DSSEP Home Page Instructional Lesson: Civics 3 Grades 4 & 5

Under Which Amendment Am I Protected?
Fran O'Malley
The Democracy Project


In this lesson students will apply their understanding of the Bill of Rights to "everyday" situations. The situations presented in this lesson are intended to focus student attention on rights that are considered "fundamental" under the Bill of Rights.

Targeted Audience: Grades 4-5

Time to Complete: 40-50 minutes.

Benchmark Addressed: Civics 3 [Citizenship]

  • Identify the fundamental rights of all American citizens as enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
  • Apply the protections guaranteed in the Bill of Rights to an analysis of everyday situations.

Prior Knowledge
Prior to this lesson students should have developed an understanding of the rights and protections embedded within the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Materials Needed

  • Copies of Amendments 1 through 10 (i.e. 8 ½" x 11" signs). Each Amendment should be printed in large font on individual pieces of paper. You can cut and paste the Amendments from Handout 1 - The Bill of Rights.
  • A small box labeled "Situation Box."


1. Tape copies of Amendments 1 through 10 in different locations around the room just above the level of the students' heads.

2. Cut out the "Situation Strips" found in Handout 2 - Bill of Rights Situation Strips. Place each of the strips in the "Situation Box" and place it in the front or middle of the room.

3. Invite one student (Student A) to come up to the Situation Box and pull one "Situation Strip" from the box. Have that student read the situation to the rest of the class.

4. Ask a volunteer to stand beneath the Amendment (taped to the board) that Person A might find protection "under" and explain how that Amendment protects a person in Person A's situation. Require students to use the exact wording from the Amendment as well as their own words to explain the protection.

5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until all of the Situation Strips have been exhausted.

Debriefing Questions

  • What does the term "fundamental" mean?
  • Where are most of the fundamental rights of American citizens found?
  • Which Amendments make-up the Bill of Rights?
  • What are the fundamental rights of American citizens as outlined in the Bill of Rights?


Take the Amendments down from the wall. Place students in 10 groups and give each group one of the Amendment papers. Have each group create a Situation Strip case and place it in the Situation Box. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 under the Procedures section of this lesson.

For homework have students cut out articles from newspapers or magazines that describe cases involving the Bill of Rights. Be sure to encourage them to bring in photographs or cartoons as well as articles. Create a Bill of Rights bulletin board that features the 1st ten Amendments with the current events articles that the students bring in.


For more information and lessons on the Bill of Rights visit the Bill of Rights Institute's website at www.BillofRightsInstitute.org

A book that may be useful for teachers who wish to gather information about actual Bill of Rights cases and rewrite them for intermediate level use is You Decide: Applying the Bill of Rights to Real Cases by George Bundy Smith and Alene Smith. Available from Critical Thinking Books & Software (www.criticalthinking.com)

Teacher's Guide

Under Which Amendment

Explanation of Protection

(described in a grade appropriate manner)

Adults charges with a crime are guaranteed a trial by jury under the 6th Amendment to the Constitution. NOTE: Juveniles are not guaranteed a trial by jury. This is done to protect the identity of a minor
The first Amendment to the Constitution states that the government may not promote religion. Since public school teachers are government workers, they cannot require students to pray.
The first Amendment guarantees freedom of the press and protects people who write articles to express an opinion.
While a person ought to choose a word other than "stupid" to describe the decisions of a person in a position of authority, American citizens do have a right to free speech under the First Amendment.
The First Amendment guarantees American citizens the right to "assemble" peacefully, even if those involved in the assembly are protesting against the government. NOTE: Many towns require citizens to get permits before organizing the kind of "assemblies" covered under the First Amendment.
The Sixth Amendment tries to protect citizens from being taken advantage of by government officials who have a better understanding of the law by guaranteeing people who are suspected of a crime the right to have a lawyer present while they are being questioned. This right may go into effect even before a person has been placed under arrest.
Although the 4th Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, this was not an unreasonable search. The locker belongs to the school, not the student. The principal would need a "reasonable suspicion" that a school rule had been broken to search a student's property, however.
The 8th Amendment protects citizens against cruel and unusual punishment. Many people would consider the principal's treatment to be cruel and unusual. Some states and district, however, do allow paddling in schools.


Handout #1: The Bill of Rights

Handout #2: The Bill of Rights Situation Strips

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University of Delaware Web PageSend comments to Fran O'Malley at fomalley@udel.edu.
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