Civics Lessons

Teaching Strategy: Discussion

Becoming an Informed Voter: Preparing for the General Election

This lesson focuses on a voter’s need to be fully informed prior to casting a vote on Election Day and how to acquire the necessary information. Students learn what a yes or no vote or a decision to abstain means on a ballot. Students learn the definitions of amendment,initiative, and referendum. Students are given the opportunity to think critically and to learn firsthand why voters need to be fully informed about ballot questions.

What Basic Ideas About Government Are included in the Preamble to the Constitution?

This lesson explores some ideas in the Preamble to the Constitution. Students learn that the power to govern belongs to the people who have created the government to protect their rights and promote their welfare.

What is the Judicial Branch?

This lesson exposes students to the judicial branch and the power of judicial review. They read about an actual Supreme Court case, Torcaso v. Watkins, to see how the judicial branch used its power of judicial review to strike down an unconstitutional state law.

What Makes A Good Judge?

This lesson focuses on the costs and benefits of various judicial selection methods. Students will list characteristics they think essential or valuable to being a good judge, and then see which system of judicial selection – appointment, merit, or election – obtains the highest quality judges. In discussing each method, students will understand the tradeoffs between accountability and independence in judicial selection.
This lesson was developed to be used on Law Day, but does not need to be limited to Law Day.

The Exchange: Should Same-Sex Couples Have the Right to Marry

This research and deliberation activity encourages students to look at the issue of same-sex marriage from different points of view.

The Bill of Rights: Debating the Amendments

In this lesson, students examine a copy of twelve possible amendments to the United States Constitution as originally sent to the states for their ratification in September of 1789. Students will debate and vote on which of these amendments they would ratify and compare their resulting “Bill of Rights” to the ten amendments ratified by ten states that have since been known by this name.

The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?

These lessons help your students begin to understand why the Founders felt a need to establish a more perfect Union and how they proposed to accomplish such a weighty task.

To Amend or Not to Amend, That’s Been the Question…Many Times

This lesson asks students to examine recent proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, analyze them for public policy triggering mechanisms, and compare and contrast them to amendments that have been ratified.

Freedom of Expression

Deliberting in Democrcay lesson which gets students to deliberate the question–Should our democracy block Internet content to protect national security?

The Exchange: When Should Increased Security Measures Outweigh Your Privacy Rights in School?

This activity encourages students to deliberate on the issue of balancing privacy and security.

Constitution Day: The 1965 Alabama Literacy Test

Students learn about literacy tests by taking what they think is a pop quiz on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Responsibility and the U.S. Constitution

In this lesson, students learn about responsibility and apply the concept to segments of the U.S. Constitution.

Voting in Congress

Students learn what factors members of Congress consider when deciding whether to vote for a bill. These include the powers given to Congress by the Constitution, members’ personal opinions, political party support, and what voters think. During the first day of the lesson, students find out about each of these factors. During the second day, students get to try their hand at weighing the factors by considering hypothetical bills.

Rules, Rules, Rules-The Eraser Game

Students reflect on when and why rules are needed and the importance of rules in the classroom or in a community setting.

A Kid’s Guide to Running for President

Students will read about the election process and correctly put the steps in proper sequence. Students will participate in a debate on an issue that relates to their day-to-day school experience.

What is Democracy?

In this lesson, students will identify essential components of a functioning democracy. They will be presented with “borderline” countries – hypothetical nations that exhibit some, but not all, of the characteristics of a democracy. Through discussion and group work, students will expand their understanding of democracy and see different manifestations of democratic practices.

The Presidency

Students develop an understanding of the qualities of a leader and begin to see themselves as leaders. Students will learn about and understand who can become president and what his/her duties would be as president.

What is the Role of the President in the American Constitutional System?

This lesson examines sources of presidential power and ways that checks and balances limit presidential power. Students explain the president’s constitutional responsibilities, identify checks on the president’s power, and defend positions involving the exercise of presidential power.

What Does the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution Mean?

Students compare and contrast the language in preambles to two state constitutions; compare state preambles with the preamble of the U.S. Constitution; draft a new preamble for the U.S. Constitution; and discuss the process of amending the U.S. Constitution

Does the Constitution Protect Fair Play? Introducing Due Process

In this lesson, students develop a working understanding of due process by discussing relevant Constitutional clauses. They are presented with the Gideon v. Wainwright case and decide whether Clarence Gideon had the right to an attorney, relying on their previous discussion of due process. The lesson ends with a discussion of the importance of the right to due process in criminal proceedings, as well as a discussion of other situations in which the right to due process applies

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