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George Mason Biography Puzzle
A controversial figure in his time, George Mason made an indelible mark on the government of this country. Mason was chosen to take Washington's place in the Virginia legislature, and when Virginia desired a constitution in 1776, Mason authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights. However, at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Mason was a vocal dissenter of the proposed U.S. Constitution. He felt the federal government was being given too much power, and he was horrified that the importation of slaves remained legal. Mason refused to sign, which may have cost him his longstanding friendship with George Washington. His arguments at the Convention set off a clamor by the states to include a Bill of Rights. The ten Constitutional amendments that became the Bill of Rights are modeled after Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights.
In this lesson, students will examine the life of George Mason and the contributions he made to the U.S. government, specifically the development of the Bill of Rights. This lesson can serve as an introduction to the Bill of Rights or can be presented at the end of a unit on the Constitution.
- George Mason Puzzle Board (one for each student)
- George Mason Puzzle Pieces (one set per student)
- Glue sticks
- George Mason Essay Template (Teacher Answer Key)
- Featured Primary Source: Bill of Rights (Draft) (for extension)
- Before the lesson begins, cut apart the 12 puzzle pieces. Put like pieces into piles and place the piles around the room. Next to each pile, place a glue stick.
- Explain to the class that they will learn about George Mason, whose opinions and work greatly influenced the Constitution. Give students a brief overview of George Mason's life and contributions (use the introductory material and essay template for reference).
- Give each student a question sheet. They will need to keep this with them throughout the activity.
- Instruct students to visit each of the 12 stations in any order and match the answer card to the correct question. After they have found all the correct answer cards, the pictures should match up to create an image of Gunston Hall. (Note: students should glue only the top portion of the question card onto their answer, so they can refer to the question for later use.)
- Review the answers with the students, filling in more information as necessary.
- Ask students to organize the information in a written essay. Make sure that students include specific words and phrases from their questions and answers. (See the George Mason Essay Template for an example.)
- As an alternative, students can number the boxes on their worksheet to sequence the order in which they would present the information, either orally or in written form.
- Have students use the information on George Mason to create an historical bio poem. A typical bio poem format is as follows:
- Line 1: First Name
- Line 2: Four descriptive traits
- Line 3: Friend of ...
- Line 4: Whose talents include ...
- Line 5: Who studied ...
- Line 6: Who believed ...
- Line 7: Who is remembered for ...
- Line 8: Who would like to see ...
- Line 9: Resident of ...
- Line 10: Last Name
- Assist the class in developing a student Bill of Rights. Hold a brainstorming session to help students list the rights that they think should be protected at school. Have the students review the featured primary source, Bill of Rights (Draft), to emphasize the many revisions that took place to create this document. Encourage the class to discuss and revise their Student Bill of Rights.
This lesson was written by Marinanne Esposito, Key West, FL, and Kim O'Neil, Liverpool, NY.