Western Reserve Public Media
 
PBS
Understanding the Meaning of the Preamble — Grade 8

Overview
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
Grade 8
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.

 

Materials
• 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

 

Procedure

  1. Divide class into four ability groups, assigning students with their cognitive peers.

  2. 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.

  3. Hand out supplies and job descriptions to each group. Work individually as necessary.

  4. Bring class back together and have groups report in order, from group one through group four.

  5. Conduct assessment questioning.

 

Group Assignments (In Order From Least to Most Difficult)

  1. 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 for reference.

  2. 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.

  3. Graphic Organizer: This group’s task is to make a graphic organizer of the preamble using the grammatical “puzzle pieces” found on the Preamble Worksheet.

    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.

  1. 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.)

 

Evaluation
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.

Copyright©2006, Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.