Later this month, schools across the nation will celebrate a day that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. Known as Constitution Day (previously Citizenship Day), the holiday was created in 2004 and is normally observed on September 17th. However since that falls on a Saturday this year, we will celebrate on Friday, September 16th in 2016.
While perhaps not the most well-known holiday, observance of Constitution Day has been mandated an educational requirement in all publically-funded schools. But, no need to worry if you haven’t decided how you’ll be commemorating the holiday this year—Constitution Day and the back-to-school season are a perfect pairing!
To kick off your celebration, start by providing some historical context for even your youngest learners. Check out our Constitution Day Toolkit from EducationCity for grade-appropriate resources to infuse into your instruction. This month’s toolkit of free resources includes fact sheets, activity sheets, critical thinking questions known as ThinkIts, 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 culture? 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 a few of our favorite ideas that turn learning about the constitution into a meaningful lesson to promote classroom management:
1. Break down complicated language into relatable terms. Teaching the constitution can be a tricky subject for elementary students to digest. Fortunately, there are some great children’s books that have tackled the challenging language for you! The best children’s books.org has created a nice list that includes a variety of texts appropriate for young learners. We the Kids is one such example that uses fun and engaging pictures to break down complicated elements of the Preamble into ways in which the constitution protects our happiness, safety, and comfort. It even includes a handy glossary of terms!
2. Hold students accountable by creating and signing a classroom contract. Just as the founding fathers of our country created and signed their names to the United States Constitution, so can your students play a role in developing the rules and expectations of their school community. By making it a group activity, it becomes a memorable event that also helps your students feel like an important part of the process. A Place Called Kindergarten shows one great visual example of how this can be executed.
3. Define what it takes to be a good citizen. What good are rules if they aren’t upheld and treated with respect by the ones they govern? Take Constitution Day a step further by looking at what it takes to become a good citizen. 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 their everyday life.
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 digital program, EducationCity!