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Constitutional Amendment Activity

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 5th Grade Class Social Studies Length of Lesson 40-45 Minutes
Lesson Title Constitutional Amendment Activity
Unit Title Rights and Responsibilities: Founding Documents
Unit Compelling Question Why aren't all rules good rules?
Historical Context:

The founding documents of the United States include the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of independence, and the Federalists papers. The 1789 Constitution is the nation's oldest surviving charter of government.  The 1791 Bill of Rights is a list of ten essential rights and liberties enjoyed by the citizens of the United States. The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 and declared America's independence from the British empire. 

~Allyson Simpson, Simpson College


2018.019.004   The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was adopted on August 20, 1920, gave women the right to vote by prohibiting states and the Federal Government from denying citizens the right to vote based on their sex.

The 19th Amendment, which passed in 1920, came after a long struggle of women to gain their equal rights that began in the mid-1800s. In 1848, the first women's right convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York where 68 women and 32 men signed the Declaration of Sentiments. The Declaration  called for laws to reflect the equality between men and women and that women too deserve unalienable rights that are guaranteed to men. This declaration began the women's movement to equality, with the first National Women's Rights Convention taking place in Massachusetts two years later in 1850. Women such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Women's Suffrage Association to further promote the push for equality, with primary focus on gaining the right to vote.

In 1893, Colorado became the first state to grant women the right to vote, followed by Utah and Idaho in 1896 and the state of Washington in 1910. By 1918, California, Oregon, Kansas, Arizona, Alaska, Ililnois, Nevada, Montana, New York, Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma all granted women the right to vote. In 1919, the amendment drafted by Susan B. Anthony in 1878 is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. A year later on August 26 1920, the amendment is passed as a law by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.

~ Matthew Miller, Teaching Iowa History Team
Lesson Supporting Question Why would the founding fathers make changing these documents so difficult?
Lesson Overview

To begin the lesson, students will be discussing my classroom rules and whether they can change them or not in their small groups. I will bring them back together and discuss their ideas further. Next, I will show them a constitutional amendment about the women’s suffrage and also have them discuss (What is an amendment? Is this important to have in the constitution? Etc. - see below). Then I will show them a short video of how the process of an amendment being passed in congress is like. Finally, I will bring them back to my classroom rules, split them into two groups (like the house and senate) and have subgroups within the two groups come up with a new rule or a change to an existing rule and have them try to pass it through the same way an actual amendment would. Of course this part would be a bit watered down because I can’t make it too hard for them since they’re fifth graders. After this experience I’ll wrap by asking them if it was hard to pass a new amendment (rule) and why the founding fathers would want to make it hard to make an amendment to the constitution. 

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
Lesson Target
  • Students will create and write their own amendments that reflect their individual rights and their awareness of having those rights to my classroom rules in five to ten minutes.
  • Students will reflect on their experience with trying to get an amendment passed and write one to two paragraphs on why they think the founding fathers made it hard for amendments to be passed. These paragraphs should give solid reasoning by using examples to show proof of why they think the founders made the amendment process so hard. The paragraphs should be argumentative.
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Bell Ringer 

Have the classroom rules poster posted up on the front board and ask the students to discuss in their small groups whether or not it’s possible for them to change those rules and if that’s fair or not

If they do that quickly enough, get them to start thinking about making their own amendments (rules) and ask them what they would change if they could 

Bring them back together as a group and have them share out from their groups about what they thought and what they would change if they could. I would have already talked to them about why rules are needed and asked them why they thought rules were important.
5 Min Their groups are put together to help each other. Students with similar learning styles and personalities are paired to enhance conversations and learning . I can do this from prior knowledge of the students or, if need be, allowing them to pick their groups. 

Have your computer hooked up to the projector and pull up the picture of the constitutional amendment (Link above)
Talk about what this specific amendment is about (women’s rights) and pose some questions to the class

What is an amendment? - A change or something being added to the constitution
Do you think an amendment to the constitution is easily passed? - No, the founding fathers specifically made it hard for amendments to be passed. Only 18 amendments have been passed and became laws (amendments to the constitution)

What other things do you think we have amendments for in the constitution?
10 Min

Allow students to move up to the front of the room to look at the document if they struggle seeing. They most likely will be able to anyway.Could have copies of the picture of the amendment printed out for the students, but projecting it should do the trick.


Have the students turn to their small groups and discuss the above questions.
Get their ideas and if they are completely off course, use the answers above to guide them in the right direction

For example, they most likely won’t understand what an amendment is to begin with so give them the simple definition in the above “teacher” row. They will also be getting a sort of definition in the next transition

Also, mention why amendments are necessary to how our country runs and also gives us the right that a democracy gives its people. Ask them why they think amendments are necessary.
7 Min

Walk around and listen to the conversations, scaffold by involving yourself in these conversations and asking guiding questions to get them on the right track. If need be, discuss what an amendment is with the whole class - definition in the “teacher” row above. 

Transition Play the video from youtube (link above under resources) only play the first minute because it talks about congress and how a proposed amendment is first made and what it has to go through to get past the house and the senate. As well as the state legislatures.  2 Min Allow student to come to the front of the room if they can’t see the video very well.

Bring the class back together and ask what they saw in the short clip of the video, (Ask questions like “what has to happen in the house and senate? What about the state legislatures?”)  if they are struggling, have them discuss as small groups and pool their ideas together to come up with something (they most likely won’t have to do this because the clip is fairly straightforward)
Quickly tell them that they will be dividing into two groups like the house and the senate, count them off by ones and twos

Have one group set on one side of the room and another set on the other side. Once they are in their large groups groups split them into thirds or fourths (depends on how many students you have) 
5 Min

Again, walk around the room and listen to the conversations, guide groups if they need help. When you split the groups into thirds or fourths, allow them to choose their groups or pair students up with other students you know they will work well with.


Explain that in the small groups you will work together with your classmates to come up with a new class rule (amendment) and after 6-8 minutes, they will have to have it written down and ready to present to their larger groups (either the “senate” or the “house”) 
Have them do what was talked about above 
After the small groups have presented their ideas, have them vote on each “amendment”

The amendments that pass in each of the house and senate go to the opposite side of the room and present their amendments to the opposite end of the room (House or Senate)
Make sure that they don’t all go to the opposite group at once so you can have all house or senate member present to vote 

Once all the amendments are voted on, have the ones that passed through congress listed on the board (⅔ of the house and senate need to approve for it to pass).
18 Min

Have the steps written on the board for the students if they forget what they are doing in their groups. Walk around and make sure they are on the right track. If they need more time with this activity, cut the transition down and take time from that so they can complete this activity.


Bring the students back together and ask them what they thought about that process (have them discuss in their groups and share out)

Tell them that the experience they just went through is only the beginning of the amendment process.
3 Min  
Closure To close, have them do an exit slip answering this question: Why do you think the process of amending the constitution is so long and why do you think the founding fathers made the process so long?  5 Min Walk around and answer any questions that student have about the question. Don’t give them an answer, but try to push them in the right direction.
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • I will be using an exit slip to guide how well they understood the opening processes of amending the constitution.
  • I will also be observing the students when they are in small groups as well as keeping their proposed amendments as an assessment and for later use.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • This gives them close to a first hand experience of the beginning stages of amending the constitution. The supporting question is: why would the founding fathers make it so difficult to amend the constitution? This would most likely be a question on a summative assessment in the near future. Most likely a short essay or something along those lines.
Author Information
Author Nick Squires Reviewer Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College Created 08/15/2019 Last Edited 09/06/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Social Studies Methods, Simpson College, Spring 2019

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