Sample Questions to Celebrate the Bill of Rights
Next week is Bill of Rights Day, marking 225 years since they became part of the Constitution. If you’re looking for ways to highlight the importance of the Bill of Rights in your class — whether you teach Math, History, English, or World Languages- we have some great ideas for you in the included sample Deck.
There are some really interesting questions to unpack in a math class regarding the changes in apportionment (how many representatives each state gets in Congress). When the Bill of Rights was originally sent to the states for ratification. James Madison had drafted extra amendments that were never approved. Though it was later handled in Article 1 of the Constitution, one of these amendments detailed how representatives would be assigned to each state. Basically, we hold a census every 10 years to count the number of people in each state and determine how many representatives should be appointed. The method for calculating that number has changed over the years and means that each representative has to represent waaaaay more people than they did 200 years ago. Take a look at the question in our Deck and the Presenter Notes to get some ideas of how you can bring these issues to life in a math class.
The language in the Bill of Rights is great fodder for analysis and discussion. Equally interesting is Franklin Roosevelt’s proclamation which first designated December 15th as Bill of Rights Day. Let students read over his words and mark them up. Depending on the age and skill of your students, you could have them highlight words they don’t understand or phrases they find particularly interesting to discuss.
Depending on what language you teach, this could be a great time to do some cultural comparison or some translation. Ask students to translate a few Amendments into a foreign language and have student discuss the different connotations of different translations. Or, find a constitution for a country that speaks the language you teach. Let students compare the rights granted in their country to the basic rights protected in the United States.
History, Civics, Government
Of course there are plenty of directions to take in Social Studies class. Before you dive into details about what the Bill of Rights is and when it was written, start by getting students interested in the purpose behind this kind of document. Ask them what rights they would want to protect if they were starting a new country. Or prompt them to think about why, after leaving England behind, they would form a new government.
Ok, I’ve not been a science teacher before but I believe there are possibilities here. It would be neat to have biology or chemistry students consider the degradation of paper. How long could the original document last? How would different storage or preservation methods lengthen its life? Will there be a time when our descendants won’t be able to look upon the original?
Another tack would be to consider how many joules of energy were spent making the constitution. You could start by asking students to think about all the contributing factors: for example, they would need to consider how far each member of the Constitutional Convention had to travel to be there, how much food they would eat while there, how many trips different messengers took to relay news back to the states, etc. Then you could ask students what calculations would be most useful or what extra information they would need. You could even prompt students to actually come up with a calculation, but just unpacking the question would be thought-provoking on its own.
Okay, that’s a wrap! I hope this provides some good ideas or useful warm-up questions for bringing the Bill of Rights into any class.
Check out the full Deck and Presenter Notes Here.