This lesson on the preamble of the Constitution of the United States
is specifically designed for an integrated eighth grade classroom
that includes developmentally handicapped through gifted and talented
learners who are beginning a study of the Constitution. Using group
work first and whole-class reporting afterward, students are given
the opportunity to learn as much about the meaning of the preamble
as they are able.
Standards — Social Studies
Government, Benchmark B
5. Explain how the U.S. Constitution protects the
rights of citizens, regulates the use of territory, manages conflict
and establishes order and security.
• Poster board and markers or access to a computer word art
program for two groups
• Dictionaries, either text or technological, for each group
• A copy of the preamble for each class member
• Preamble worksheet
• 14 magnets
Divide class into four ability groups, assigning students with
their cognitive peers.
Explain that each group has a separate job to do and that
each will report back to the class at the end, allowing everyone
to understand the meaning of the preamble.
Hand out supplies and job descriptions to each group. Work
individually as necessary.
Bring class back together and have groups report in order,
from group one through group four.
Conduct assessment questioning.
Group Assignments (In Order From Least to Most
Verbs: These students make definition placards
with markers and poster board or with a computer word art program.
Their specific job is to help the class with the difficult verbs.
The group may be subdivided for this purpose. Students should
make placards for the following verbs: form, establish, insure,
provide, promote, secure and ordain. When they present, they
should teach the words to the class and leave the placards out
Nouns: These students also make definition
placards with markers and poster board or with a computer word
art program. Their specific job is to help everyone with the
difficult nouns. The group may be subdivided for this purpose.
Students should make placards for the following nouns and their
modifiers: union, justice, domestic tranquility, common defense,
general welfare, blessing of liberty, posterity and constitution.
When they present, they should teach the words to the class
and leave the placards out for reference.
- Graphic Organizer: This group’s
task is to make a graphic organizer of the preamble using the
grammatical “puzzle pieces” found on the Preamble
First, they select the segments that make
up the preamble’s core sentence (“We,” “do
ordain and establish”and “this Constitution”).
They then determine what those three pieces mean.
They then find the two defining phrases
(“The people of the United States” and “for
the United States of America”), determine their meanings
and put them in their correct places.
Next they find the piece that describes why
the constitution was written (“in order to”). Then
find the supporting six answers (“form a more perfect Union,”
“establish justice,” “insure domestic tranquility,”
“provide for the common defense,” “promote the
general welfare” and “secure the blessings of liberty
to ourselves and our posterity”).
After completing the activity, they can use
the chalkboard, the magnets and any necessary drawn arrows or
organizers to present the preamble puzzle to the class. Their
graphic organizer should be left on display after the presentation
for reference purposes.
What’s Missing: This group’s
task is to appreciate how thorough and clear the framers were
in their work. The students have to answer one question: What
did the framers forget? If they come up with any answers, they
are to present them and their conclusions to the class. (This
has been tried before with gifted students and the nearest they
could come was to suggest that environmental issues were left
out; however, others argued that they fell under “general
welfare.” It is not an easy question.)
Leaving all the displays visible, have the students write an answer
to this question: What were the framers trying to do? After all
have finished, allow any volunteers to read their answers to the
class. This is not meant to be a graded activity, but answers should
be collected, commented on and then returned. The writing activity
is to allow the teacher to monitor understanding and help the students
solidify their ideas.