I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.
This a hands-on lesson plan on the the Constitution and President George Washington. Dance a minuet, cook and eat Nelly's Hoecakes, go on a "fox hunt", make a Constitution tree, and more! This lesson follows my 6 part unit on the American War for Independence. My lessons are geared toward 2nd-3rd grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 14 children between the ages of 0-12. Use these fun lessons with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!
Introduction & The Need for Rules
*Begin making Nelly's Hoecakes the night before by mixing together 4 cups of cornmeal, 1 1/4 teaspoons yeast and enough warm water (3-4 cups) to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter. Cover it leave it to soak overnight.
1. Stretch & pray. Discuss I Peter 2:13, 14.
2. Remove the rules ahead of time from a board game you think the children have never seen or played. Hand it to the children and tell them to play it. Let them try to figure out what to do. When they tell you they can’t play it because they don’t know how to play it, ask them what they need. They need the rules first. Pull out the rules for the game. Tell them this is what happened in America after they'd won the War for Independence. They now needed rules to follow. The rule book is like the Constitution. (If you're not constrained by time, you can then pull out the rules and play the board game.)
YOU WILL NEED: 1 board game
3. Read The Creation of the U.S. Constitution (Graphic History) by Michael Burgan. As you read have the children repeat important people's names and words. Every time you say, "Madison" have them pretend to write. Have them make a shushing sound when you read that they kept everything secret. Have them "pat" their sweating foreheads when reading about it being hot. Have them hold up their fists when you read about them fighting. Before you get to the discussion of the Virginia Plan, stop reading and do activity 4.
Instead of or in addition to reading this book, you can have a mom dress up as Dolley Madison and tell the children about what her husband helped to write and why it is important. She can get all the details from the above book.
4. Divide the children into 3 groups. Group 1 has two children, Group 2 has one child, and Group 3 has everyone else. Give Group 1 a paper that says "Play a game." Give Group 2 a paper that says "Make a craft." Give Group 3 a paper that says "Eat a snack." Tell them that we need to decide what we're going to do at co-op, and if they can convince the rest of the group to do what's on their paper, we'll do it. Give them a few minutes to try to figure it out on their own. If needed, interject comments like, "Will it be fair if we do what Group 1 wants to do since Group 3 has so many more people?" and/or "What about Group 1? Just because there are two people in it, shouldn't their vote still count equally? They are still one group!" Conclude that this was the issue they struggled with when creating the Legislative Branch. They decided to on the Great Compromise which allowed for both to count, so we'll do all 3 activities today.
Book to read for activity 3
5. Sing the SchoolHouse Rock Preamble Song as you go through the pictures of We the Kids by David Catrow. (If you have a way to show the video clip to the class, you could do that instead.)
Book for activity 5
Three Branches of Government
6. Make a Branches of Government Tree: Have each child take a lunch-sized brown paper bag and open it. Twist the bottom third. This will be the trunk for the tree. Tear the top 2/3 of the bag into 3 sections and twist them to look like branches. On the three cloud-shaped green sheets of construction paper paste the pictures from bensguide.gpo.gov. Paste the 3 green cloud-shaped leaves to each of the branches. Either paste the word "Constitution" on the trunk of the tree o have the children write "Constitution" on the trunk. Review each of the branches, what they do and who is the head of each one.
YOU WILL NEED: 1 lunch-sized brown paper bag per child & items brought by families: glue sticks, 1 marker, copies of each of the pictures from http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/government/branches.html (cut out ahead of time), 3 green leaves or green cloud-shapes
7. Stir in remaining 4 3/4 cup of cornmeal, 1 egg, dash of salt, & enough warm water to give the mixture the consistency of pancake batter (3-4 cups) into Nelly's Hoecakes. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.
YOU WILL NEED: Liquid measuring cup, mixing spoon, 4 3/4 cup of cornmeal, 1 egg, & dash of salt
8. Read about first part of George Washington's life (pre-war) from George Washington by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire (pp.8-26).
9. George Washington loved parties and dancing. He loved to do a dance called the minuet. Have the girls and moms put on skirts. Do a simple variation of a minuet to music. Practice it before you set it to music. Show the boys how to bow and the girls how to curtsy. Have the boys in one line & girls/moms in the other. The person next to you will be your partner. Chin up & shoulders back. Bow/curtsy to the audience & then bow/curtsy to your partner. Hold up your left/right hand so that each girl and boy will be standing palm to palm at shoulder level. Step together right, left, right, tap, tap, tap with your toe. Step left right left, tap, tap, tap with your toe. Turn around and do the reverse. Repeat 2-3 times. (If you’d prefer to have the children do a real minuet, you can do this simple one: found on YouTube.)
YOU WILL NEED: a minuet song & a way to play the minuet song (such as Beethoven's Minuet in G) & skirts brought by families
Book to read for activity 8
Breakfast with George Washington
10. Read George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz as the children eat the Hoecakes.
11. Finish making Nelly's Hoecakes by spraying non-stick cooking spray onto a griddle or skillet and heat until water sprinkled onto it beads up. Pour batter, by the spoonful, onto the hot griddle. Tell the children that when they see bubbles on the hoecake, that means it’s time to turn it over. Let each child who wants to turn the hoecakes overdo so. Also allow them to remove the hoecakes and put them on the plate. (Since the batter has a tendency to separate, you will need to stir it well before pouring each batch.) Don’t forget to spray the griddle each time. Serve them warm with a small pat of butter and a small squirt of honey.
YOU WILL NEED: Non-stick cooking spray, 1-12 pancake turners, griddle, butter, honey, 12 plates, 12 forks, 12 napkins, 12 small cups for water
Book to read for activity 10
George Washington's Portrait
12. Read Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown.
13. Help children study the painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart by following some of the lesson found at georgewashington.si.edu. Explain what a portrait is. Give some of the background on this portrait. Ask the children some of the questions listed in the lesson plan as they view the painting. Have the children pose & sit still for a portrait. Instead of a painted portrait, you can have each child try to pose like George Washington and then take a picture of them with your camera.
Book to read for activity 12
Review & Fox Hunt
14. Go onto the playground. George Washington loved to hunt foxes with his hound dog named Sweetlips and other dogs. When you hunt foxes you ride your horse through a forest with your beagles or hound dogs. When your dogs smell a fox, they chase the fox. You follow the dogs on your horse. Finally you shoot the fox.
-We’re going to play a fox hunt game. Select two children to be the hunters. Give them stick horses. Select two children to be the foxes. Give them hats to wear or you can give them fox masks. Everyone else gets to be a hound dog. The foxes hide somewhere on the playground. Everyone else tries to find and tag the foxes. Whoever tags a "fox" gets to be the next fox. The "foxes" who just got tagged become the hunters and get to "gallop" around on their stick horses.
YOU WILL NEED: 2 stick horses & 2 hats or fox masks that your print from the computer
15. 5 Minute Review of what we learned: What is the document that tells the rules of how to run our government? (Constitution) Who took the notes during the meeting when the Constitution was written? (James Madison) What is the beginning of the Constitution called? (The Preamble) How many branches of government are there? (3) Who can name one? (Executive, Judicial, Legislative) What is the name of the type of dance that George Washington loved to dance? (Minuet) What did George Washington eat for breakfast? (Hoecakes) What did Dolly Madison save from getting burned by the British? (A portrait of George Washington) What is a portrait? (A likeness of a person, usually a painting of a person) What animal did George Washington hunt? (foxes) What was your favorite activity we did today?
Material List for the Lesson
*Everyone needs to bring per child:
-glue stick or elmer’s glue
-copy of the picture box toward the top of http://bensguide.gpo.gov/ . Ahead of time cut out the legislative, executive, & judicial pictures (You can keep the building, word, & drawing of people for each branch together or you can cut them all apart but make sure you know which part goes with which piece.)
-3 construction paper green cloud-shapes or green leaves (The kids will be pasting each of the above pictures onto these and will be making them look like a tree.)
-skirts for all girls
*Items to be assigned to individuals to bring for the group:
We the People by Lynn Cheney
We the Kids by David Catrow and/or We the People by Peter Spier
George Washington by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz
Dolley Madison Saves George Washington” by Don Brown
-large copy of the portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
-Nelly's Hoecake batter with the first step of preparation completed
-1 board game you think the children have never seen or played before
-laptop computer (optional)
-lunch-sized brown paper bag per child
-liquid measuring cup, mixing spoon, 4 3/4 cup of cornmeal, 1 egg, & dash of salt
-a minuet song & a way to play the minuet song
-non-stick cooking spray, 3 pancake turners, electric griddle, butter, honey, disposable plates, disposable forks, napkins, disposable cups for water
-2 stick horses & 2 hats or fox masks that your print from the computer
Our Favorite Children's Books on James Madison
James Madison and Dolly Madison and Their Times by Robert M. Quackenbush is a great picture book sharing the usually overlooked work of James and Dolley Madison. It is a longer picture book, but it is written in such an interesting manner that even my younger children enjoyed listening to this book. James Madison: Fourth President 1809-1817 (Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents) by Mike Venezia covers James Madison's entire life in a wonderful picture book format. My children love the occasional humorous illustrations and comments sprinkled throughout the book. You can read The Great Little Madison (Unforgetable Americans) by Jean Fritz if you are looking for a children's chapter book biography.
Our Favorite Children's Books on the Constitution
We the People: The Story of Our Constitution by Lynne Cheney has beautiful illustrations. It explains how our Constitution was the product of the hard work and sacrifice. It is a long picture book, so you will need to read it ahead of time and use sticky notes to mark which paragraphs and pages to read when reading it to the class/group. Shh! We're Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz is a longer picture book. It was too much for my 3 year old but perfect for my 7 year old. We also enjoyed reading A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro and The U.S. Constitution (American Symbols) by Norman Pearl. We the People by Peter Spier illustrates the words of the Preamble. The illustrations range from early to modern times, showing how the Constitution empowers and protects us even today.
A Must Read for You (The Teacher)
Our Favorite Children's Books on President George Washington
Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas is really neat because it brings out who George Washington was as a farmer and planter at Mount Vernon and how this helped him in his presidency. George Washington: First President 1789-1797 (Getting to Know the U.S. Presidents) by Mike Venezia gives a good overview of Washington's life, focusing mostly on his years as president. My children enjoyed the frequently humorous illustrations. George Washington: A Holiday House Reader by David A. Adler is a good picture book focusing on George Washington as president. It was perfect to use as a reader for my child who is still learning how to read. George Washington by Cheryl Harness has beautiful illustrations and is a longer picture book. The end includes a sketch that identifies everyone at the Constitutional Convention. We also enjoyed reading Story of George Washington by Patricia A. Pingry (a simple board book for toddlers) and George Washington's Cows by David Small (cute and just for fun)!
Need More Activity Ideas?
- Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 35 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 170 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.
PREVIOUS UNIT STUDY: AMERICAN WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE
Make tricorn hats and mob caps, "brew" root beer with Samuel Adams, hold a tea party as you study the Boston Tea Party, reenact the Battles of Lexington and Concord, make ink and quill pens in order to sign the Declaration of Independence, cook hasty pudding, drill with Baron von Steuben as you study Valley Forge, write a secret code and seal it with wax as you study Benedict Arnold, present on the people of the American War for Independence, and more during this exciting unit study!
- King George III, Patrick Henry, & Samuel Adams Lesson - This is part 1 of a 6 part hands-on unit on the American War for Independence. Make tricorn hats and mob caps, “brew” root beer with Samuel Adams, bake cornmeal molasses rolls, and more!
- Paul Revere, Boston Massacre, and Boston Tea Party Lesson - This is part 2 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on the American War for Independence. Hold a tea party, act out the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party, bake a pound cake, examine the work of silversmiths, and more!
- Lexington and Concord, Thomas Jefferson, and Declaration of Independence Lesson - This is part 3 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on the American War for Independence. Make tin can lanterns, reenact the Battles of Lexington and Concord, make ink and sign the Declaration of Independence with a quill pen, eat ice cream with Thomas Jefferson, and more!
- George Washington, Battle of Trenton, & Betsy Ross Lesson - This is part 4 of a 6 part hands-on unit study on the American War for Independence. Make powder horns, cook hasty pudding, reenact the crossing of the Delaware and Battle of Trenton, paint the first American flag, and more!
- Benjamin Franklin, Battle of Saratoga, & Valley Forge Lesson - This is part 5 of a 6 part hands-on unit on the American War for Independence. Build “dragoon pistols,” drill with Baron von Steuben, cook and eat firecakes, experience cold feet at Valley Forge, reenact the Battle of Saratoga, and more!
- Battle of Yorktown, Benedict Arnold, Swamp Fox, & John Paul Jones Lesson - This is part 6 of a 6 part hands-on unit on the American War for Independence. Make drums, write a secret code and seal it with wax, make and eat hominy, act out the battles of Bonhomme Richard, Cowpens, and Yorktown, and more!
- American Revolution Presentations and Field Trip Ideas - This is the culminating activity we did after a 6 part hands-on unit on the American Revolution. We had a colonial-themed dinner and the children each dressed up as a famous person from the American Revolution time period and presented on him/her. Also included are the field trips we attended while studying this unit.
Great Video Clip Biographies on George Washington
Would you like to teach this way every day?
I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!
© 2011 Shannon
Why do you think George Washington was such a great hero? - Or just let me know you stopped by. I love getting feedback from you!
Brandi from Maryland on February 28, 2012:
Very nice! Adding this to my Celebrate America lens. :) Thanks for pointing it out to me!
HeatherTodd1 on May 13, 2011: