Interpreting the Constitution

Overview

Students learn that you can't take constitutional language at face value. Those phrases we read in the Bill of Rights, such as "cruel and unusual punishment" or being a "witness" against yourself, have specialized meaning based on years of interpretation by the Supreme Court.  Students analyze real-life cases interpreting the 8th and 5th amendments to see whether they interpret the Bill of Rights the same way the Supreme Court did... and discover how tricky interpreting the Constitution really is!

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Analyze Supreme Court cases that have interpreted the 5th and 8th Amendments
  • Explain the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting the Bill of Rights
  • Infer that constitutional language has specialized meaning determined by the Supreme Court
  • Recognize that unique facts can determine whether a constitutional right applies to a situation