The National Constitution Center is pleased to introduce our new Civics in Literature initiative, a brand new program designed to enhance and build upon current civic education curriculum through children's literature and other famous historical texts. Help your students build their basic civic knowledge and understand their role as active citizens. Each month, we will share a list of recommended reading and suggested lesson plans and activities that correspond with a specific civic holiday.
Dear Elementary Educator,
At the beginning of each school year a new group of children enter your classroom. You have high hopes and work hard to help your students grow academically, socially, and emotionally. You hope that the children in your classroom leave you at the end of the year full of new knowledge, wiser, kinder, and eager to apply all of the skills and strategies you’ve taught. An essential part of each school year consists of teachers trying to find ways to engage their class to love learning and connect the lessons learned to the real world. Learning to be a productive and involved citizen of our United States MUST be a part of the education of each and every child in our country.
Through the lessons in this program, we will guide your students to build basic civic knowledge in a fun and engaging way. Your children will practice thinking and acting responsibly while participating in real-life problem solving situations and practicing democratic deliberation. They will learn about leaders, activists, and every-day citizens who have taken public action. It is our hope that each student will find his/her voice and work to be a change agent in his/her community!
The program, We the Civics Kids, consists of eight lessons. You could plan to teach one lesson each month or teach it as a complete unit. Each lesson plan begins with a building background component that introduces the topic. In the next sections of each lesson plan, your children will exercise their problem solving and higher level thinking skills. You will discover interactive learning centers; bulletin board ideas; STAR (Students Thinking and Acting Responsibly) questions; links to classroom and classic literature with suggested activities; and sticky situations that can be used to apply the civics principles in your classroom. We believe that these lessons can be seamlessly integrated into your existing curriculum.
It is so exciting to play a role in supporting our next generation as they become active and informed citizens! We look forward to helping your students gain basic civic knowledge and develop knowledge of our Constitution. Watch your students find their voices and become active citizens. We can’t wait to begin this journey with you and your students!
Get the entire curriculum! (Download)
Lesson 1: American Flavor: A Cultural Salad of Diversity (Download)
Lesson one looks at the contributions made by people from other countries who have come and made their homes here. These include traditional foods, language and celebrations that are now part of the American experience. It also acts as a springboard for other activities as students investigate diversity within their class, as well as across the United States.
Lesson 2: The Constitution (Download)
Lesson two examines the Constitution as the foundation of our government. The introductory Read Aloud, A More Perfect Union, provides the historical background leading to the development of the Constitution while the interview with Judge Rendell underscores its uniqueness and application to present day. Students have the opportunity to experience the difficulty in interpreting a law when they must consider possible exceptions to an existing law.
Lesson 3: The Bill of Rights (Download)
Lesson three continues to develop the students’ understanding of the Constitution by examining the Bill of Rights. The narrative provides an historical background for the writing of the first ten amendments, as well as the reasons why each amendment was seen as crucial to the states accepting the Constitution. Follow-up activities allow the students to apply the principles in the Bill of Rights to present day situations.
Lesson 4: Principles of Justice and the Role of the Judiciary (Download)
Lesson four focuses on the principles of justice and the role of the judiciary. By following a young girl as she tries to recover her stolen bicycle, the narrative provides a context for understanding the process of resolving a conflict from negotiations to trial. In all the lesson activities, students are gaining practice in examining and discussing issues from different viewpoints before rendering a decision. As an extension activity, student groups can develop and perform their own mock trials based on familiar fairy tales or fables.
Lesson 5: Point of View – School Uniforms (Download)
Lesson five provides opportunities for students to examine issues from different points of views. The introductory read aloud, Hey Little Ant, offers a humorous glimpse into a totally different perspective and is a wonderful means to begin examining other ways of looking at a situation. Classroom literature presents many opportunities to develop this skill. Issues presented in other subject areas such as science and social studies also lend themselves to students’ consideration of other opinions and ideas in their decision making.
Lesson 6: USA All Stars (Download)
Lesson six investigates the concept of leadership. After reading about people recognized nationally as leaders, students examine their common qualities. Students then each focus on a famous person from their state. Once they have read and written about their famous state person, students must decide if that person is also a leader. In this lesson, students also look for leadership qualities they possess and share instances from their experiences.
Lesson 7: Historical Figures and Activists (Download)
Lesson seven builds on the skills of previous lessons. In Lesson Six, students examined the qualities of leadership and who is a leader. Lesson seven highlights those leaders whose actions had a significant societal impact, the activists. The introductory real aloud, Ballot Box Battle by Emily McCully, introduces students to Elizabeth Stanton and her role in the suffragettes movement. In the Examine the Issue activity, students are asked to consider a current issue, the four day school week. By seeking input from many stakeholders, students are asked to consider all perspectives in making their decision.
Lesson 8: Kid Power (Download)
Lesson Eight celebrates student engagement. The introductory read aloud, Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand, shows the students how one idea can grow and make a difference. The We the Civics Kids magazine highlights the efforts of three students and one elementary class in making a positive impact in their community and state. In this lesson, students are asked to think about ways they can become engaged in their school, community, or state.