The Bill of Rights

Teacher Guide by Matt Campbell

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our US History Category!

Bill of Rights Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Bill of Rights Include:

In the Bill of Rights Teacher Guide, students will be able to use the concepts and principles of the Bill of Rights in storyboards that reflect comprehension, creative thought, and critical analysis. The activities in this guide will allow a range of students to display their knowledge of what the Bill of Rights is and how it impacts their daily lives.

Bill of Rights Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The 5 Ws of the Bill of Rights Graphic Organizer

In this activity, students will create a spider map that represents the essential background information for the Bill of Rights. Students are required to create five questions surrounding the document using the “5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why”. This introductory activity will allow students to see the Bill of Rights from a holistic perspective before they study details of the rights guaranteed through each amendment.

Example Bill of Rights 5 Ws

WHO wrote the Bill of Rights?

The proposed constitutional amendments that would become the Bill of Rights were written by James Madison. Madison became known as the "Father of the Constitution" well before he was elected as the fourth president of the United States.

WHAT is the Bill of Rights?

The Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These ten amendments focus on the preservation of individual liberties by limiting the power of the federal government.

WHERE was the Bill of Rights written?

The Bill of Rights was created in Federal Hall, in New York City, where the Federal Government was located before it moved to Washington, D.C.

WHEN was the Bill of Rights created?

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15th, 1791. The Bill of Rights was debated between the Federalists and Anti-Federalist but was eventually ratified and has remained ever since.

WHY does the Bill of Rights exist?

The Bill of Rights exists to explicitly define certain essential liberties and freedoms of American citizens. In order to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for each citizen, James Madison argued, our rights needed to be clearly defined and stated.

Bill of Rights Projects

Extended Activity One

Students can create an alternative 5 Ws of another country that offers their citizens a Bill of Rights or something similar. Students can use the same questions from the previous activity or create original questions for this extended activity.

Extended Activity Two

After students have researched these two different Bill of Rights, they can create a T-Chart storyboard that compares and contrasts them. Students may look for similarities of individual liberties, or display how some of the protections or limitations of government vary from country to country.

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Vocabulary of the Bill of Rights

Students can create a Frayer Model storyboard that will define and represent Bill of Rights vocabulary to assist them in the comprehension of the document. Students will define the term in the description box and create a corresponding visualization of each vocabulary term.

Example Bill of Rights Vocabulary Terms

  • Amendment
  • Due Process
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of Petition
  • Probable Cause
  • Bail
  • Bear Arms
  • Quartering
  • Self-Incrimination
  • Double Jeopardy
  • Jury
  • Cruel and Unusual Punishment
  • Elastic Clause
  • Freedom of Assembly
  • Search and Seizure
  • Rights

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Representing the First Amendment

In this activity, students will be able to create visualizations of the First Amendment. After students have been introduced to the five freedoms protected in the First Amendment, they will create a representation of what each of the five rights look like in our society today.

Extended Activity

Following the creation of Representing The First Amendment, students should share their work in pairs to guess which freedom is being represented in each board. Students may need to hide the titles of each freedom before this activity.

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Rights of the Accused

In this activity, students will research the Rights of the Accused in the Bill of Rights and represent at least four of these rights. Below each of their representations, students should include a direct quote from the Bill of Rights. Depending on the guidance of the teacher, students can choose as many terms to represent as they desire.

Rights of the Accused

Trial By Jury
According to the 6th Amendment, a person has "the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed".

Trial By Jury
According to the 5th Amendment, no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself".

According to the 6th Amendment, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall... have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Double Jeopardy
According to the 5th Amendment, no person shall "be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb".

Extended Activity

Following the creation of Rights of the Accused, students should hide or delete the titles and descriptions of their representations. Students will then present their representations to either a partner or the whole class and have other students describe what they see in each representation and guess which rights of the accused they chose to represent.

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Life Without the Bill of Rights

In this activity, students will create storyboards that imagine the loss of the Bill of Rights in society. This is a creative activity for students that will allow them to see the harsh reality of life without freedoms. Students should choose any three freedoms from the Bill of Rights and represent how different their society would be without them. For each representation, students will write a description of their scenario in the space below each image.

Example Storyboard

Life without the 1st Amendment
In this scenario, the police are arresting the priest for practicing his religion. Under the 1st Amendment in the Bill of Rights, each citizen has the right to practice any religion they desire.

Life without the 3rd Amendment
By the 3rd Amendment, the government cannot quarter, or house, soldiers in the private homes of citizens, without permission. In this scenario, a man is coming home to a house full of soldiers.

Life without the 8th Amendment
In this scenario, a man is found guilty of petty theft and is being punished by eating his weight in candy or being executed. In the 8th amendment, the courts cannot enforce "cruel or unusual punishment" on a guilty party.

Extended Activity

To extend this activity, students can take the activity above to a more personal level. Students can create a storyboard that represents how their lives would be different without the Bill of Rights. Students should use examples of their day-to-day life and show what they would no longer be able to do or how their lives would be changed after the loss of the freedoms in the Bill of Rights.

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Do They Have a Right?

In this activity, students will create storyboards that reflect real-life scenarios where the Bill of Rights are brought into question. Each scenario that a student creates needs to include an action, or actions, that may or may not violate the Bill of Rights. Students should create scenarios that actually, or could potentially, happen in our society and include the description of each scenario in the space below.
Check out the example below!

Do They Have a Right?

  • In the city of Riverbend, a group of citizens wanted to meet in a city park to worship nature. They called their organization the Followers of the Sun. They were told to leave as local police thought they were annoying the other park visitors. Can the police stop them from meeting in the park?

  • The students at Longmeadow Middle School held an assembly after school, in front of the building. The purpose of the assembly was to express the students' desire for longer school days and a longer school years. Do the students have the right?

  • Jill is ten years old. She has very religious parents that make her attend church every Sunday. Jill tells them that she does not want to go, but her parents bring her anyway. Are Jill's parents violating the 1st Amendment?

Extended Activity

In this extension activity, students will present their scenarios to a partner, a group, or the whole class. The students will describe the scenario that they created and allow their partner, group, or class to argue whether the Bill of Rights protects the actions of the citizens. Teachers may choose to create a classroom competition out of this activity by using a scorecard to keep track of the student responses. Teachers can use the scores to evaluate areas the class or students needs to focus on.

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When the framers of the Constitution met in 1787, they were responsible for the creation of one of the most influential documents in history. The Constitution of the United States has not only been the foundation of American democracy, it has also served as the blueprint for many nations to follow. With the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, Americans were guaranteed specific rights and liberties that would protect their individualism and freedom, and limit the power of government. The Bill of Rights outlined a collection of safeguards to ensure justice and liberty for every American citizen.

Essential Questions for The Bill of Rights

  1. How does the Bill of Rights limit the power of government?
  2. How does the first Amendment foster individualism?
  3. What are the Rights of the Accused?
  4. How would society be different without the Bill of Rights?

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•   (English) The Bill of Rights   •   (Español) El Proyecto de ley de los Derechos   •   (Français) La Déclaration des Droits   •   (Deutsch) Unabhängigkeitserklärung   •   (Italiana) La Carta dei Diritti   •   (Nederlands) De Bill of Rights   •   (Português) O Projeto de lei de Direitos   •   (עברית) מגילת הזכויות   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) وثيقة الحقوق   •   (हिन्दी) अधिकारों का विधेयक   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Билль о Правах   •   (Dansk) Bill of Rights   •   (Svenska) Bill of Rights   •   (Suomi) Bill of Rights   •   (Norsk) The Bill of Rights   •   (Türkçe) İnsan Hakları Beyannamesi   •   (Polski) Karta Praw   •   (Româna) Legea Drepturilor   •   (Ceština) Listina Práv   •   (Slovenský) Listina Práv   •   (Magyar) A Bill of Rights   •   (Hrvatski) Bill of Rights   •   (български) Законът за Правата   •   (Lietuvos) Teises Išdėstantis Dokumentas   •   (Slovenščina) Bill of Rights   •   (Latvijas) Bill of Rights   •   (eesti) Inimõiguste Deklaratsioon