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Civics - Unit 1 

Exploring Rights & Responsibilities in a Democracy


  • What rights do I have? How does the Constitution protect those rights?
  • What responsibilities do I have to our democracy and community?
  • How do my rights enable me to use my power in our democracy and society? How do my responsibilities require me to use my power?


  • The Constitution provides a framework for a government with limited powers and guarantees the rights of the people. But not all people’s rights have been protected throughout U.S. history.
  • Individuals in a democracy have many rights that allow them to exercise their power, but these rights are limited, and some individuals’ rights are more limited than others’.
  • Rights often come into conflict with one another, and resolving these conflicts can be challenging.
  • Democratic responsibilities are not clearly defined, but people taking responsibility and exercising their power to work for the common good is essential to our democracy and community.


This unit focuses on the rights that make it possible for people to fulfill their role as participants in a democracy. The unit also asks students to consider their responsibilities to our democracy. In the first lesson, students brainstorm questions about the rights and responsibilities of powerful civic actors. Students then learn about the importance of the Constitution in providing rights individuals need in order to fulfill their role in a democracy. The subsequent Launch Lessons look more specifically at rights and their uses as well the responsibilities of members of a democratic community.

The Explorations engage students in analyzing primary sources that provide insight into the meaning of “We the People,” involve students in discussing if people today are becoming less responsible, simulate a Supreme Court hearing, ask students to inventory their media use and learn to use a framework for analyzing media, and build students’ skill in making an argument.

The two-part unit assessment asks students to (1) update their Timelines of Learning and use their ToLs in drafting responses to the course Essential Questions and (2) analyze a case study of a powerful civic actor and write a brief persuasive paper related to the case study. If you wish to introduce the assessment at the beginning of the unit to give students an idea of what they are working toward, feel free to do so.


1-1 What Should We Know about Rights and Responsibilities? 1-2 class periods

Using a case study of young people who changed policy in Chicago Public Schools as a springboard, students brainstorm questions about rights and responsibilities of powerful civic actors.

1-2 What Is the Constitution and How Does It Protect Our Rights? 2 class periods

This lesson introduces the Constitution as the foundation of our government and a protector of individual rights. The lesson opens with a challenge: If we wanted to create a new kind of school, what steps would we need to take to make it happen? Students then compare this process with what the Framers did when they wrote the Constitution. They learn that the U.S. Constitution establishes a framework for the U.S. government and puts limits on that government. They are introduced to the Bill of Rights and consider how the rights protected help individuals become powerful civic actors.

1-3 How Have Our Rights under the Constitution Changed? 3-4 class periods

In this lesson, students learn about the rights-related amendments to the Constitution--the critical Fourteenth Amendment and the various voting rights amendments (Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth). They also learn that rights can be obtained or suppressed via laws. The lesson concludes with a mini inquiry activity on the status of voting rights today.

1-4 Why Are Our First Amendment Rights So Important? 2+ class periods

This lesson engages students in learning about the First Amendment in some depth. Students work in groups to investigate the six rights protected by the First Amendment--free exercise of religion, protection from establishment of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to petition, and right to assemble. The groups make presentations to the class, focusing on how their right relates to being a powerful civic actor.

1-5 Do Our Rights Have Limits? 2 class periods

This lesson focuses on several key ideas: that rights have limits, that limits often arise when rights come into conflict, and that rights may be more limited in some locations and for some groups. To pursue these ideas, students delve into the limits on their Fourth Amendment rights at school, looking first at the landmark case New Jersey v. T.L.O. and then applying what they learned to other cases involving searches at school.

1-6 What Are Our Responsibilities to Our Democracy and Community? 1 class period

After focusing on their rights, students turn to their responsibilities to our democracy and community. Because there is no “Bill of Responsibilities” in our Constitution, students begin with a broad list and narrow it down to a class list of essential civic responsibilities. Students then consider how their rights link to their responsibilities and conduct a Save the Last Word for Me conversation around a reading proposing a “Bill of Responsibilities.”


PS-1 Primary Sources 1-2 class periods

What Does “We the People” Mean?

This lesson introduces primary sources and asks students to consider four primary sources that may provide insight into how the meaning of the term “We the People” has changed over time. The sources are the Declaration of Sentiments from the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention, Cesar Chavez’s address to the Commonwealth Club of California, Oren Lyons’s speech to the Aboriginal Law Association of McGill University, and the Black Lives Matter statement of beliefs.

C-1 Controversial Issues Discussion 1-2 class periods

Are We Becoming Less Responsible?

In this lesson, students take part in a civil conversation focused on a reading that suggests Americans today are less committed to their civic duties than generations past.

S-1 Simulation 3-4 class periods

What Are Our Free Speech Rights at School?

This lesson begins with a human continuum activity on the limits that should be placed on students’ free speech rights at school. Students then have the opportunity to take part in a moot court on a landmark case involving young people’s First Amendment rights at school--Tinker v. Des Moines. At the end of the lesson, students confront cases that have been decided since the Tinker case, cases that have placed greater limits on students’ First Amendment rights at school.

M-1 Media 2-3 class periods plus

How Can We Assess Media Messages?

In this lesson, students take an inventory of their own use of media. They are introduced to a set of questions for analyzing media messages. The questions are then tied to five key concepts in media analysis: authorship, purpose, content, format, and audience. They use the concepts and questions as they create simple media messages.

SB-1 Skill Builder 1-2 class periods

How Can I Make an Effective Argument?

Advocating for one’s point of view is a key element of being a powerful civic actor. To advocate effectively, one must be able to construct an argument. That skill is the focus of this Exploration.

U.S. Federal Constitution Test Prep

Mr.Streit's Federal Constitution Flashcards

Download 2 or 3 at a time and practice remembering them.  Come back when you have and download a few more.
  1. 1 - Sons of Liberty, Boston Tea Party, Patrick Henry.doc
  2. 2 - 1st Coninental Congress, 2nd Continental Congress, George Washington.doc
  3. 3 - Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, Unalienable Rights.doc
  4. 4 - Weaknesses of The Articles of Confederation, Shays Rebellion.doc
  5. 5 - Consititional Convention, Independence Hall.doc
  6. 6 - New Jersey Plan, Virgina Plan.doc
  7. 7 - 17th Am, Common Man, Raitfying Const.doc
  8. 8 - Federalists, Anit-Federalists.doc
  9. 9 - Democracy, Purpose of Bill of Rights.doc
  10. 10 - Preamble, Branches of Gov., Articles and Amendments.doc
  11. 11 - 1st & last Amendment, Supreme Law of the Land, Constitiution Established.doc
  12. 12 - 1st, 2nd, 3rd Amendments.doc
  13. 13 - 4th, 5th, 6th Amendments.doc
  14. 14 - 7th, 8th, 9th Amdendments.doc
  15. 15 - 10th Amendment, Purpose of Branches, 2 Houses of Congress.doc
  16. 16 - Number of Senators-Reps, salaries, vacancies.doc
  17. 17 - Qualifications -Terms of Sen - Reps.doc
  18. 18 - Duties of Sen. - Reps., Sen. numbers.doc
  19. 19 - Presiding officers, congressional numbers, quorum.doc
  20. 20 - Revenue Bills, Congressional Records, Election years.doc
  21. 21 - What is a bill, Overriding Presedntial Veto.doc
  22. 22 - Pocket Veto, Greatest Power.doc
  23. 23 - Expressed, Enumerated, Implied Powers.doc
  24. 24 - Elastic Clause, Ex Post Facto, Habeas Corpus.doc
  25. 25 - Full Faith, Credit Clause, President, Vice-President.doc
  26. 26 - Electing, Qualifications, of Presidents, Salary.doc
  27. 27 - Order of Succession, Nixon, Impeachment.doc
  28. 28 - Commander-n-Chief, Term, Duties of President.doc
  29. 29 - Cabinet Positions, Coining Money.doc
  30. 30 - Duties of all Cabinet Positions, Electoral Votes.doc
  31. 31 - More Electoral Votes, Popular Votes, No. of Justices.doc
  32. 32 - Federal Judges, Impeachement of Judges, Court of Appeals, District Courts.doc
  33. 33 - Marbury vs Madison, Checks & Balances, Federalism.doc
  34. 34 - Amending Constitution, Position of Flag.doc
  35. Bill of Rights.pdf
  36. Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.pdf
  37. First 5 Presidents.pdf

U.S. Federal Constitution Prep Classwork & Homework Assignments: 

Prep/Resources & Study Guides:


Class Discussion:  
Remember the snake from Benjamin Franklin's political cartoon from earlier? Well the snake is back!  What is the meaning of this still prevalent "Don't Tread on Me" Flag?  

IL State Constitution


Prep & Study

IL State Constitution Webquest / Study Guide

Who are the Freemasons?

Masons (also known as Freemasons) belong to the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Today, there are more than two million Freemasons in North America. Masons represent virtually every occupation and profession, yet within the Fraternity, all meet as equals. Masons come from diverse political ideologies, yet meet as friends. Masons come from varied religious beliefs and creeds, yet all believe in one God. Many of North America's early patriots were Freemasons. Thirteen signers of the Constitution and fourteen Presidents of the United States, including George Washington, were Masons.
  1. What is the mission or beliefs of the Freemasons?
  2. How many Freemasons signed the Declaration of Independence?  Constitution?
  3. How many Freemasons have been President?
  4. Where did it start?  NOTE:  According to Freemason tradition.
  5. Should Freemasons be celebrated for their contributions to the United States or questioned for the secrecy?
  6. What are the meanings behind their different symbols?  NOTE:  Give at least 3 examples
  7. Which Freemason do you admire the most?  Why?