What is the Bill of Rights?

Social Studies Lesson Plan
Students will understand that the purpose of the Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments to the Constitution of the United States) is to "prevent misconstruction or abuse" of the government's powers

Lesson Plan graphic

copy of the Bill of Rights, including the Preamble (click here to download) 10 large cards--each with one Amendment written on it

  1. Introduce this lesson to your students by having them define the term "bill of rights."
  2. Have them work in small groups to write about what it is and why it is important to the citizens of the United States.
  3. Have a large chart labeled 'Before' and 'After' posted on the chalkboard. Have one member of each group write a few sentences on the chart in answer the questions posed.
  4. Read all of the responses aloud to the class.
  5. Divide the class into 5 groups and give each group 2 of the Amendment cards. Explain that these are Amendments to the Constitution and that the first 10 are referred to as the Bill of Rights.
  6. The students will need to re-word the Amendments in their own way, explaining what they think the statements mean. They will also need to discuss why these Amendments are important and necessary; they should address how life in the U.S. might be different without them.
  7. The class should read their Amendments to the class and say what they thought about it, and how they explained it to themselves. They should then go to the chart and write in the 'After' column what their revised definition is.

Share the Preamble to the Bill of Rights with your students and discuss. Students should recognize that citizens need protection from possible abuses by the government. Ask your students to think of any instances where the Bill of Rights is being violated, even today. Encourage your students to bring in news articles relevant to this topic, such as new bills being proposed by Congress or the Executive Branch.

Can your students explain the meaning and purpose of the Bill of Rights? Were they able to understand the Amendments? Notice which students are able to recognize current violations of the Bill of Rights.