Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Unpacking the 14th Amendment: Citizenship and Constitutional Rights

U.S. Constitution and Equal Protection of Laws

Tanner Lusher, Kelsey Willems | Published: February 21st, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 105 Minutes
  • Duration More 2-3 Periods


In this lesson, students will learn how the Fourteenth Amendment impacted the history of civil rights in the United States within a focused context. Students will discover the origins, significance, and lasting effects of the 14th Amendment by examining a collection of primary and secondary sources. Students will demonstrate how the Fourteenth Amendment helped ensure all U.S. citizens are equally protected under the law through creative multimodal projects. Finally, students reflect on their learning by completing a short written response.

Essential Question(s)

How does the Fourteenth Amendment support the principles of other constitutional amendments? Why is the Fourteenth Amendment significant to ensuring that all U.S. citizens receive equal protection of laws?


Engage - Students will identify what rights are guaranteed to them as U.S. citizens using the examples/non-examples strategy.

Explore - Students will create a visual representation that synthesizes their understanding of the 14th Amendment and the Bill of Rights using the Cognitive Comics strategy.

Explain - Students will generate observations and questions about the 14th Amendment and the Doctrine of Incorporation. 

Extend - Students will demonstrate what they have learned about the 14th Amendment by recording an unboxing video. 

Evaluate- Students will describe what they have learned about citizenship and the 14th Amendment by using the How am I feeling? What am I thinking? strategy.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Infogram (linked)

  • Infographic handout (optional; attached; one per student)

  • Cognitive Comics handout (attached; one per group)

  • The 14th Amendment Unwrapped handout (attached; one per student)

  • Unboxing Video handout (attached; one per group)

  • Writing utensils

  • Notebook paper

  • Sticky Notes (optional)

  • Computers (one per group)

  • Recording device for audio and video (one per group)

  • Paper/Plastic bags or cardboard boxes (one per group)


10 Minute(s)

Facilitate the lesson using the attached Lesson Slides. 

Transition through slides 3-4 and go over the essential questions and learning objectives as needed. Proceed to slide 5 and ask students to take a moment to consider the following question:

What rights are guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Constitution?

Use the strategy Examples and Non-Examples by asking students to call out first some examples of rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Constitution and then ask for non-examples. Record their answers in the appropriate category somewhere in the classroom that is easily visible to all students. This process should take no more than five minutes. Once the lists are complete, summarize their responses and ask students to share how they knew about the examples. Then, communicate to students that the examples are explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution or in one of the twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution.


30 Minute(s)

Move to slide 6 and pass out a copy of the attached The 14th Amendment Unwrapped handout to each student. Next, direct students to the QR code on the slide to open the linked Infogram on their device or pass out the attached printed version. Tell students they will be reading each of these texts and writing a summary of both individually before moving on to a group project. 

Organize students into small groups of three. This activity could easily be done in pairs as well if your class size does not easily divide into groups of three. 

Give groups time to individually read through the 14th Amendment Unwrapped handout and Infogram. This should take approximately five to ten minutes for students to read. After reading, make sure each member of the group writes their own summary of what they learned from the documents on a separate piece of paper.

Once everyone has their summary written, move to slide 7. Pass out one copy of the attached Cognitive Comics handout to each group. Share the Cognitive Comics strategy with your class. Explain that the scene and dialogue could depict one event from the timeline or depict the general idea from their summaries. Tell students that after everyone in their group has created their own summaries, they should discuss and compare notes and decide what scene they want to create as a comic strip. 

This part should take about 15-20 minutes. 

Have students hold on to their comic strips until the end of the lesson. Students may include the comic strip as an item in their unboxing video (seen in the Extend section) or use their comic strip to help them generate ideas for other items to put in their group’s box.


25 Minute(s)

Advance to slide 8. Introduce the Doctrine of Incorporation to students and help them get an idea of what it means and why it is important by explaining the definition in as much detail as you think necessary. Next, transition to slide 9 and play the “The 14th Amendment: Understanding its crucial legal impact” video that is embedded in this slide about the legal impact of the 14th Amendment.

 “The 14th Amendment: Understanding its crucial legal impact”:

After the video, proceed to slide 10. Explain the I Notice, I Wonder strategy to students. Have students take out their same paper where they wrote their summaries over the 14th Amendment earlier and a writing implement. Ask them to list what they noticed or what really stood out to them in the video on one side of their paper. Then tell students to write down what they still have questions about regarding the 14th Amendment and the Doctrine of Incorporation on the other side of their paper. 

If time permits, this is a great opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings or misconceptions related to the content by having volunteers share items from their list to help facilitate a whole class discussion.


30 Minute(s)

Go to slide 11. Pass out the attached Unboxing Video handout and introduce students to the Unboxing Video strategy. Explain to students that they will be making a video to review the Fourteenth Amendment. Their task is to describe the origins, influence, and lasting impact of the Fourteenth Amendment. Tell students they can use a combination of information, objects, and symbols to demonstrate what they have learned about this topic. 

Allow students time to plan out the video in their small groups using the Unboxing Video handout. Prior to filming, groups will either select existing items or create their own items to place in their box that they can reference while they are speaking during the video. The items going in the box should have a clear connection to the Fourteenth Amendment in some way or the student will need to justify why that item helps them understand and appreciate the 14th Amendment.

Students should be able to explain why they included each item and how it relates to the 14th Amendment. Explain that the content of the video should answer all of the questions that are on the Unboxing Video handout. Explain that videos should be between 2-5 minutes and not to exceed 5.

Once students have completed the handout, give them their recording device and tell them they need to go to the location where they are filming so that they can record the short video. Make sure students record in a place where they are not disrupting other classes or other groups. 

Communicate to students that each group member should have a role in the planning and recording process of their video. Again, students should refer to their Unboxing Video handout for guidance on what to include in their short video. After students have recorded, they can share the video via e-mail or submission to a destination of your choosing.


10 Minute(s)

Move to slide 14 and have students take out a piece of paper or you can pass out a sticky note to each of them. Direct students to write responses to the following questions on the slide using the How Am I Feeling? What Am I Thinking? strategy. On one side of their response, students will write about how comfortable or confident they feel in their understanding of the content in these questions. On the other side, they will write what they are thinking and attempt to answer these questions to the best of their ability. 

  • How does the Fourteenth Amendment support the principles of other constitutional amendments?

  • Why is the Fourteenth Amendment significant to ensuring that all U.S. citizens receive equal protection of laws? 

Collect student responses as they walk out and use them for assessment or to inform what you still need to review on this topic.