On September 17th , soon after the beginning of the new school year, we celebrate Constitution Day. It’s a great way to reinforce the rules that you have in your own classroom. Give the students ownership of the rules by creating a class constitution. Debate some ideas, have a secret ballot and sign the document!
- First Grade: Civics and Government
Practice examples of democracy in action (e.g., voting, making classroom rules).
- Book: Constitution Day by Molly Aloian
- Small strips of paper, ballot box
- White paper 9"x12" or 12"x18" if possible use a size to fit a printer that connects to your computer. An alternative would be to use a permanent marker or calligraphy pen
- Strong coffee or tea
- Electric skillet
- Worksheet (download and print)
Use a calendar to show the date September 17th. Say “On this day, over 200 years ago, a document (set of important papers) called the Constitution was approved. The Constitution is a set of rules for the United States. A group of men, old and young, wrote the rules after talking and arguing about them for a long time. The men all had different jobs: lawyers, soldiers, teachers, doctors and farmers. George Washington was their leader. They wanted to make things perfect, fair, peaceful and safe for everyone."
Then read and discuss the book Constitution Day by Molly Aloian.
- Why was this an important document?
- Why are rules important?
- Do we want the same things for everyone today: peace, safety, fairness?
Conduct a brainstorming session with your students to list rules, which they think are important in a school or classroom. Put a number by each rule and the name of the person who suggested it. Concentrate on the ideas of the forefathers: fairness, safety and peace. What rules would address those ideas.
When you have an adequate number of rules listed on the board say to the students, “It is time to debate each rule!" Ask the person who suggested the rule to stand up. Then ask for a volunteer to “debate" against the rule. Allow time for students to talk about or debate the good and bad points of each rule.
Then say, “In the Constitution, it says that people have a right to vote. This means that there is not just one person that tells us what to do. Adults have an opportunity to vote for ideas and people that they think will be good for all. Now it is time for each of us to vote. Your votes are secret. No one can tell you how to vote and you do not have to tell anyone how you voted. You will be voting for the rule that you feel is the most important. The three rules that receive the most votes will be on our Classroom Constitution."
Next pass out the slips of paper to each student, including yourself. Write the number of the rule that you feel is the most important. Do not write names on the ballots. Place the votes in the ballot box. When the votes are tallied, the three rules with the most votes will be placed on the Classroom Constitution!
Making the Constitution:
- Type the rules that the voters have chosen using an appropriate fancy font. I chose a font called Blackmoor LET. Allow space for the signatures of the voters.
- Crumple it up in a ball and then flatten it out again.
- Place the document in a baking pan or container and cover the document with dark coffee or tea. You may choose to sprinkle leftover coffee grounds on it, too.
- Let it sit for a while.
- Sponge off the liquid. Place the document in the electric skillet set on very low.
- ***Use supervision to dry the document in a warm electric skillet.
- When completed, hang the document on the wall mounted on construction paper or placed in a frame.
Each child can take home the printable worksheet in order to create their own constitution with their families.
- Aloian, Molly. Constitution Day. Crabtree Publishing Company, 2009.