Teaching the Constitution
Let's get constitutional.
The U.S. Constitution isn't just a document—it's practically the document to end all documents. We'll help you get up close and personal with this granddaddy of historical pieces of paper and the government that created it, while helping you make sense of the Electoral College. Don't get too close to the actual thing, though, or you'll set off some alarms and end up surrounded by guards.
In this guide you will find
- loads of resources, including approved-but-unratified amendments and articles about how the Constitution is still relevant today (who knew?).
- close-reading assignments on the preamble, amendments, and the Constitution itself.
- essay questions exploring checks and balances and the powers of the three branches of government.
Bonus: we don't use F's for S's, which would make thingf really confufing.
What's Inside Shmoop's Civics Teaching Guides
Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring civics to life.
Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:
- 4-10 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students.
- Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
- Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
- Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
- A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.
Instructions for You
The preamble is a critical introduction to the Constitution. It concisely presents certain important, and controversial, statements about the origins and range of governmental power. In this exercise your students will break this preamble down and think about its exact meaning.
- Show your students the Constitution’s preamble and help them to break it into phrases.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
We the People of the United States, / in Order to form a more perfect Union, / establish Justice, / insure domestic Tranquility, /provide for the common defence, /promote the general Welfare,/ and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves / and our Posterity,/ do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America./
- Next, ask your students to turn these phrases into headings and list beneath them the critical principles and/or responsibilities the framers were attaching to the new government.
We the People
- The constitution emanates from the people
- The government’s power comes from the people
Insure domestic tranquility
- Prevent uprisings like Shays’s Rebellion
- Prevent slave insurrections
- Maintain law and order
- Complete this exercise by asking your students to read through Article I, Section 8 , the section of the Constitution that enumerates the powers of Congress. Ask them to identify which purposes of government listed in the preamble is served by each of these powers.
(Lesson aligned with CA 12th grade American government standard 12.4.1)
TEKS Standards: §113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877 b1, c1A, c29B
Instructions for Your Students
No words are wasted in the Constitution. In fact, the document starts off with a dense statement about the origins and range of government power. Look at the preamble and think about what each phrase is saying.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
— Preamble to the United States Constitution
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Common Core Standards
The following standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1