Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Bill of Rights and Amending the Constitution: An FPRI Primer

The Bill of Rights and Amending the Constitution: An FPRI Primer

  • National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies: Thematic Strand Index:
    • Standard #2: Time, Continuity and Change
    • Standard #6: Power, Authority and Governance
    • Standard #9: Global Connections
    • Standard #10 Civic Ideals and Practices
  • U.S. History Standards: Era 3 1754-1820s
  • Common Core State Standards for English Lang. Arts & Literacy in History/ Social Science, 6-12 
    • Key Ideas and Details
      • RH/SS.2—determine and summarize central ideas and themes
      • RH/SS.3—analyze text related individuals, events or ideas
        Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
      • RH/SS.9—analyze and/or compare primary/secondary sources
    • Comprehension and Collaboration 
      • SL.1—prepare and participate effectively in a range of conversations.
      • SL.2—integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. 
    • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas 
      • SL.4—present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 
  1. Analyze the process of amending the Constitution.
  2. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the amending process.
  3. Analyze the extent to which an amendment could solve the problems for which it was addressed.
  1. Ice Breaker/Anticipatory Set: Ask students to identify amendments to the Constitution of which they are aware. Place the list on a white board or flip chart. (15 minutes to 30 minutes)
  2. For homework, have students read the 27 Amendments to the United States Constitution and read Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Students should take notes on Article V to prepare for class tomorrow.
  1. (Day 2) Divide your class into pairs. Have each pair design a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Students must submit a copy of this amendment to the instructor at the start of the next class, dealing with this lesson. For each new proposed amendment, students must do the following in class and for homework:
    • Explain the need for the amendment.
    • Clarify the reasoning behind the wording of the Amendment.
    • Evaluate the likelihood of its passing and becoming a part of the U.S. Constitution. (Remember: there are four ways to ratify an amendment.)
  1. (Day3/4) Have the pairs of students present their amendments to the class and engage the class in discussion about their proposals. The Instructor should record each proposed amendment and have the class vote on each.

This lesson may conclude in three classroom periods or it may take a fourth to delve into constitutional issues and wrap up.

Grading can be based on the student research, class presentations, and class discussions.

Note: See attached pdf for Lesson Information, including amendment texts, the list of amendments, and other relevant documents.

Teachers can choose to limit the scope of this lesson. You can select specific issues that you wish to be addressed.

Research can also be assigned entirely as homework and may be given over several days, thereby inserting other lessons in between the first day of the lesson and the remaining days.

The lesson can be expanded to include Supreme Court decisions which interpret the amendments to the constitution.

The Bill of Rights and Amending the Constitution: An FPRI Primer.

The Constitution. National Archives.

ORBIS—FPRI’s Journal of Foreign Affairs. Numerous articles throughout its publishing history concerning the Constitution.

Educator Resources. Bill of Rights Institute.

Human Rights Library of the University of Minnesota.

  • Paul Dickler
  • FPRI
Grade Level
  • High School: 9, 10, 11, 12
Time Frame
  • Two to four classroom periods.

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at