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What Are My Rights?

Introduction

The Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, was proposed by Congress on September 25th, 1789, and ratified on December 15th, 1791. These ten amendments enumerate the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all citizens.

The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution for the nation. When the justices of the Supreme Court hear and decide cases in which the government, an organization, or person is accused of violating someone's Constitutional rights, they apply the eighteenth-century amendments to the twenty-first-century world.

Students sometimes don't realize that the Bill of Rights protects them as well, not just the adults in their lives. In this lesson, students translate the Bill of Rights into modern English. They then analyze Supreme Court cases involving students to answer the question, "How does the Bill of Rights affect my daily life?"

Objectives

In this lesson, students:

  • Interpret the meaning of each amendment in the Bill of Rights
  • Assess the impact of the Bill of Rights on Supreme Court cases
  • Evaluate the effect of the Bill of Rights on individual experiences

Materials

    Download Lesson Materials (PDF)

    Part 1

    • The Bill of Rights
    • The Bill of Rights in Your Own Words
    • The Bill of Rights in Your Own Words (Answer Key)

    Part 2

    • Supreme Court Cases
    • Cases Analysis Sheets
    • Cases Analysis Sheets (Answer Key)
    • The Bill of Rights in My Life

    Lesson Extension

    • Divergent Rulings

Strategy

    Part 1

  1. Tell the students that they have rights that protect them in the Constitution. Ask them if they know what those rights are, and allow the students a few minutes to discuss these rights in small groups or with a partner.
  2. Pass out the Bill of Rights and The Bill of Rights in Your Own Words. Allow small groups to work together to interpret the rights. Monitor the groups by using the answer key to informally assess the answers. If there is not time, simply pass out the answer key and allow for discussion.
  3. Have groups share their answers, either by pairing groups together or through a whole-class discussion.
  4. Part 2

  5. Explain to the students that the Supreme Court sometimes decided cases that involve school-aged children. In these examples, the justices used the Bill of Rights to decide their ruling. Pass out the Supreme Court Cases and the Cases Analysis Sheets to students. Keep the students in the same groups as step two and assign each group one of the four cases.
  6. Give the students time to analyze their cases and fill out the analysis sheets. You may monitor their work by using the Analysis Sheet Answer Key.
  7. Ask groups to report their findings to the class. As each group is reporting, the rest of the class should be filling out their remaining Court Analysis Sheets.
  8. If time permits, have a whole class discussion on how they would have ruled on these cases based on their interpretations of the Bill of Rights.
  9. As a way for the students to see that individual rights are protected and present in daily life, use the Bill of Rights in My Life to connect the court cases to their everyday lives. Allow for divergent answers, but encourage realistic and appropriate responses.

Lesson Extension

Tell students to imagine the Bill of Rights did not exist, and that the court ruled the opposite way for each of the Supreme Court cases they studied in the lesson. Hand out the Divergent Rulings graphic organizer. Students should write down how they think life could be different for them if the ruling had been different. Discuss answers as a class.



This lesson was written by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Master Teachers F. Margret Atkinson, Baton Rouge, LA, and Susan Hamblin, Madison, WI.


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