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Bill Of Rights ESL Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

What is the Bill of Rights and what does it mean to us as Americans? In this lesson, we will explore this important document and break each part down into pieces that your English language learners will appreciate and understand.

Lesson Objectives

At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define Bill of Rights
  • Explain each of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution

Length

  • 75-90 minutes
  • can be broken down into multiple days, if needed

Materials

  • A copy of the Bill of Rights for each student
  • A pre-written document with simple explanations for each of the amendments in the Bill of Rights for each student
  • A white wig like those worn in the 1700s (optional)
  • Poster-board/markers
  • Index cards (white and lined on one side is recommended)

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Instructions

As you work through the lesson, wear the white wig representative of the time period during which the Bill of Rights was written (this is optional, of course).

Begin by previewing the Bill of Rights. Explain that:

  • The Bill of Rights contains the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
  • The Bill of Rights was written by James Madison.
  • Its purpose was to cover additional rights that citizens felt were needed but not included in the Constitution.
  • Another purpose was to place limits on the power of the government.
  • Be sure to explain potentially new vocabulary words or phrases, such as:
    • amendment
    • Constitution
    • citizen
    • power of the government

Next, hand each student a copy of the Bill of Rights. Read each of the amendments one at a time. As you read, stop to explain each one.

  • Amendment I protects people's right to practice any religion they choose or not to practice any religion at all. It also allows them to meet together. This amendment also allows the people to speak freely and to communicate with the government if needed.
    • Explain words such as practice, speak freely, and communicate.
  • Amendment II gives people the right to own guns.
  • Amendment III says that the army cannot force people to house or feed soldiers.
    • Explain what it means to house and feed soldiers
  • Amendment IV says that the government cannot take things from people, including property or the people themselves, without a warrant or probable cause.
    • Explain warrant and probable cause.
  • Amendment V says that the government cannot hold people for committing a crime without formally accusing them. It also protects against double jeopardy. Lastly, it keeps people from having to testify against themselves.
    • Explain formally accusing, double jeopardy, and testify.
  • Amendment VI guarantees people a quick trial if arrested for a crime. It also guarantees a fair jury and that a person is allowed to confront witnesses against them. Lastly, it guarantees that all people being tried for a crime are allowed to have a lawyer.
    • Explain guarantee, trial, fair jury, confront witnesses, lawyer.
  • Amendment VII guarantees a jury trial even in civil cases (non-criminal).
  • Amendment VIII says that punishments given by the court cannot be unfair or cruel.
  • Amendment IX simply says that there are other rights that people have that may not be included in the Bill of Rights.
  • Amendment X says that any power not specifically given to the federal government should be given to the states or to the people themselves.
    • Explain federal government and what it means for powers to be given to the states.

Hand each student a second document with explanations for each of the amendments (just as you've already explained to the class).

Finally, allow time for discussion. Answer any student questions and offer further clarification if needed.

Group Activity

Use the following activity to reinforce the meaning behind each of the amendments in the Bill of Rights.

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