8th Grade Interpreting The Constitution Lesson Plan (Social Studies)

Topic: Interpreting the Constitution

Objectives & Outcomes

  • Students will be able to identify and explain the different ways that the Constitution can be interpreted, including the traditionalist, originalist, and pragmatist approaches.
  • Students will be able to apply the different interpretive approaches to a given situation or case to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts.


  • Copies of the Constitution for each student
  • Handouts with examples of different types of constitutional issues (e.g. civil rights, immigration, abortion)
  • Whiteboard and markers or chalk


  • Begin the class by asking students if they have any understanding of how the Constitution can be interpreted. Write down any comments on the board.
  • Next, provide a brief overview of the different interpretive approaches and their key concepts. For example, the traditionalist approach focuses on the intent of the framers, the originalist approach focuses on the original meaning of the Constitution, and the pragmatist approach focuses on the overall purpose of the Constitution.

Direct Instruction

  • Distribute copies of the Constitution to the students.
  • Ask students to read and analyze Article VI of the Constitution, which outlines the authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution.
  • Use the handouts to provide more detailed information on the different interpretive approaches.
  • Use examples to illustrate the key concepts of each approach, such as how the original intent of the framers differs from the original meaning of the Constitution, or how the overall purpose of the Constitution can affect the way it is interpreted.

Guided Practice

  • Divide the class into small groups and give each group a different interpretive approach to study.
  • Have each group create a chart that outlines the key concepts of the approach, and provide examples of how it is applied.
  • Have each group share their chart with the class and discuss how the different approaches can lead to different interpretations of the Constitution.

Independent Practice

  • For their project, have students choose one of the approaches discussed and use it to interpret a specific clause of the Constitution.
  • Students should create a presentation in which they explain their interpretation and explain how the chosen approach led to that interpretation.


  • As a class, review the approaches to interpreting the Constitution and the issues that each one raises.
  • Ask students to reflect on what they have learned about interpreting the Constitution and how it can be a subjective process.


  • Observe students during the group activity and independent practice to assess their understanding of the different approaches to interpreting the Constitution and their ability to apply them to a given issue.
  • Collect and review students' written explanations for understanding and accuracy.

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