Lesson Plan: The Bill of Rights in Modern Times

The Purpose and Function of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Judge Neil Gorsuch testified for a second day as the Senate Judiciary Committee considered his nomination to the Supreme Court. In this clip he answered a question from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) regarding the purpose and function of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


In this lesson, students will learn about the individual rights that are included in the Bill of Rights and current issues relating to them. Students will use C-SPAN Classroom's Constitution Clips to explore what each of these rights mean and determine how these rights apply to current events in America. This lesson works well with classes with one-to-one devices or in flipped classrooms.


  • WARM-UP:

    As class begins, have the students respond to the following warm-up questions:

    • What are your rights as a citizen? Where do these rights come from?

    Review the students' answers to the warm-up questions. As a class, have the students watch the following two video clips to introduce the Bill Rights. Use the questions associated with each video clip to guide the students' responses.

  • VIDEO CLIP 1: The Purpose and Function of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (4:39)

    • What is meant by the Constitution being a "negative document?" How does this relate to the need for a Bill of Rights?

    • What does Judge Gorsuch say is the purpose of the Constitution?

    • Why did the founders add the Bill of Rights?

    • What are examples of rights included in the Bill of Rights that Judge Gorsuch mentioned?
  • VIDEO CLIP 2: Bill of Rights in Modern Times (1:31)

    • Where did many of the rights included in the Bill of Rights come from?

    • Explain what Judge Davis means when he says "The text hasn't changed… the rights haven't changed but the facts have changed."

    • What factors have impacted how the Bill of Rights has been interpreted?

    Discuss the history and purpose of the Bill of Rights and review the students' responses. Either assign rights to individual students or have each student view the videos for all of the rights. Have the students use the note-taking chart on the Bill of Rights handout to view the clips from C-SPAN Classroom's Constitution Clips listed below and take notes. If students are assigned individual rights, allow time for the students to present their information to the class.

    For each right, students will identify the amendment in which it is found, summarize the right, describe current issues relating to it and define key vocabulary mentioned in the video clips.

    HANDOUT: Bill of Rights (Google Doc)

  • First Amendment Rights:

  • Second Amendment Rights:

  • Third Amendment:

  • Fourth Amendment Rights:

  • Fifth Amendment:

  • Sixth Amendment:

  • Seventh Amendment:

  • Eighth Amendment:

  • Ninth Amendment:

  • Tenth Amendment:


    Review the information from the note-taking chart and address any misconceptions. After doing this, have the students respond to the following prompt with an essay:

    • Using specific examples from the videos, explain how the rights listed in the Bill of Rights relate to issues today.

    Review the students' answers and have the students discuss which right listed in the Bill of Rights is most important to them today.


    Translate the Bill of Rights- Using the text of the Bill of Rights, translate the Bill of Rights into modern language. Without changing any of the rights, rewrite the rights found in the Bill of Rights using words and phrases that you use with your friends.

    Rewrite the Bill of Rights- If you were drafting a new Bill of Rights, what rights would you include? Review the current list of rights in the Bill of Rights; determine which of those rights you keep and which rights are not listed that are needed. Create a list of rights that you feel are necessary today. After listing these, provide an explanation of why you chose those rights.

    Categorize Rights- Divide the rights found in the Bill of Rights into 3-4 categories. Look for similarities between the rights and categorize the rights based on commonalities. Create a name for each category and explain how the rights are connected.


    • Was the Bill of Rights necessary? Provide examples from the video clips to support your argument.

    • Why were the Ninth and Tenth Amendments included in the Constitution?

    • How are the Ninth and Tenth Amendments similar?

    • Which amendment to the Constitution is the least important?

Additional Resources


  • Amendments
  • Bail
  • Bear Arms
  • Bill Of Rights
  • Counsel
  • Double Jeopardy
  • Due Process
  • Eminent Domain
  • Free Speech
  • Freedom Of Speech
  • Grand Jury
  • Impartial Jury
  • Petition
  • Quarter Troops
  • Ratification
  • Religion
  • Searches And Seizures
  • Trial
  • Warrant
  • Witness


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesConstitutional Foundation


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