Across America, schools celebrated Constitution Day on Monday of this week. There are books, posters and artwork scattered around our elementary school in honor of September 17, 1787, when the U.S. Constitution was signed. The younger students don’t have a deep understanding – well maybe I should say, they don’t have any understanding – of our constitution or the terms that are batted around like, Founding Fathers, Bill of Rights, or three-pronged government. But they understand the three-pronged rules of our school – be kind, be safe, be responsible – and that’s a good springboard for discussing national freedoms and responsibilities. Fortunately there are excellent children’s books that help explain some of the terms and information surrounding this historical event, like this one by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Siri Weber Feeney:
This book is loaded with facts and they are presented in simple language, making the information accessible to my early elementary students. One of my speech groups was especially interested in the argument over representation. The kids looked at the size of the thirteen states and saw the problem. In the book, after the Virginal Plan was presented, we read, “The plan upset leaders from states with large populations. They said it was not fair. Large states should get more votes!”
These second graders agreed – it wasn’t fair. Their solution, however, was different than that of the founding fathers. The students thought the state boundaries should have been redrawn so all of them would be the same size. (Fairness is a big issue in elementary school.) That created some new discussion opportunities, as I’m sure you can imagine. Another second grader wished he had been on the committee making all the laws. If he had been there, he would have made a law to never kill dinosaurs! We have more to learn in our speech and language sessions, but we are having fun in the process.
This book is a great tool for building vocabulary. It has a glossary to help students learn the terms and it has a timeline to chart important events. The only drawback I see – perhaps the author could have started her timeline earlier, like when dinosaurs walked the earth.