Friday, May 6, 2016

Preamble Pete

Confession.  Teaching the unit on the Constitution is my least favorite of all the content I cover.  It's not that I don't think it's important, it is.  In fact it's probably one of the most important units I teach. I don't like it for two reasons.

1.) I personally find it boring.

2.) The concepts of the Constitution are VERY difficult to get 7th or 8th grade kids (who have very little, if any exposure to government) to understand.  I mean some don't even know about the 3 branches.  Trying to teach kids the process for amending the constitution, the electoral college, or even how a bill becomes a law can get really complicated really fast.

Because of this, I am always on the lookout for ways to make this unit more fun and engaging.  This is where I look to my American History Study Group for help.  We meet four times a year, and I LOVE those days! Such a great chance for awesome ideas to be passed from one teacher to another, and it all benefits kids!

This is where Preamble Pete comes from.  An awesome social studies teacher from Dodge City, Sheila Howard, shared with me her ROCK STAR lesson for teaching the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.  I quickly asked if I could "steal this" and implemented into my unit too.

The scenario:  Students are doctors at a cutting-edge medical facility.  They have a very special patient today.  Preamble Pete is 226 years old and suffering from old, outdated organs (words).  They are to replace the old organs with new, updated versions.

Students were required to take a picture of their finished transplants.  This picture would come in handy later!

Pete, prepped and ready for surgery!

Gearing up!

Reading over Pete's "chart" to make sure they know what they need to do.

Careful...only ONE organ can be removed at a time.

Searching for "new and improved" organs to replace the outdated ones.

All focused on the preamble.  This would NOT have happened with a lecture!

At the end, each team got to take a picture with Pete and a sign telling us if they succeeded with the surgery!
Most surgeries were successful today.

Unfortunately, not all teams read through Pete's "chart" before starting.  This team's surgeon got a little "cut-happy" and removed all his organs at one time.  This caused Pete to expire.  :(
The results:  The kids LOVED it!  In fact, I had no doubt they would think this activity was fun.  I was concerned whether or not these kiddos would see through the fun and actually understand the content.  But I was happily surprised with their "new organs" and how the majority of kids seemed to grasp the concepts of the Preamble.  They took a quiz today, in which they could use the picture of their "reworded Pete" to use to help them on the quiz.  Most kids did very well.

The best part about this for me, is that it replaced a lecture/note delivery method I have used in the past to explain the meaning behind the preamble.  I am looking for ways to replace lectures and worksheets with more engaging and active learning activities.

Thanks Sheila for this awesome activity!

PS...I was lucky enough to have all the medical gear you see in these photos donated to the school from parents and members of our community.   If you're doing something cool in your classroom...SPREAD THE WORD!  Share what you do.  Let the community see inside your room!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is a fantastic idea. I'm looking to use this in a high school government class and would love more information. Do you have directions or a link to the complete lesson? Thanks!

    1. Hi Caleb! Here is a link to a Google Doc with the information that I used for the students, the text with highlighted words, and a copy of the quiz I used to check for understanding the next day. Let me know if you have any questions!

  3. Great idea! Where did you get the scrubs for the kids? Did someone donate them?

    1. Thank! Yes, actually all the medical gear was donated by people in the community, some who had kids in school and some who didn't. It's amazing what a community will do for the schools if they're asked! I will only have to replace the head gear, gloves, and masks next year. The gowns will be fine to reuse! Good luck! Have a great school year :)