Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Liberty and Justice

U.S. Government

K20 Center, Drew Rhodes | Published: September 24th, 2020 by K20 Center

Summary

In this lesson, students will use various strategies while defining the social contract and learning the origin of this political idea. Students will use instructional strategies to relate the ideas upon which our government was founded and research whether or not we are truly an equal society "with liberty and justice for all." Students will not only learn about current issues, but also create solutions to these problems in order to empower them in their educational experience.

Essential Question(s)

What is the intention of "with liberty and justice for all" in our Pledge of Allegiance? What is justice? Do all people enjoy civil liberties in America?

Snapshot

Engage

Students will examine the statement “with liberty and justice for all” and reflect on their individual interpretations of this text. Then students must decide if the statement is always true, sometimes true, or never true. Students must then share out with the class and justify their perspectives.

Explore

Students will graphically organize their prior knowledge about a concept into a definition using their own words and ideas.

Explain

Students will read ideas and write the textual evidence from news articles that support their ideas from the Always, Sometimes, or Never True discussion.

Extend

Students must write a summary statement about a concept or to summarize the main idea from textual information. Students can be presented with multiple pieces of text or forms of information and use the Tweet Up strategy to compare or summarize the central idea related to all the information.

Evaluate

Students will merge into groups of four and create action steps to solve the conflicts they read about earlier in the articles in order to encourage true equality.

Materials

  • Paper

  • Pencil

  • Notebook paper

  • Copy paper

  • Smart board

  • Tweet Up Handout

  • Frayer Model Handout (blank)

  • Frayer Model example (OKC Thunder)

  • Social Contract article (linked in Explore; hard copy for each student)

Engage

Always, Sometimes, or Never True: Teachers will provide participants with the statement “with liberty and justice for all.” This can either be written on the board or shown on the projector when students walk into the classroom. Teachers will then ask participants to read the statements and choose the answer that best describes their response to the statement: always, sometimes, or never true.

After students answer aloud, have participants write a short justification regarding their own response as to why they believe in what they wrote. Afterward, students can be guided with the following questions: What do liberty and justice mean to you? What recent events in the news, or personally, helped shape your opinion on this question? What factors do you think affect justice and liberty in America?

Explore

After the class discussion, hand each student a copy of Social Contract article. Have each student read the article and highlight any key words that they think are important to the concept of the social contract. After students have read, hold a brief class discussion over their findings. You might consider asking:

  • What words stuck out?

  • What do you think the social contract looks like in reality?

  • How does the social contract relate to the way we currently live?

Frayer Model: Teachers will begin by using a familiar concept to explain the Frayer Model diagram and demonstrate how to fill it in. A visual aid is included in these lesson plans called "Frayer Model - OKC Thunder." The teacher should model this example before applying it to the lesson concept.

Using computers or handheld devices, students will research the term "equality" and create their own Frayer Model over the term. Once the diagram is complete, have students share their ideas with a partner or group, modifying their diagrams as they accept new information.

It is optional to allow students to do a whole-class discussion after this partner/group discussion.

The information from the social contract article should then be related to the articles students read later in this lesson. Use the following questions: (1) Do all Americans receive "liberty and justice for all"? (2) What are some examples of how America allows freedom to it’s citizens? (3) Are all people in America treated equally?

Explain

Presents with the question, "What do you think the Founding Fathers meant by 'We the People' in the Constitution?” After reading this question, students should talk in pairs about who they believe is included when the Founding Fathers said “We” in “We the People.” Be sure to discuss the lack of equality for women and minorities during the writing of the U.S. Constitution.

Students will analyze articles over current issues in America. Students will then decide if the article gives supporting evidence of equality in America. Have students select an article to read on their own or break the students up into pairs to tackle the reading. Pairs may be a good decision, due to the length of the reading material. The articles for this section of the lesson are as follows:

Students should be asked if these articles are examples of inequality or equality in this country and, furthermore, if these events are evidence of a violation of our human rights. Each student (or pair) should determine a stance on this and then rewrite the textual evidence that supports their opinions on a sheet of notebook paper. Students should then be asked, “How do these events affect how people view freedom in America?" The answer can be concluded in pairs. Guide students toward solution-based thinking by adding the following: "What are some actions that can help combat and even change some of these injustices?"

A whole-class discussion of the articles and different students' (or pairs') stances can follow this activity, but it is optional.

Extend

Tweet Up: After reading the article and highlighting key components to build their claims, students will summarize their articles from the perspective of an American citizen who feels betrayed by their country, due to perceived violations of their civil rights. Each student will write a 140-character summary of their article from their chosen perspective and use the hashtag to identify the main idea. The hashtag needs to be a single word and will count toward the 140 characters.

Students will post these tweets in response to the essential question,"What do you think the Founding Fathers meant by 'We the People' in the Constitution?” Each student will use the “Tweet Up Handout" sheet to complete their summaries and post them in a designated area in the room. Following the first summary, or “tweet,” students will then use the highlighted statements in a tweet to cite textual evidence that supports their original tweet. For example, if a student writes “Some Native American tribes are facing a 'Financial' Trail of Tears. #NativesDeserveBetter" The student can then write a statistic from this article in their next Tweet Up. Each student is responsible for at least two Tweet Ups.

Once the student has responded, there should be a place in the room set aside for students to tape their “tweets.” As this portion of the room continues to grow, it should be referred to as the “feed.” The “feed” is basically the classroom’s tweets, which will become a large gallery of information during the lesson. These “tweets” can also be referred to during classroom discussion.

Evaluate

Critical Thinking (Solutions to Social Problems): Students will come together into groups of four and will then be charged with the responsibility of becoming a social activist for the conflict of their group's’ choice. Students can chose immigration reform, poverty (in general, if preferred), or police brutality. Students will then use their Tweet Ups to create one main statement and hashtag.

The final step for these groups is to come up with a three-step action plan to help solve the conflict of their choice. These actions steps can then be discussed in class.

The teacher should explain how each conflict currently causing issues in America is all of our responsibilities to help solve. Listen to student responses and respond appropriately. At the end of the lesson, the final question should be, if “We the People” did not mean all people, how do we ensure equality for all people in America? Teachers will be able to evaluate this portion of the lesson with the social activist rubric provided in the resources.

Resources