English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Discussion
  • Founding Fathers
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Historical Documents
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Bill of Rights

    Bill of Rights


    In this lesson, students will think about what rights the Founders felt that the government should guarantee to its citizens. They'll read and analyze the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Assign students to the groups they will be working in. Try to assign a mix of ability levels to each group.

    Bill of Rights Brainstorm

    Most students will have at least some familiarity with the better-known amendments; this exercise is meant to help them access this knowledge and give them a baseline comparison to return to after their close reading.

    • ELL: Be aware that for ELLs who are recent immigrants, this may be their first exposure to the Bill of Rights. Take time out to explain what it is, what purpose the amendments serve, etc., as needed.

    Keep a list titled “We think the Bill of Rights says…” to refer back to at the end of class. Even if students have misconceptions, write them down—they will be corrected at the end of class.


    Think about what you know about the Bill of Rights.

    • Brainstorm as many rights as you can think of that you believe are contained in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

    Write, then share what you know about the Bill of Rights with the rest of the class.

    Group Work Discussion

    Use this time to set norms for group work. Explain that students will be working in groups to analyze the Bill of Rights and to summarize each amendment for a modern audience.

    Work Time

    Return to the list your class created about positive collaboration.

    Listen as your teacher prepares the class for working with groups, and use these questions to guide your thinking.

    • Are there any differences between partner work and group work?
    • How is group work easier or more complicated?
    • Which do you prefer and why?

    First Amendment Annotation Practice

    Model a close reading of the First Amendment, annotating and showing your thinking.

    • SWD: Model different ways to annotate the text (highlighting, underlining, color-coding different types of information) to allow students multiple ways to demonstrate their understanding of the task.

    With help from your students, compose a three-to-five-sentence summary of the rights contained in that amendment.

    Work Time

    Follow along as your teacher does a close reading and annotation of the First Amendment.

    • Help your teacher think of how to summarize this amendment for a modern audience.

    Group Reading and Summary

    • Assign the more complex amendments as stand-alones; the shorter ones can be paired up if needed, depending on the size of your group
      • ELL: The amendments aren’t long, but they can be dense, and they require a deeper understanding of language than other unit texts. Some ELLs may benefit from working with a partner with whom they share a non-English language to better understand and summarize the content in English.
    • Circulate and monitor how groups are functioning as well as the work that students are doing.
    • Have each group in turn explain what was learned from the close reading of the amendment.
    • Ask students to compare this list to the one they created at the beginning of the lesson: what did the students get right? What have they learned?

    Work Time

    With your group, complete a close reading of the amendment(s) assigned to you.

    • Write a short summary of each that is geared to a modern audience.

    When all the groups are ready, present your work to the class.

    Your Changes to the Bill of Rights

    Prompt students to consider the rights of the individual as well as the rights of the entire community.

    • SWD: For this task, it may be helpful to allow some students with disabilities to focus on just one of these writing prompts.


    Complete Journal Entry 4 by answering the following questions.

    • What is one thing you might change about the Bill of Rights?
    • Is anything missing from the Bill of Rights—or is anything included that shouldn’t be? Explain.


    Reading and Journal Entry

    Ask students to submit their Dialectical Journal entries to you so you can check their understanding of the text.


    Continue reading your Independent Reading book.

    Make sure to complete Independent Reading Dialectical Journal entries.