Constitution 101 Curriculum

Module 15: Article V and the 27 Amendments

Overview

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
  1. Describe the reasons that the Founding generation included a formal process for amending the Constitution.
  2. Explain how the Constitution’s amendment process works, and why the founders made it so hard to amend the Constitution.
  3. Identify the key periods of constitutional change in American history and outline factors that drive successful pushes to amend the Constitution. 
  4. Describe all 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
15.1 Activity: The Article V Amendment Process

Purpose
It isn’t easy to amend the Constitution. This was by design. The Founding generation wanted constitutional change to be possible, but they wanted to force reformers to secure broad support before altering our nation’s charter. In this activity, you will learn about the process for amending the Constitution, written into Article V. 

Process
As a class, discuss the following questions:

  • Which is your favorite amendment to the Constitution, and why? 
  • What is the process for changing the Constitution? 
  • Is it easy or hard to amend the Constitution? 
  • Why do you think that the Founding generation designed the amendment process that way?

Next, read Article V of the Constitution and discuss the amendment process as a class.

Finally, read the Article V Common Interpretation Essay and design a flowchart of the process for your classroom. To that end, complete the Activity Guide: The Article V Amendment Process worksheet to illustrate the steps needed to amend the Constitution.

As a class, return to one of the framing questions asked at the beginning of the activity: 

  • Why did the Founding generation design the amendment process this way?

Launch
Before the activity begins, have a brief conversation with the entire class about the constitutional amendment process. Here are a few discussion prompts to follow:

  • Which is your favorite amendment to the Constitution, and why? 
  • What is the process for changing the Constitution? 
  • Is it easy or hard to amend the Constitution? 
  • Why do you think that the Founding generation designed the amendment process that way?
     

Next, present the text of Article V of the Constitution to all students. Have them read it and then discuss the following questions:

  • Is this a complicated process, or is it pretty straightforward?
  • Why do you think the Founding generation provided for more than one path for amending the Constitution?
  • Are there other ways to change the Constitution?

Finally, have students read the Article V Common Interpretation Essay and diagram the process on the Activity Guide: The Article V Amendment Process worksheet. 

Activity Synthesis
Have students answer the following questions and then discuss as a class: 

  • How did the Founding generation limit the power of Congress in the Article V amendment process?
  • Why did the Founding generation decide to make the amendment process so difficult? Hint: Think about the Articles of Confederation and striking the right balance. 
  • What are the pros and cons of making the Constitution easier to amend?
  • What limits, if any, did the Founding generation place on the power of the amendment process?
15.2 Video Activity: 27 Amendments Walkthrough

Purpose
In this activity, you will explore the mechanics of the Article V amendment process, explore four different periods of constitutional reform, and walk through all 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. 

Process
Watch the following Amendments Walkthrough video.
 

Then, complete the Video Reflection: 27 Amendments Walkthrough worksheet.

Identify any areas that are unclear to you or where you would like further explanation. Be prepared to discuss your answers in a group and to ask your teacher any remaining questions.

Launch
Give students time to watch the video and answer the questions in the worksheet. 

Activity Synthesis
Have the students share their responses in small groups and then discuss as a class.

  • Which amendment(s) did you learn the most about today?
  • Now that you’ve walked through all 27 amendments, which is your favorite amendment, and why? Did your answer change at all from when we asked this question at the beginning of the module?
15.3 Activity: 27 Amendments to the United States Constitution

Purpose
Throughout American history, “We the People” have amended our Constitution 27 times—transforming it in important ways. Through the Article V amendment process, we often make it a “more perfect” document. In this activity, you will learn more about key periods of constitutional change and explore the 27 amendments to the Constitution.

Process
Read the Info Brief: Periods of Constitutional Change and the 27 Amendments. Then, explore the various amendments to the Constitution by completing the Activity Guide: 27 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution worksheet in groups.

When you have completed this worksheet, play the 27 Amendments Matching Game with your group.

Launch
Before the activity begins, see if students can remember some of the amendments from the video. Project all 27 amendments on the board for students to see main groupings.

Then have students read the Info Brief: Periods of Constitutional Change and the 27 Amendments. 

Activity Synthesis
As a class, have students share some of the most interesting facts about America’s 27 amendments. Then ask students to explore any big themes or patterns that they see across the various amendments. Share with students the groupings of amendments from the previous worksheet as a visual. Ask students to group the amendments in the category provided. 

Activity Extension (optional)
After you review all 27 amendments, ask the students whether they see any other patterns or groupings  other than by ratification year? Reshuffle to align under these groupings.

  1. Historical events
  2. Social movements
  3. Critics of the Constitution
  4. Controversial Supreme Court decisions
  5. Lessons learned over time
  6. Any others?
15.4 Activity: Changing the Constitution

Purpose
Now that you have learned about the mechanics of the Article V amendment process and about how reformers have used this process to change the Constitution, you will now get the opportunity to experience the process of pushing for a new amendment. 

Process
Watch the video Amending the Constitution featuring Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.

Answer the following questions and be prepared to discuss with your class:

  • One final time: Which is your favorite amendment, and why?  Has your answer changed during the course of the module?
  • What made it possible to ratify this amendment? What factor(s) drove the push for reform?
  • If you were to introduce a new amendment⁠—the 28th Amendment⁠—what would you propose?

Next, in small groups, draft a proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution using the Activity Guide: Amending the Constitution worksheet.

Launch
Give students time to discuss the following questions and add to their worksheet. Next, brainstorm ideas for a 28th Amendment. Give them examples of ideas that have been proposed before.

  • One final time: Which is your favorite amendment, and why? Has your answer changed during the course of the module?
  • What made it possible to ratify this amendment? What factor(s) drove the push for reform?
  • If you were to introduce a new amendment⁠—the 28th Amendment⁠—what would you propose?

Activity Synthesis
Have students present their proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution and as class vote or the one they want to present to Congress. As a final class assignment, write a letter and send a short video to the Congressperson who your class hopes to be your amendment champion. 

Exit Ticket
In a short paragraph have students share how their thinking about the amendment process has changed: I used to think ______, but now I think ______. 

15.5 Test Your Knowledge

Purpose 

Congratulations for completing the activities in this module! Now it’s time to apply what you have learned about the basic ideas and concepts covered.

Process

Complete the questions to test your knowledge.

Launch

This activity will help students determine their overall understanding of module concepts. It is recommended that questions are completed electronically so immediate feedback is provided, but a downloadable copy of the questions (with an answer key) is also available.

Activity: Final Reflection

Purpose
The Constitution begins with three powerful words: “We the People.” These words have inspired generations of Americans. Take a moment to reflect on what you learned in this course and what you will do to ensure that we continue to work towards “a more perfect Union.”

Process
In order to complete this course, you must answer the following question and be prepared to share it in class.

How does understanding the Constitution, building your skills as a constitutional lawyer-in-training, and committing to civil dialogue work together to enrich our democracy and ensure that our republic endures? Remember Dr. Franklin’s prophetic words: It’s a republic, if we can keep it.

Share with [email protected]⁠—we would love to hear your thoughts!

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