Teaching the Constitution: Bill of Rights Marketing Campaign (an improv-inspired activity)

What happens when you mix an improv game with history? Answer – a magical long period!

This activity is based on an improv game called Ad Game. In Ad Game players invent something to market, a slogan for the item/service, a spokesperson for the product, and a jingle. It is usually done within seconds and players agree and build on the first ideas that are suggested [this concept is called “Yes And” which builds such an amazingly collaborative atmosphere that it belongs everywhere].

Having played this game quite a bit over the past year, I felt that it absolutely belonged in a classroom. However, instead of inventing something to sell, why not have people market a pre-existing idea – like the amendments in the Bill of Rights! At a practice for my historical-based improv show*, the cast did just for our collective amusement and to test out this lesson. It was awesome.

While the improvisers were only given seconds to come up with their presentation (they did not do the troublesome/important words or the print ad), my students had a long period to put their marketing campaign together. As I wanted them to have a deeper understanding of the amendments, it could not be done on the spot (although, one student after I explained where the idea came from thought it would have been a fun challenge).

Image

My example using the Ninth Amendment that I shared with my students prior to their beginning. And by the time I repeated the jingle twice, they absolutely remembered it.

The Prompt

Congratulations! James Madison has hired our class to sell the Bill of Rights to the United States of America. With the signing of our first client, we are now in the advertising business!

As a class, we have been hired to create a marketing campaign for the amendments proposed in the Bill of Rights**. As the head of the advertising agency, I have decided to pair you off to work on one of the amendments.

The Task:

Work with a partner to create an effective marketing campaign for your individual amendment. Note: An effective marketing campaign should clearly demonstrate your understanding of the amendment!

  • Summary – show that you understand the amendment by accurately summarizing it.

  • Troublesome/Important Words – Identify and properly define at least two words that are either “troublesome” or are essential to understanding the amendment.

  • Snappy Slogan – create a slogan to encapsulate your proposed amendment [ex. Once you pop, you can’t stop; A diamond is forever; Melt in your mouth, not in your hands; Be all that you can be)

  • Target Audience – Who is most likely to be affected by the amendment? Why? [ex. Teenagers? Adults in their 30s? Southern farmers? Lawyers?]

  • Print Ad – create a print ad to run alongside The Federalist Papers that would entice your target audience to support the Bill of Rights.

  • Jingle – write a jingle to be sung at rallies across the United States of America!

Have fun and good luck! You will present these to our agency on Wednesday!

Reflection: 

Overall, my students did very well with this assignment. They initially struggled with the slogan – which showed that they were really thinking how they were going to effectively capture the meaning of the amendment in a bite-size format. My role was a sounding board and to point them in the right direction when they were off track.

When the amendments were presented to the class, all students had a graphic organizer to write down what each meant. I provided some additional information about each amendment to help them realize the importance.

Example: Here is one of my students “jingles” for the Sixth Amendment. She chose to do it as a rap.

“If you ever get accused, you have the right to defend
And you shouldn’t have to wait until eternity’s end
To go to court, plead your case and put it to rest
The Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to this,
You have the right to a speedy trial and one that’s fair!”
 

In the end, I will absolutely do this activity again but may give my students the choice to either create a print ad or do a jingle.

 Again, this is just one way to teach the amendments (and please feel free to steal/alter). How are you teaching it?

*For the past few year, I’ve been working on An Improvised People’s History, an improv show that develops a “living textbook” – complete with a glossary of terms, primary documents, and images – all improvised with the audience along for the ride. It was while preparing for the shows that I had the idea for this activity and the cast was actually the trial run for this lesson.
**Technically, there are 12 proposed amendments. But James Madison had to give his cousin some business so our class was only responsible for the 3rd – 12th***.
***Historical note: These will actually become the 1-10 amendments to the Constitution.

About Michael K. Milton

I teach students Social Studies at Burlington High School. When I became a teacher, I believed that students would frequently give me apples. This has not happened (not even a Red Delicious ~ a name which is a misnomer). However, my school has given me a MacBook Pro and an iPad in an effort to right this wrong (I assume). I'm very lucky to work in a 1:1 school.
This entry was posted in History and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Teaching the Constitution: Bill of Rights Marketing Campaign (an improv-inspired activity)

  1. Pingback: Teaching the Constitution: Superheroes and the Branches of Government | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

  2. Jen says:

    Genius, Michael.

  3. Pingback: American Vision Dating Game: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the Importance of Sharing | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

  4. Pingback: Going Meta: Cataloguing My Past Two Years of Blogging | Michael K. Milton ~ @42ThinkDeep

  5. Could you elaborate on what you would require for a print ad if you gave students the choice of it or a jingle? I am a little confused on how this would work. I really like the idea. I teach 7th grade government during a semester, but I want to try some of your ideas.

    • The print ad meant for their target audience and simply had to include an image and the slogan. They presented it to the class as part of their marketing plan.

      I think I had been watching Mad Men a lot when I added that aspect to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s