The Bill of Rights comprises the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and has formed the basis of the rights of the American people since it was adopted in 1791. Most high school students will study the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution in a U.S history or government class. You can help your teenage kids or teens you work with expand their understanding of the importance of the Bill of Rights by engaging them in a variety of fun and challenging activities that tests their knowledge and decision-making skills.
Bill of Rights Trivia
Plan trivia games to quiz your high school teens on their knowledge of the Bill of Rights. For one game, you might have the teens guess the amendment from a clue you give them. For instance, you might say, "this amendment prevents the military from housing troops in your home." The first teen to "buzz" in by either raising their hand or hitting a desk bell can answer. If they give the correct amendment, they get a point. Give five extra points if they can recite the full amendment verbatim. Another idea is to include questions related to the history of the Bill of Rights, how it was composed and by whom, and the historical forces that drove its creation.
Your Own Bill of Rights
Ask your teens what rights they would have included in the Bill of Rights if they had a say. What amendments would they remove and what would they choose to keep? Have your teens write a revised Bill of Rights with 10 amendments, then have them come together to debate the merits of the amendments they have included or removed. Together, have them come up with a final list of 10 amendments to make up a new Bill of Rights to present. Another ideas is to give the teens different scenarios based their favorite movies or books. For instance, what would a Bill of Rights look like if they were creating it for the people in "Avatar?" What about the magical characters from the Harry Potter series?
Discuss major supreme court rulings that invoked one of the Bill of Rights. Tell the teens they have the opportunity to re-try the cases and you and a few other adults are the supreme court. Have the teens form teams to debate original ruling, and assign judges to determine a winner. You could also have the teens debate the positions for or against a Bill of Rights altogether. During the time the Bill of Rights were introduced in 1789, the Federalist members of Congress were against it, while the Anti-Federalists were for it. Assign your teens to either positions and have them debate the merits of having a Bill of Rights, based on the arguments that were made at the time and their own opinions.
You Be The Judge
Research current cases that are waiting to go before the supreme court where an amendment from the Bill of Rights is being invoked. Present the case to your teens and have them act as the Supreme Court justices. What decision would they come up with and why? Try to have an uneven number of teens participate so that if the vote is split, majority rule will win, just as it does in the real Supreme Court. You could also come up with your own cases for the teens. Make the cases challenging or controversial to give them a glimpse of the tough decisions that the Supreme Court justices have to make.