Constitutional Analysis – 7805

Constitutional Analysis – 7805

Summary

In this lesson, students use Voyant, a digital textual analysis tool, to analyze the Constitution of the United States and compare and contrast the US Constitution to the North Korean constitution. The students use various features of Voyant, including a word cloud display, word frequency counter, and word context tool to discuss what they notice about each of the documents. In pairs, the students use the information displayed by these tools to complete a graphic organizer in which they make predictions about each country’s government, culture, and political system based on specific textual evidence. After analyzing both documents, the students synthesize this information and answer the question, “What role does a country’s governing document play in establishing the culture and political system of a country?” Students answer this question in written form, using specific textual evidence from the two documents to support their opinions.

Lesson Reflection:

Teacher:

“The inspiration for this activity actually came from a student. After we completed several initial activities on the Constitution, the class was engaged in a discussion about other countries’ governments and constitutions. One student asked if we could compare our Constitution to another country’s,  and this activity was born.

I did a similar activity last year with the Constitution, but I did not use Voyant. Instead, I had the students view at a copy of the Constitution in Word and highlight the key phrases that they saw. The lesson did not go over very well and I do not feel like much learning came from the activity. The students did not enjoy the assignment, I think in part because the entire document was overwhelming for them. The addition of Voyant changes this activity completely. Students are not only able to skim the document easier using the various tools, but they can use the features of Voyant to problem solve in a way that Word’s functions do not necessarily offer.

Next year, I plan to complete a similar activity in which the students use Voyant to compare the Articles of Confederation to the US Constitution and discuss the similarities and differences between the two documents. Then, the students will choose another country’s constitution and compare it to the US Constitution.”

ITRT:

“Similar to a previous lesson the teacher and I created together, at its core this lesson is a historical writing assignment. As with the other lesson, I have never seen kids so engaged in the writing process. In this particular assignment, I believe they were so engaged because the task was so wide-open. Students could choose the words and phrases that they searched for and create their own opinions, which gave them ownership of the task.

This activity was completed prior to other activities on the Constitution, but I believe this type of activity would be a great “discovery” lesson to introduce the Constitution as well. Instead of providing students with notes on the key concepts of the Constitution, the teacher can complete this type of activity and then have his/her students generate the notes themselves.”

More in depth reflection on student work can be found at this link.

TIPC Ratings

Ideal

Research and information fluency are a focus of this lesson. Students practice several important research skills while analyzing the two documents. Students construct research questions on multiple occasions throughout the lesson, as they choose the words and phrases to search for within the two documents. Voyant displays the frequency, location, and context of these words, which the students interact with in order to develop new words and phrases to research that will strengthen their understanding of the two documents. The students assemble, organize, and synthesize their understanding of the frequency, location, and context of the words and phrases they have researched in order to compare the two governing documents and discuss to how a country’s governing document helps to establish the culture and climate of that country.

Developing

Communication is a secondary focus of this lesson. The students use a Schoolspace discussion board to communicate their comparison of the US and North Korean constitutions and their explanation of how each document shapes the culture and political system of its reflective country. A Schoolspace discussion board serves as a medium for the final written product so that students can quickly share their findings with the rest of the class and see the findings of their classmates as well. Although the discussion board is the only digital tool used to enhanced communication, group work is essential to this particular activity. As the students are problem solving and examining the two documents, it is important that they articulate their ideas verbally and share them with another person so that they can receive feedback, adapt their thought process, and consider outside opinions.

Ideal

Critical thinking and problem solving are another primary focus of this lesson. The problem embedded in this lesson, determining how a country’s governing document shapes that country’s culture and political system, is an authentic task. The task contains connections to current events in today’s world, as numerous countries are currently creating or revising their constitutions and there have been frequent discussions within the United States about the constitutionality of proposed laws and political actions. Additionally, there is no one correct answer to this task. In order to successfully complete the task, the students must create their own problem solving strategies by choosing words and phrases that they believe hold meaning or relevance, and then use the various Voyant tools (frequency, location, context, etc.) to justify their opinions. This task could be completed without the use of digital tools, but Voyant makes the task much more efficient. The tools at the students’ disposal allow them to examine entire documents, test hypotheses, and come to conclusions in a 45 minute time frame, which would not be possible if they had to read a single-spaced, 10-page document word for word.

Not Observed

Creativity and Innovation are not a focus of this lesson.

Download Files

Constitutional Analysis (7805) – H21 Lesson Resources
Contents:

  • H21 Lesson Plan
  • Constitutional Analysis Graphic Organizer
  • Classroom Action Video (Vimeo)
  • Sample Student Work – Graphic Organizer
  • Sample Student Work – Essay

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