When the Constitution was written over 200 years ago, the leaders of the United States probably didn't stop to think about how this important document could be explained in simple terms for kids to understand. Helping kids understand the Bill or Rights involves putting the amendments into words they can understand and providing modern examples of the rights it gives citizens.
Basics of the Bill of Rights for Kids
The Bill of Rights, explained in simple terms, is also known as the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Many of these amendments seek to protect the rights of citizens by focusing on personal freedoms and the power of government. The amendments included in the Bill of Rights are:
- Congress cannot make a law that affects the establishment of religion, restricts a person's right or the press's right to free speech, or restricts the right of people to gather together in a peaceful manner.
- Citizens have the right to own guns.
- During times of peace soldiers cannot take up residence in someone else's house without that owner's permission.
- A person, his house and belongings cannot be searched or taken, and he cannot be given a warrant without good reason.
- You cannot be tried for a serious crime without a Grand Jury deciding there is enough evidence for a trial.
- A person should be given a speedy and public trial by a jury of his peers in the state and district where he committed the crime.
- A person has the right to a jury in a civil case where more than $20 is being disputed.
- Excessive bail and/or fines shall not be ordered, and cruel and unusual punishments can't be imposed.
- You have rights beyond those listed in the Constitution.
- Areas and laws that aren't governed or prohibited directly by the Constitution may be made by individual states.
Print out a copy of these amendments to use as a reference when completing activities about the Bill of Rights.
Lessons and Activities About the Bill of Rights
A kid-friendly Bill of Rights activity can make this important part of history more clear. If you need help downloading the printable, check out these helpful tips.
Match the Amendment
Ten different scenarios are presented in this 10 amendments for kids worksheet. The goal is for children to match each scenario with the amendment that it relates to and highlight the scenarios that violate the amendment. This will help children understand how the amendments connect to modern-day situations. An answer key is provided to help you check your child's answers.
In the News
Watch the news and scour the newspapers for examples of cases that involve the Bill of Rights kids can relate to. Stories involving the first amendment will be most common.
Have older children role play scenarios that violate the Bill of Rights. For example, you may have them put on a skit about someone's freedom of speech being violated or pretend to arrest someone without a reason.
Illustrate the Amendments
Children can create illustrations to accompany each amendment. These illustrations will help provide a visual reference when it comes to remembering the Bill of Rights. You could also use Bill or Rights coloring pages, such as the labeled one at History for Kids.
Write Your Own Bill of Rights
Extend the lesson by having children write their own Bill of Rights, a kid version. Suggestions include a Bill of Rights for sisters, a Bill of Rights for pets, a Bill of Rights for families or a Bill of Rights for students. Having a Bill of Rights summary for students or kids on hand as they are working can help.
Websites About the Bill of Rights
Interactive websites help kids learn about the Bill of Rights in entertaining ways. Incorporate some of these websites to help your children understand their freedoms
- Ben's Guide offers a kid-friendly explanation of the Bill of Rights.
- Try Annenberg Classrooms's interactive quiz to test their memory of the amendments.
- The Constitution Center's Bill of Rights game has kids travel through Freeville to save the Bill of Rights by finding the missing amendments.
- The Bill of Rights Institute offers games, quizzes and videos to help students understand the Bill of Rights.
Books About the Bill of Rights
Books about the Bill of Rights provide students with an overview of the amendments and different scenarios involving those rights. These can make the Bill of Rights simplified so they are easier to understand for kids.
- Sly Sobel's "The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Freedom Then and Now" combines a discussion of each amendment with some unique facts about the Constitution and creative illustrations.
- "The Bill of Rights in Translation: What It Really Means" from the Fact Finders series translates the Bill of Rights into kid-friendly terms.
- Kathleen Krull's "A Kid's Guide to the Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant" answers questions about the Bill of Rights to help kids understand the amendments.
Songs About the Bill of Rights
Songs help musical and auditory learners process information, which can be easier to remember than a written Bill of Rights definition for kids. These songs will help students memorize the 10 amendments by setting them to familiar and catchy new tunes.
- Totally 3rd Grade features a rock song that outlines each of the 10 amendments. You may listen to the song online or download it for a small fee. Flash cards, a close reading passage and worksheets accompany the song.
- Mind Muzik offers a Bill of Rights rap which puts the amendments in simplified terms. The song must be purchased (about $4) to hear the full version, and the purchase also comes with a recap track, PDF lyrics and a quiz with answer key to accompany it.
- Smart Songs' Bill of Rights Rap may be listened to for free when on YouTube.
Teaching the Bill of Rights
Incorporate elements from each type of resource to help children learn about the Bill of Rights. Continually remind children about their freedoms and contrast the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights with the lack of freedom in other countries to help children understand the value of the Bill of Rights.