The Story of the Bill of Rights

This web page The Story of the Bill of Rights hosts 11 very short videos — one introductory video and ten videos each addressing one Amendment — together with a "Bill of Rights" game.  The videos give judges and presenters a way to briefly introduce to students the historical events leading to the Bill of Rights.  After each brief video is over, a set of multiple choice questions can help judges guide students to identify the key points raised by the films, relating to what the Amendments say and what they mean.  

How do you use them?

As many online lessons focus only on the First Amendment, a resource that includes the nine other amendments in the Bill of Rights is an asset. Those people featured in the videos lay out the meaning of the amendments in simple and concise language so that the ten Amendments can be understood. 

The videos are roughly a minute long – a very good length for the attention spans of students whose attention may wander when they are faced with what they may consider to be  boring legal material.  The brevity of each video allows plenty of time for a robust discussion of each Amendment's key issues.

The resource includes a glossary identifying key terms — those terms could be referenced by judges as they discuss the themes in the videos.

This resource provides good visual teaching resources, but a broadband environment is needed to show the videos.  A general
audience will likely not sit and watch the videos unless their viewing is part of an assignment, or part of a classroom discussion.

The Annenberg Classroom website is a multimedia environment that gathers together videos, lesson plans, current news and interactive games.  As the site says:  "This website connects our award-winning, comprehensive curriculum on the Constitution and its amendments to daily civics news and student discussion. And when we say 'connects,' we really mean it. Twice daily, our nonpartisan writers sift through national and local news and select current events expressly for social studies classrooms. And twice weekly, they write an article on a portion of this news with links to our multimedia curriculum. You can use these articles—we call them 'Speak Outs'—in your class or right here online. When your students 'Speak Out' at, they participate in a moderated, national dialogue of their peers.  We publish up to 10 news stories a day, many media resources each year, and at least two Speak Outs each week during the school year."

Other Resources on the Annenberg Classroom Site:
Because of the range of resources on the site, judges and other presenters might find it valuable to browse deeper into the site to determine if there are other resources of value for a particular presentation.  There is special depth of curricular materials relating to the Constitution and the Courts.  Links to organizations interested in the courts can be found here.  The homepage of the site can be found here.  All the videos on the site are gathered here.

Who is the audience?

Aside from the introductory video, the videos are short, simple and geared toward a high school or slightly younger audience.  Yet although the videos are meant for older students, the videos are sufficiently versatile to help younger age groups, even upper-level primary students, to understand the Bill of Rights and its protections.  

What other resources will complement this?

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