Do your students’ eyes start to glaze over when you’re teaching them about the US Constitution, almost like they’re about to doze off? Try switching things up a little bit with some hands-on activities that are designed to keep kids active and engaged. Here are five ideas I use with my students when we’re talking about how the constitution was ratified.
1. Use primary sources.
Authentic words always mean more. I always include quotes and writing from real historical figures when I’m teaching my lessons.
2. Make it visual.
A solid grasp on vocabulary can make or break student success. To make sure my students catch key concepts, I create content specific word walls that define key vocabulary and act as visual reinforcement for learning.
3. Use graphic organizers.
In every class, I always have a few kids who absolutely depend on the graphic organizers I use, especially when we’re talking about the abstract concepts that go along with constitutional history. I usually require my students to fill out the graphic organizer in class, and I ask them to do it in groups so that they have the benefit of learning from one another.
4. Stage a mock debate.
After I’ve taught my kids all there is to know about how the Federalists and Anti-Federalists resolved their issues and worked together to present a united constitution, we have a mock debate that’s designed to help them completely internalize all of their learning. We paste these illustrated portraits of our colonial leadership onto Popsicle sticks or straws (sometimes I even have them make finger puppets!) and they go head to head. I ask them to rely on the primary sources I shared with them earlier in the lesson to make their case.
5. Go social.
Bring the revolution to the 21st century and ask your students to pretend they are key historical figures and have a Twitter debate. I ask my students to compose fake tweets by the historical characters we’ve been studying. Trying to imagine what Patrick Henry or Alexander Hamilton might have had to say in 140 characters or less can keep kids entertained for an entire class period, once they’re steeped in all of the background they’ve gained from the rest of our activities.
All of these activities are available in my Ratifying the Constitution – Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists Debate in my store. Get your copy here.