the process as a class and allow the students to correct their own papers and keep for further reference.

Main Activity: Establishing a Class Constitution

A) After students have received the teacher's grading policy, students will help establish classroom procedures by creating a Class Constitution.

B) Have students brainstorm all the issues that effect learning in a classroom. List issues and rules on the board.

C) Divide the class into groups of four students. Have student-groups develop a written rule for the five most important classroom issues according to the wishes of their group. This means each group must first prioritize their agenda, and then they must develop a rule that is realistic and that has a suggested set of consequences. Inform them that they will vote on competing bills, and that like the President, the teacher has veto power (and can also reject part of a bill as in a "line item" veto).

D) Collect suggested rules. Debate them in class. Allow students to discuss the votes for 5 minutes privately in order to "trade votes" and lobby each other. Have students vote on the bills. Amend them to fit school policies and procedures. Develop them into a class constitution.

Note: the process must be repeated for each class you have. As Chief Executive, you can integrate the best of each classes' bills into one document, and then present the final document for "ratification" to the individual classes later. The teacher must have final approval over all bills.

Another note: If you have a Class Constitution in place, the same process can be done to "amend" the existing constitution. Have each class become a "state" holding a constitutional convention. When 3/4 of all the classes vote in favor of a constitution, it is ratified. Keep the teacher's veto power, but indicate that this is a major difference between the simulation and reality because the President has no place n the amendment process.

Wrap-Up Activity: Government In The News

A) Present today's newspaper to the students. Read aloud several headlines or place them on an overhead.

B) Have students discuss how the government is involved in the headlines you selected. Choose several that do not have a governmental application. See if students can make a connection where none existed, or if they can recognize that there may not be a governmental connection to everything.

C) Encourage students to watch the national and local news broadcasts and to read the local newspapers. Their chances of success in the course will be greatly improved if they are attentive to the news.

Enrichment: The American Citizenship Test

Have your students try their hand at the test that immigrants must take to become American citizens. The test can be found on the web site of the Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/nov/18/citizen.htm.
This page contains links to the National Archives and Records Administration, which has posted digitized versions of the key documents of American government and history.

Evaluation: The lesson will be evaluated by:

I. the accuracy of student's written responses;

II. student's scores on future tests and quizzes.