Kindergarten students don't think abstractly enough to correlate the words of the United States Constitution with the freedoms they enjoy as citizens of the U.S., but they are savvy enough to understand the importance of the document. Celebrate Constitution Day, which is September 17, with a variety of hands-on activities sure to teach kindergartners a thing or two about the Constitution. Doing so will also fulfill the legal obligations dictating that students should have at least one day of Constitution education each school year.
Do Some Crafts
Not only do crafts help hone the fine motor skills of kindergarten students, but they also provide a hands-on way for the children to learn about a specific topic. Ask your students to pretend that it's 1787, and the president has asked them to design a flag for the newly free United States. Have the students share their flags, explaining how their design represents the U.S. Provide maps of the original 13 colonies for the kindergartners to color. Once they've colored these, have them color maps of what the U.S. looks like now. As a group, compare and contrast the two maps. Another craft would be to give students several star cut-outs and have them draw pictures of things they're free to do, such as go to church where they want or play on any playground that they want. Work with the children to glue the stars to a large piece of butcher paper to create a freedom collage.
Read Picture Books
Read "If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution" by Elizabeth Levy and Joan Holub, which is a book that teaches students, through words and pictures, who the key players were in drafting and signing the constitution. "Shh! We're Writing the Constitution" by Jean Fritz portrays the secret nature of drawing up the Constitution and outlines the key events that happened during the hot summer of 1787. The illustrations, drawn by well-known children's book author Tomie dePaola, help bring the history lesson to life. Share the perspective of both sides of the American Revolution with "George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides" by Rosalyn Schanzer. The book outlines the battle between George Washington and King George and presents facts from both sides of the war.
Study the Preamble
Read the Preamble to the Constitution to the kindergartners. It's the short introduction to the document, and it only takes about 40 seconds to read, according to Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston, authors of "How to Raise an American." Talk about what the Preamble means, using age-appropriate language, and then give the kindergartners blank white paper and have them draw a picture of what "We the People" means. For example, student can draw their families enjoying their freedoms such as going to church or celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks and a picnic. Play the song "Preamble" from the "School House Rock" series for the students, and let them sing along as another activity.
Talk with your kindergartners about voting and how that's a freedom afforded to citizens of the U.S. Set up a mock vote in your classroom to allow the students to get a hands-on feel for how decisions are made based on the laws in the Constitution. Another activity is to use feathers and paint to teach students how the Constitution was recorded. Show kindergartners how the ends of feathers were used as pens by dipping them in ink. Encourage the students to dip their feathers in the paint and draw or write a message to their fellow Americans. End Constitution Day with a celebration of freedom. Cut red, white and blue paper into small pieces to make confetti for the students to toss into the air, or have a parent bring in a cake decorated to look like the American flag.
- National Constitution Center: The Constitution of the United States of America
- Celebrating Constitution Day; Roben Alacon
- How to Raise an American; Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston
- If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution; Elizabeth Levy and Joan Holub
- Shh! We're Writing the Constitution; Jean Fritz
- George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides; Rosalyn Schanzer
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.