Slavery and the Constitution
published on: 2/28/2003
Contributing Teacher(s): Margo Dill
Social Studies/U.S. History Grade Range: Upper Elementary (4-5) Materials Needed:
Grade Range: Upper Elementary (4-5)
- Students will read parts of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
- Students will pretend they are slaves and write about the feelings slaves may have felt after hearing the words about freedom in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
- Students will discuss the feelings they believe slaves may have felt during the late 1700''s and support their beliefs with facts from the text.
- Goal 1.5 comprehend and evaluate written, visual and oral presentations and works
- Social Studies 1. Principles expressed in the documents shaping constitutional democracy in the United States
Time Allowance: 45 minutes
Description: This is Lesson 4 of an eight-lesson unit. This lesson focuses on slavery during the late 1700''s, and how slaves were affected or not affected by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
NOTE: This is Lesson 4 of an eight-lesson unit titled “Writing the Constitution.” These eight lessons focus on how the Constitution became the law of the land, starting with the Articles of Confederation and ending with our first two presidents under the new government. (This unit does not focus on the Bill of Rights or the organization of our government. I taught that separately as a government unit around election time.) The other lessons are:
This lesson focuses on slavery during the late 1700''s, and how slaves were affected or not affected by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
- The teacher explains to students that they will read actual parts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The students should pretend they are slaves while reading these documents and try to picture how a slave may have felt during this time.
- First, the students and teacher read a part of the Declaration of Independence and discuss its meaning. The part to read starts right after the Preamble with "We hold these truths to be self-evident. . ." That is the only paragraph that is necessary to read.
- In the Constitution, the teacher and students read and discuss the Preamble, Article 1-Section 2.3 (about the 3/5 Compromise), and Article 1-Section 9 (Congress could not control the slave trade until 1808, but they could put a $10 tax on each slave brought into the United States). (In the Constitution, slaves are referred to as "such persons" or "all other persons.")
- The teacher asks students to write about how they would feel if they were a slave hearing all this information. The teacher asks them to think specifically about how the words "all men are created equal" or "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" would make them feel. (*Interesting note: In my classroom, I expected all the students to say all of these things we read about in the documents were unfair. I had a couple of students look at it positively. They decided the fact that slaves were counted at all [even though it was just 3 out of 5] was a step in the right direction. They also stated that at least slaves were referred to in the Constitution as people and not property. This started a very good debate between the other students who felt the words were hypocritical.)
- Students share their paragraphs or ideas with the whole class for a discussion. This discussion can also lead to thoughts on compromising, equal rights, and the beginning of trouble between the North and South.
- Students turn in their paragraphs to the teacher when the discussion is over.
Students will turn in their free writing paragraphs. These can be graded on a scoring guide. I would not grade these for spelling or grammar errors.
Wrote about both documents that were read in class, expressed several feelings that slaves could have actually had during the late 1700''s, supported their beliefs with facts from the documents, explained the feelings and examples in detail3 Wrote about both documents that were read in class, told why things were unfair for the slaves but did not always express a feeling the slave may have had, supported their beliefs with facts from class discussion, explained the feelings or reactions of the slaves but did not provide any examples2 Wrote about one or the other documents that were read in class, but not both, expressed unfair wording or events for slaves, but did not necessarily express how a slave might have felt during this time, nothing from the documents are referred to1 Wrote about the unfair treatment of slaves, but didn''t mention the documents, didn''t write about feelings, didn''t write a paragraph but just a couple sentences, mostly opinion without support
For additional information contact :
Francis Howell R-III