Throughout the school year, students will analyze Mississippi's four constitutions to determine the various forces that influenced the writing of each one. They will identify specific examples in the documents that indicate how the writers responded to those forces. Students will seek to answer these questions:
- How do the "times" affect the writing of a constitution?
- Does it matter who writes a constitution?
CONNECTION TO STANDARDS
Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1,3,4; Objectives 01, 03.
Grades 7 through 12
- Mississippi History Now article
- Various Mississippi History texts
- Butcher paper/markers
- Any additional teacher-provided resources
Note to teachers: Mississippi History Now links to all Mississippi constitutions on the Constitutions of Mississippi article.
- determine various factors that influenced the writing of Mississippi's four constitutions.
(Note: prevailing political and social philosophies/beliefs, sectional controversies, economic rivalries, current events, etc.)
- identify specific examples in each constitution which show the influence of current events and prevailing factors.
- prepare a chart to indicate their knowledge of the subject.
(Note: chart headings: CONSTITUTION (DATE); AUTHORS; INFLUENCING FACTORS; EXAMPLES)
- determine the composition of a current constitutional convention.
OPENING THE LESSON
Ask students if they have ever felt left out. Some may want to share their feelings. Relate this to the history of Mississippi's four constitutions. Explain to students that because of a number of factors, many people have been left out of the political process throughout much of the state's history. Lead students to understand how much they can learn about the state by studying its four constitutions.
DEVELOPING THE LESSON
- Divide the class into four cooperative learning groups. Assign each group to research one of Mississippi's constitutions. They will determine the prevailing issues/ideas of the time period and will gain an understanding of those issues. Students will also study the constitution to find specific examples of how the issues impacted the actual documents.
- Students will detail their information for display on a large piece of butcher paper.
- Each group will make oral presentations to the class. Teacher will reinforce understanding by leading a class discussion after each presentation.
- Students will devise their own individual chart contrasting each of the four documents. They will use the headings suggested in the objectives.
CONCLUDING THE LESSON
- Re-form the learning groups to include representatives of each constitution in all groups. Distribute guiding questions from the OVERVIEW and other teacher-made questions (if you wish). Students will discuss answers to the questions in their group and will also discuss the writing of a new state constitution, what prevailing issues would shape it, and who the authors should be.
- Groups will share their conclusions with the class so that comparisons/contrasts can be made.
ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING
- Group presentations (Note: Teacher may use a rubric.)
- Observations; class participation
- Individual chart development
- Students will write an essay describing the makeup of the "perfect" constitutional convention for today.
- Students will devise an agree/disagree paper regarding this statement: "Mississippi's constitutions have consistently become more democratic."
EXTENDING THE LESSON
- Students will research amendments to the 1890 Constitution to show changes to the document.
- Students could conduct a poll in their community concerning the need for a new state constitution. They should ask citizens their ideas on who should write it.
- "Chained to the Past," a four-part series on the 1890 Constitution, The Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News, January, 1988.
- Mississippi, An Illustrated History, by Edward N. Akin, Windsor Publications, Inc., 1987.
- Mississippi: Conflict & Change, Loewen and Sallis, editors, Pantheon Books, 1974.
- Politics in Mississippi, Joseph Parker, editor, Sheffield Publishing Company, 1993.
- Understanding Mississippi's Constitutions – An Historical Perspective, Barbara Carpenter, editor. Mississippi Humanities Council, 1989.