September 5, 2016

A Simple and Meaningful Constitution Day Celebration

Constitution Day is coming up. I used to get a bit anxious since my lower elementary kids never seemed to "get" it. The concepts and ideals are abstract for a kid. Over the years, however, I've come to accept that although students may have limited reference to what our Founding Fathers wrote, it remains a valuable experience to discuss the main ideas and the KEY is putting it into kid-friendly terms. Below are the main pieces of our Constitution Day event. They are simple, meaningful and easy to implement. Plus, you'll get lots of credit from parents because they love short presentations when their child gets to preform.

We make hats. It's just a basic tri-corner hat made from construction paper. Tracing and cutting a template is easy and students create it themselves. Sometimes they're lopsided and that is part of the charm so it's not an issue. Our art teacher helps transform them into amazing patriotic accessories! We keep them safe in our cubbies until it's art day.

We practice and put on a performance. Some years we have done it in the classroom. Other years we have been part of a whole school assembly. Regardless, kids love performing and the adults love to watch their cutie up on stage.
Our performance has two pieces and while it does take some advance planning, it doesn't disrupt our days. There is no scenery or drama. The hats are the only costume. One involves students learning about and sharing information about the Constitution in kid-friendly terms. We use the Constitution Day Classroom Performance. It lasts just a couple of minutes and it's really easy to put into place. All kids participate and it has built in flexibility. The lines vary in length and complexity allowing
for differentiation based on student need. There are 24 lines total - the exact number in my class this year. That doesn't always work out so perfectly. In the past when I've had fewer students, I assign two lines to a couple of kids. When I have more students I ask a student to write an introduction. Some kids insist on memorizing their line while others hold on to their line for security, while others read directly from it. Whichever they choose is fine.
I copy two sets of the the Constitution Day Classroom Performance - one set is on white paper which I glue in my student's planner. Notice the homework is written. "Practice constitution line."
I make a second set on a bright card stock to use for practice in the classroom. It takes a few days to perfect where I want each student to stand, how to stand patiently and how to project our voices. I like to serve as their coach, kneeling on the floor in front. Pointing from one student to the next in the order the lines should be read helps keep everything running smoothly.

We also sing the Preamble to the Constitution.
Oh how I love good ol' Schoolhouse Rock! Youtube has both the original and a karaoke version. We listen to the original several times. The cartoon graphics help explain the basic concepts in context. Often I'll turn the volume off and we discuss just the graphics! Once when have the tune down, we move to the karakoe version. I serve as the 'bouncing ball' following the lyrics, yet the kids get it down pretty quickly. For practice we sing during most of our transitions.
I use the Preamble to the Constitution: Posters and Activities to Support Learning as well. I glue a small version in student planners, post a larger version to hang on the wall and the Fill in the Box with word bank and Puzzle is good during some down time. I've also found that some years the kids have a tough time memorizing the words. In that case I pull down the larger, wall version and hold it up while kneeling on the floor. It helps with their confidence.
The last step is creating the invitation for the event. After establishing what sort of information should be included (literacy in context!) kids decorate the cover with American symbols. Oh when the kids wear their hats and perform for their parents you'll be smiling - and so will they!
Happy Constitution Day!

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