Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

What Does It Mean to be Governed?

Government: Six Principles of the Constitution

K20 Center, Kendra Whitman

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 1-2 class period(s)
  • Duration More 100 minutes


Students will need prior knowledge of the six principles of the Constitution for this lesson to be successful. During this lesson, students will deepen their understanding of the six principles of the Constitution. The lesson begins with a video, then uses a Gallery Walk and discussion. Lastly, students will complete a RAFT activity to determine how the six principles affect the governance of citizens.

Essential Question(s)

"What does it mean to be governed?"



Students will explore the essential question "What does it mean to be governed?" through a short video. The video depicts a United States without a government and the chaos that ensues. Students will use the strategy I Notice, I Wonder to generate ideas while watching the clip.


Using the Gallery Walk strategy, students will identify the six principles of the Constitution as well as create a visual representation and slogan.


Students will discuss in groups the similarities and differences they see in the visual representations on their posters, then share out their observations with the whole class. The teacher will walk around the room and listen to the individual groups, answering questions and correcting misconceptions.


Students will extend their knowledge with a RAFT activity to demonstrate how the six principles impact a person's daily life. They will be able to choose to write an article as a reporter, a diary entry as an average citizen, a passionate speech as an angry citizen, or draw a a comic depicting an America without a government as a political cartoonist.


The students will be evaluated with the Extend activity and a rubric.


  • Giant Post-it or butcher paper

  • Markers (at least six different colors)

  • Writing utensils

  • RAFT Six Principles of the Constitution (student copies)

  • Internet access (for video clip in lesson)


When the students walk in, have them individually get out a piece of paper and create a T-chart that is labeled "I Notice" on one side and "I Wonder" on the other. If you would prefer to use a template, one can be located under Attachments (titled "I Notice I Wonder").

Have students to read the essential question to themselves, then ask them if they need any clarification. Explain that today we will start the lesson by watching a brief clip that posits one outcome of a nation without a government. Show the video.

Students will participate in an I Notice, I Wonder activity while they are watching the video clip. Have students jot down observations and questions they have about the video on their T-chart as they watch. Give students 1-2 minutes after the film to finish making their lists of questions and observations.

In groups of two or three, the students will discuss their observations among themselves. As a group, students will identify one observation and one question from their discussion to share with the class. As they share out, the teacher should record a list of the of observations and questions on the Smart board or chalkboard.

Leave this class list up for the students to refer to during the rest of the lesson.The teacher should guide the activity with questions. If needed, refer to the "Questions to Accompany the Video" handout under Attachments for some ideas.

Explain to the students that they will explore how citizens are governed through deepening their understanding of the six principles of the Constitution. Briefly introduce the procedures and expectations for the Carousel/Gallery Walk activity with the students.

Some procedures to keep in mind:

  • Students should adhere to the rules and procedures set up in the classroom for working in groups.

  • Each person in the group should have a role (groups may assign these to themselves): someone to take notes, someone to draw the symbol, someone to write the slogan, and someone to be the group spokesperson. If necessary, students may take on more than one role.

  • Groups will be given 3 minutes to create an image and slogan on their posters. They will then move to the poster to their left and repeat this process until they return to their original posters (more detailed instructions will follow in the next section).

Students are expected to be actively engaged, open, and respectful to others opinions throughout this process.


Display this guided question on the Smart board or chalkboard: How are the six principles of the Constitution related? Explain that students will be completing the Carousel/Gallery Walk strategy to explore these six basic principles.

Divide students up into groups of three or four students for a total of six groups (adjust group numbers as needed).

Direct the groups to the six pieces of butcher paper or large Post-it notes and have each group claim one paper. Give each group a different colored marker.Assign each group a different principle: popular sovereignty, limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, judicial review, or Federalism. Have the students write the principle and its definition at the top of their paper (to demonstrate their prior knowledge).

Have the groups brainstorm and come up with a symbol or image that represents their principle and its definition as well as a unique slogan, which they should draw onto their papers (they can refer to the Internet or their textbook for help). Be sure to have them leave room for the other groups to create their own symbols and slogans as well.

After each group is finished, have the students move to the paper (station) to their left, read the definition the other group came up with for their principle, evaluate the previous groups symbol and slogan, and then (as a group) come up with a new symbol and slogan to represent the principle. Make sure to emphasize that each new group needs to come up with a unique symbol and slogan at each station, for each principle. Initially give students 3 minutes at each station, then adjust this time based on your students' needs. The time can be increased or decreased.

Have the students rotate, leaving a new symbol and slogan at each poster. After groups have visited each poster, have them return to their own original work (they should naturally rotate back to their own poster after visiting all of the others). Give groups an opportunity to reflect on the new symbols and slogans on their original posters.


In their groups, students will now work together to compare and contrast the symbols and slogans for their principles. Have the students analyze eachsymbol and slogan on their poster, evaluating it for how well it represents the definition of the principle.

In their groups, students need to rate the symbols and slogans in order from least to greatest, based on how well they represent the principle. Have students record their ratings next to the symbols and slogans they are evaluating.

The teacher should walk around to each group, listening to each discussion and correcting any misconceptions.

Next, have the groups share out their principle, definition, and the similarities and differences they found among the symbols and slogans as well as their ratings and the rationale behind their evaluations. After each group has spoken, allow the other groups to ask any questions they might have. For example, if one group is unclear how a particular symbol fits with their principle, this would be the time for them to ask for clarification from the group that created the symbol. This forces students to clarify and explain their symbols and reasoning.

Again, the teacher should be answering questions and correcting misconceptions throughout this process.

Then, have students address the guiding question as a whole class: How are the six principles of the constitution related? The teacher can call on students or have them shout out.

Have students do a quick write to cement their explanations. Randomly assign the groups a principle that was not originally their own. Individually, each group member is responsible to write a summary paragraph based on this prompt: The principle of _________ is important to the Constitution because [give evidence]. Without the principle of ____________ written in our Constitution, our country would [state an argument] because [give evidence]. Display the prompt on the Smart board or chalkboard.


Students will extend their knowledge with a RAFT activity to demonstrate how the six principles impact a person's daily life. The prompts will have a common theme. Students will imagine that they are in a United States that has gotten rid of the Constitution. They will be able to choose to write article as a reporter, a diary entry as an average citizen, a passionate speech as an angry citizen, or draw a comic depicting an America without a government as a political cartoonist. To scaffold, the activity could focus on just one abolished principle instead of the whole Constitution.

Display or distribute the "RAFT Six Principles of the Constitution" handout (located under Attachments) to students.Describe each of these using simple examples: role, audience, format, and topic.Model how to write responses to the prompts, and discuss the key elements as a class. At first, it may be best to have all students to use the same prompt so the class can learn from varied responses.

Students then choose a row of the RAFT to create their products, which can be done individually or in small groups.Choose a few students to read their RAFT responses aloud, then have a class discussion about the different versions of the RAFT, even if they used the same role, audience, format, and topic.


For a participation grade, the students can complete the I Notice, I Wonder strategy. Have students refer back to the questions from their "wonder" lists they created at the beginning of class. Ask students which questions they have addressed by completing the task and which questions they would still like to answer. If there are questions left to be answered, ask students what they could do to answer the questions (for example, give students the task of looking up a solution to the question for homework and then report back to the class the next day).