9/11 and Constitution

From the Center for Civic Education

The four lesson plans gathered together on this site
 can be used to teach middle school and older students  to reflect upon who "we" are as Americans, examine "our" fundamental ideals and principles, evaluate "our" nation’s progress toward realization of our shared ideals, and propose actions to narrow the gap between these ideals and "our" daily lives. 

The definition of “American” is an important one that crosses boundaries of race, religion and creed. The United States is a nation of many cultures, and this lesson helps students understand and embrace this idea. 


How do you use it?

These lesson plans are very engaging tools for a middle school audience to explore the issue of what it means to be an American in the post-9/11 era — essentially the era that has shaped today's students' lives.  Overviews of the lessons are available for instructors, giving background about what students are expected to learn by the conclusion of the lessons.  The site allows for both print outs for distribution and online access to the lessons.

Each of the four lessons has a critical thinking exercise that asks students to articulate and discuss their beliefs on different issues.  Students are also introduced to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and asked to reflect on how these documents are relevant today.  For example if the students agree with the Declaration of Independence they can “sign” it —making them feel as if they’ve committed to the core principles of the country.  Other elements of the site include definitions of relevant terms and legal, historical information about those terms as well as a questionnaire that asks students to interpret the Preamble and the Constitution. 

This resource is an excellent module for patriotism and what it means to be an American, but there is relatively little judicial background involved in the citizenship lesson about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  A judge would be advised to supplement these lessons with other resources that would offer students more specific grounding in the Constitution and the role of the judiciary.

Who is the audience?

The focus and specificity of the lesson plans make it especially appropriate for middle school and older students, albeit the material and style of presentation is sufficiently engaging that younger students could use the site and the resources with some direction.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. A Day in the Life  Interactive "game" from PBS.org (M, H)
  2. Balancing Free Speech and Fair Trial   Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  3. Courts in the Classroom  Videos from the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (P, M H)
  4. Interpreting the Constitution: What Does That Mean?  Lesson Plan from iCivics (H)
  5. Korematsu and Civil Liberties  Video from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)
  6. One Person, One Vote  Video and lesson plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)
  7. Perseverance and the Bill of Rights  Lesson plan from the Bill of Rights Institute, via the National Constitution Center (M, H)  
  8. Respecting Freedom of Speech  Lesson Plan from the Bill of Rights Institute, via the National Constitution Center (M, H)  
  9. Supreme Decision  Game from iCivics (M, H) 
  10. The First and Fourteenth Amendments  Lesson Plan from Channel One (M, H)  
  11. The Story of the Bill of Rights  Videos and game from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H)
  12. Yick Wo and the Equal Protection Clause  Video from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links
  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.