|Lesson 2: Suffrage Amendments|
This lesson challenges students to compare their assumptions for voting requirements from Lesson 1 with the actual voting requirements set by selected amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Students learn how limited the voting population was in our early history as a nation and how constitutional amendments have guaranteed the right to vote for many more citizens. Students also identify groups who cannot vote and discuss their opinions.
Suggested Grade Level
Elementary (Grades 5–6)
Estimated Time to Complete
Lesson Objectives: After completing this lesson, students will be able to
Before the Lesson
1. Voting in the Early United States
Inform students that the highest law of the land, the Constitution, mentioned nothing about voting qualifications at the time of its adoption. This omission left voting qualifications up to each individual state. As a result, voting qualifications varied greatly among the states. Most states granted the right to vote only to men who were free, white, twenty-one years old or older, and property owners.
Use the poster board chart, “Who Could Not Vote in Early America?” Based on your explanation about who could vote in the early United States, ask students to identify who could not vote. As each correct answer is given, add it to the chart.
2. Building Our Vocabulary
Ask students to take out Student Handout 2, which they began completing in Lesson 1. Ask for the definitions for enfranchisement andsuffrage learned in Lesson 1. Tell students that they will be adding more vocabulary definitions in this lesson. As each term comes up in the lesson, write the term and definition on the board or create a vocabulary list on chart paper.
3. Compare and Contrast: What Voting Rights Have Been Added to the Constitution?
For this part of the lesson, you will need Teacher Resource 1 and 2 and Student Handouts 2 and 3. Students will learn how voting rights have been extended by selected suffrage amendments to the Constitution. Remind students that the Constitution did not originally guarantee voting rights or establish voting requirements and that voting requirements were left up to the states. Tell students that some states continued to find ways to deny the right to vote to certain citizens.
Refer the class to Student Handout 3: Suffrage Amendments: In Your Own Words. Review the directions for the handout with the students. Inform the students that you will be calling on them to read each amendment aloud. When the class discusses each amendment, tell students to write the meaning of the amendment in their own words in the space provided.
Project Teacher Resource 2 onto a screen so that all the students can see it. Call on students to read each amendment aloud to the class. A different student should read each amendment. Ask the class how each amendment extends enfranchisement and suffrage rights. Tell the students that they should be able to identify changes or additions to the Constitution pertaining to voting. If students are having difficulty with an amendment, clarify the wording and help them reach an explanation.
Once a clear explanation is reached, tell students to write what the amendment means to them in the space provided.
Vocabulary terms associated with the amendments should be defined and added to the class chart and student vocabulary list.
Here are some suggested discussion points:
4. Using Your Knowledge
Ask students the following questions:
5. Concluding the Lesson: Who Can Vote Today?
Use the poster board chart, “Who Can Vote Today?” Ask students to list categories of citizens who can today vote according to what they have learned about suffrage amendments.
Ask students if there might be other restrictions on voting and what they might be.
Students may mention that noncitizens and people under eighteen years old may not vote.
Inform students that the next Citizens, Not Spectators lesson will explain state requirements to vote and how to register to vote. Tell students that they will be referring to Student Handout 1 again in the next lesson.