Legislative Branch

Reviewing the Preamble with Primary Sources


Students review the Preamble of the United States Constitution by defining its phrases and matching them to primary source documents.


The Preamble is the Founders’ mission statement for the government they established in the Constitution. Reviewing the meaning of its phrases reinforces students’ understanding of the Constitution.

Guiding Question

What do the phrases of the Preamble say about the government established under the Constitution?


Graphic Organizer
Primary Source Documents
Answer Key

Featured Document

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States

Recommended Grade Levels

7 - 9




popular sovereignty, union, justice domestic tranquility, the common defense, general welfare, blessings of liberty

Time Required

1 forty-five minute period

Learning Activities

  1. Make and distribute a copy of the Graphic Organizer for each student. Make a copy of the Primary Sources for each group of 4 students.
  2. Instruct each student to complete column two of the Graphic Organizer by defining each phrase in their own words.
  3. Arrange the students in groups of four. Have the students share their definitions and reach agreement on the meaning of each phrase.
  4. Invite students to share the meanings they agreed upon. Clarify their understanding as needed.
  5. Distribute a copy of the Primary Sources to each group.
  6. Instruct the students to collaboratively analyze the Primary Sources and complete the Graphic Organizer. Each student should record the group’s responses on their own copy.
  7. Once the groups have completed the Graphic Organizer, instruct the students to independently answer the Guiding Question at the bottom the Graphic Organizer.
  8. Convene as a whole class to discuss their individual responses to the Guiding Question.  

Additional Resources

Teaching Six Big Ideas in the Constitution - Students engage in a study of the U.S. Constitution and the significance of six big ideas contained in it: limited government; republicanism; checks and balances; federalism; separation of powers; and popular sovereignty.

Constitution Scavenger Hunt with Political Cartoons - Students analyze political cartoons to learn about the outline and structure of the Constitution, as well as the content of many of its clauses.

Studying the Constitution using Primary Sources - Students use primary sources to analyze the plan for the structure and powers of government embodied in the Constitution.

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