This unit on civics fosters critical thinking skills in students as they engage with topics in government, democracy, and U.S. history, providing comprehensive lesson plans that encourage deep analysis, evaluation, and reflection on the principles and dynamics of civic life.
Rule of Law and the Death Penalty
Students will work together to analyze key points of different Supreme Court cases and apply their analysis to evaluate to what extent the Constitution merits capital punishment.
Article V and the 27 Amendments – Module 15 of Constitution 101
With the Constitution, the Founding generation created the greatest charter of freedom in the history of the world. However, the Founding generation did not believe that it had a monopoly on constitutional wisdom. Therefore, the founders set out a formal amendment process that allowed later generations to revise our nation’s charter and “form a more perfect Union.” They wrote this process into Article V of the Constitution. Over time, the American people have used this amendment process to transform the Constitution by adding a Bill of Rights, abolishing slavery, promising freedom and equality, and extending the right to vote to women and African Americans. All told, we have ratified 27 constitutional amendments across American history. Learning objectives: Describe the reasons that the Founding generation included a formal process for amending the Constitution;
explain how the Constitution’s amendment process works, and why the founders made it so hard to amend the Constitution; identify the key periods of constitutional change in American history and outline factors that drive successful pushes to amend the Constitution; describe all 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
LegalTimelines.org is an interactive, educational site designed to teach middle and high school students about the historical evolution of U.S. laws on important contemporary legal issues. The site currently features three timelines that take students through the legal history of suffrage, federalism, and the legal rights of the accused. Each timeline is rich with engaging
The War on Terror and the Debate Over Torture
This 13-minute video and lesson plan are designed for students to analyze the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the public debate over the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by U.S. officials and government contractors. Students will evaluate multiple perspectives from a mix of resources (video clips, a short film, documents and political cartoons) and classify arguments as being supportive, neutral or critical of government action.
Literature-Based Mock Trial Lessons
This literature based mock trial format provides a dynamic interactive opportunity for K-8 students to develop higher-level thinking skills, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the U.S. judicial system and constitutional principles. The Rendell Center’s Mock Trial framework is easy to follow, and its lesson plans – based on classic or classroom pieces of literature – provide teachers with the tools and guidance needed to help their class write and argue a mock trial, and actively take on the roles of defendant, lawyers, witnesses, jurors, and court officials.
9/11 and Civil Liberties
This lesson explores the challenges the United States faced as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and examines the government’s response through the lens of protection and civil liberties. Students will consider the long-term effects of the emergency measures, their consequences and constitutionality, and how they might inform the balance between security and liberty today.
The Bill of Rights
In this series of videos, students will hear from constitutional scholars such as Professor Tracey Meares of Yale University, Professor Orin Kerr of George Washington University, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of Berkeley Law, and Michael McConnell, the director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center. In these videos, two scholars discuss their interpretations of the amendments, often giving different points of view and interpretations.
The Bill of Rights in Modern Times
In this lesson, students will learn about the individual rights that are included in the Bill of Rights and current issues relating to them. Students will use C-SPAN Classroom’s Constitution Clips to explore what each of these rights mean and determine how these rights apply to current events in America. This lesson works well with classes with one-to-one devices or in flipped classrooms.
C-SPAN’s Constitution Clips makes the U.S. Constitution come alive by providing teachers and students with video clips from C-SPAN’s Video Library of the Constitution in action.