September 17, 1787, marks the date on which the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution. Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is a wonderful opportunity to teach your students about the value of citizenship and the importance of working together. It’s also a great opportunity to help you and your students establish classroom procedure and expectations, just in time for the beginning of the school year!
To kick off your celebration, start by providing some historical context for even your youngest learners. Check out our 2017 Constitution Day Toolkit from EducationCity for grade-appropriate resources to infuse into your instruction. This free toolkit includes fact sheets, activity sheets, critical-thinking exercises known as ThinkIts, stickers, and a classroom poster to help you lead a discussion around the importance of the Constitution in our nation’s history.
From there, why not turn your study of the Constitution into an exercise in building classroom citizenship? A constitution, at its core, is a social contract that defines a system of rules and expectations that we all live by. Similarly, classroom rules are put in place to create order and provide a safe learning environment for all students. Take a look at these five fun activities that can help you turn learning about the Constitution into a meaningful lesson on building classroom community and support your classroom management efforts!
1. Hold an Unconventional Constitutional Convention
When the Framers of the Constitution gathered to write it, they had to work together despite their differences in order to unify the new nation. As an educator, you can use the example of the Framers to teach your class about the importance of working together, especially when it comes to following classroom policies and demonstrating how cooperating as a unit ultimately benefits everyone. Begin by having your students participate in any low-stress, large teambuilding activity, like the classic toy-hoop pass, human knot, or cup stack. (If you’re feeling symbolic and you have the numbers, divide your students into 13 groups and have each represent an original colony.) It’s not so much the game that matters, as it is the teamwork required to complete the task. Once the activity has been completed, ask your students about what it was like to work together and what benefits there are to working as a group. Talk about ways they can work together on a day-to-day basis and help hold one another accountable for following classroom rules.
2. Practice Good Citizenship
The Constitution helps guide the people of our nation to be good citizens for the betterment of all. Practicing good citizenship by acting it out is a great way to guide your class toward self-management—and this a great game that will have your students feeling involved and engaged. Start by leading a discussion on what it means to be a good citizen and why it is important. Then, ask your students about ways they can be a “good citizen” of your classroom. Using your classroom procedures, have students act out the right and wrong ways to model acceptable classroom behavior. Classroom procedures for handling supplies, lining up, and working quietly provide for great practice material (and you’ll all get a kick out of the inventive “wrong” behaviors that students come up with). This way, students will not only learn what classroom behavior is acceptable and appropriate through visual examples, but they will also have the opportunity to understand why and how rules help the classroom function efficiently for everyone.
3. Write a Classroom Constitution
After you have discussed the background and importance of the U.S. Constitution, try drafting your own version for your classroom. Use the actual Constitution as a model so that your students will not only become familiar with the formatting of the document but will also develop a greater understanding of what it means. Begin with the preamble “We the people…” and describe what kind of classroom you want yours to be, and follow it with the most important rules for the class. By making it a group activity, it becomes a memorable event that also helps your students feel invested in classroom expectations—and consequently more likely to follow them. A Place Called Kindergarten shows one great visual example of how this can be executed.
4. Make Your Own Model Citizen
Celebrating Constitution Day is about reflecting on what it means to be a good citizen, both inside and outside of the classroom. Take time to have your students reflect not only on what they can do to be a good citizen but also on how they can recognize behaviors of a good citizen in others. This is a great follow-up activity after rules are defined because students should be prepared to defend what a model citizen looks like and acts like in your classroom. Ask your students to reflect on this topic with a writing prompt, or try out a Constitution craft-ivity to help students spot model citizens in everyday life.
5. Rights or Responsibilities “Around the World”
This Constitution Day twist considers the rights and responsibilities outlined in the Constitution and applies the same concept to your classroom community. Put together a flashcard deck with rights and responsibilities your students will easily recognize on each card. For example, “food,” “shelter,” “clean water,” and “education” are rights, whereas “treat others equally,” “be respectful,” and “care for the environment” are responsibilities. Have two students stand up together and pick a card at random, and then ask them to identify if it is a right or a responsibility. Whoever calls out the right answer first wins and moves on to compete against the next student. The student who makes it “around the world,” or wins the most times, gets a small treat or privilege. With older children, involve your students in this activity by having them brainstorm a list of rights and responsibilities as a class, and use those as the terms for your game.
Interested in exploring more content to celebrate important events and holidays throughout the year? Check back each month for more free topical resources from our pre-K through 6th grade teaching and learning program, EducationCity!