Who are We the People?

Elementary Previewing Lesson

Grade Level: Elementary School: 3rd to 5th Grade Duration: Fifty minutes

Activity I – 15 minutes

  • Put up a five to six foot long piece of butcher paper. Using a brightly-colored marker, write the words of the Preamble. Leave plenty of space between and around words for students to add words and phrases later. Call on a student to read the Preamble aloud. Explain to students who are not familiar with the Preamble that it is the opening of the United States Constitution. Distribute Handout A: The Preamble and read it aloud together.
  • Discuss how the words used in the Preamble may sound fancy or unfamiliar, but that they convey well-known things. Divide the class into groups of two or three. Cut out and give each group 3-4 slips from Handout A: Preamble Cards.
  • Have groups look at the words and phrases on their card and think of ways that they explain the types of things described in the Preamble.
  • Have groups look at the words and phrases on their card and think of ways that they explain the types of things described in the Preamble.
  • Have each group in turn send one person up to the butcher paper to annotate the Preamble by gluing their slips near the appropriate Preamble phrase. (See the Answer Key for suggested matches. Note: some phrases have more than one correct placement.)
  • Give the class a few moments to stand and view the “Preamble Wiki.” Ask students to summarize what they have learned with each other as they do.
  • Have students return to their seats and call on individual students to share new understandings they have.

Activity II – 15 minutes

  • Now that you’ve discussed the purposes of government, ask students, “Who “ordained and established” (made official) the Constitution?” The answer is in the first three words: “We the People.”
  • Emphasize to students that unlike other countries where a King or Queen gave people certain rights, the American people created their own government and decided what powers it should have. The states and the people kept all other powers.
  • Tell students you’ll now work together on understanding the most famous phrase from the Preamble, “We the People.” With students still in their groups, give each group a card from Handout A: We the People Cards.
  • Have students read the information on their card. Have them put the quotation in their own words. Then, using the information on the card and their own background knowledge, they should write a one-sentence response to the question, “How does this person’s help you understand what ‘We the People?’ means?”
  • Have one student from each group stand and read the information from their group’s card, along with their quote paraphrase and summary sentence. Then another student from the group should stand up, glue their card to the Preamble, and write down words or phrases associated with that individual.

Activity III: Personal connections – 20 minutes

  • Ask students to reflect on their own place in “We the People.” Ask students to reflect individually about:
    • one thing they can do today as a citizen of the United States, and
    • one thing they will do in the future.
  • Have students do one of the following to create a representation of their contribution to “We the People:”
    • Write a short sentences
    • Draw a picture
    • Cut out a picture from a magazine
  • They should come up and continue to annotate the Preamble with their ideas.


  • Handout A: The Preamble
  • Handout B: Preamble Cards
  • Handout C: We the People Cards
  • Movie Clip – WTP Flag Scene
  • Large piece of butcher paper
  • Magazines
  • Scissors and glue