Stranded, or why do we have rules?

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Lesson At A Glance

This lesson is part of a unit designed to focus on 8 – 12th grade standards in civics/government.  These standards include student understanding of the Bill of Rights.  Students will begin to understand the application of the first 10 amendments to their daily lives.  Students will learn about and apply these rights to experimental situations to determine the effects they have on their real, day-to-day lives.


  • Students will deepen their understanding of the Bill of Rights and the role of rules and laws in our society.

Standards Addressed:

History Social Science

Philosophy of government expressed in the Declaration of Independence with an emphasis on government as a means of securing individual rights.
10.1.1:  Analyze similarities and differences in Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman views of law, reason and faith, and duties of the individual.

12.2.3 and .4:  Discuss an individual’s legal obligations to obey the law, serve jury duty, pay taxes, and understand the obligations of civic mindedness, including voting, being informed, volunteering/public service, and military service.

12.2.5:  Describe reciprocity between rights and obligations.  Why the enjoyment of one’s rights entails respect of others’ rights.

12.3.1:  Explain how civil society provides opportunities for individuals to associates for social, cultural, religious, economic, and political purposes.

Big Ideas:

The Bill of Rights is an integral part of our daily lives and that our lives would be distinctly different if we didn’t have them, and rules/laws in general.

Essential Questions/Issues:

Do laws, rights (such as the Bill of Rights) and rules (such as classroom rules) guide our daily lives, and if so, how?

Higher Order Thinking Questions:

1. How would daily live in the US be different if the Bill of Rights was not in place? (analysis)

2. In a community of your own creation, which system of government works the best in your opinion? (evaluation)

3. Explain why rules and laws are so important in our society.(analysis)


Students will be evaluated by informal teacher observation and participation in discussions, assessment of in-class work, higher order thinking questions (quick-write), homework and other group activities.

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Activity Steps:

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2 – 6 class periods

1. Bill of Rights Rewrite.  Purpose:  to put the Bill of Rights in their own words for understanding.  Give students copy of the Bill of Rights, with instructions to rewrite the first 10 amendments in their own words.  Upon receipt of rewritten amendments, create a Bill of Rights poster in common language for all to see.  Class discussion to ensure understanding.

2. Government definitions:  Like the Bill of Rights rewrite, defining different types of governments will make students begin to be aware of other types of governments besides the US model.  Teacher will correct, discuss and hand back following list and definitions:  1.  Oligarchy, 2.  Democracy, 3.  Dictatorship, 4. Polis, 5. Aristocracy, 6. Plutocracy, 7. Autocracy, 8. Monarchy, 9. Totalitarianism, 10. Tyranny, 11. Anarchy

3. Influences of Ancient Governments:  the Polis.  Students will complete handout on the Greek polis and city-states of teacher creation (see attached example).  This will illustrate the origins of modern governmental forms.

4. Stranded!  Students will be faced with the GRASP activity to put their new knowledge to the test.  Teacher will present original situation (being stranded- how will they survive?) and record the class decisions.  Then the students will be face with PART II:  the group of stranded students come across another group of stranded students on the other side of the island- record findings of what will they do?  And finally, PART III:  a highly effective pirate is raiding the island; what will they do.  What elements from the different types of government will be considered in the solution to their predicament?  Findings recorded.

5. Assess through quick-write using higher order thinking questions.