Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Oh, California

Understanding Primary Sources:
Two Constitutions

Objective: Students compare and contrast the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights with the California State Constitution's Declaration of Rights.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
1-2 hours

Building Background:
Help students understand that the United States Constitution represents our country's founders' most important beliefs about how the country should be governed. It also expresses their beliefs about the rights of citizens. Review with students the origin of the Bill of Rights and how the writers of the Constitution wanted to guarantee certain liberties, such as freedom of speech, press, and religion. Many states would not approve the United States Constitution without the promise of a Bill of Rights. Point out to students that when California became a state, the writers of the State Constitution included important ideas to protect California citizens. Tell students they will compare the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution with California's Declaration of Rights.

What To Do:

1. Arrange for students to have access to the Federal Constitution's Bill of Rights, and California's State Constitution. Some possible sources:

2. Pair students to read Amendment I of the United States Constitution. Review any words they do not understand, and discuss the meaning of the selected amendment. Ask: Which freedoms does this amendment guarantee? What does the fact that these freedoms are listed first of the ten amendments show about their importance to the writers?

3. Distribute the Two Constitutions worksheet, one to each pair. Have students work with their partner to read Article 1, Declaration of Rights from the California State Constitution, and answer the worksheet questions.

4. When students have finished their worksheets, discuss their answers. Are the same freedoms guaranteed in both documents? Discuss the similarities and differences of language.

5. Ask students to give you examples of the expression of these freedoms in their daily lives. Discuss.

Discuss the importance of these freedoms both in our history and our daily lives.


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