Role of Virginians in the Founding of the New Nation

Lesson 4: George Mason: Champion of Human Rights

Time Estimated: 2 days



Students will:

  1. Define rights and generate a hypothesis about why some delegates at the Constitutional Convention would not sign the document.
  2. Analyze the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Declaration of Rights and make connections between the two documents.
  3. Summarize learning.
  4. Work cooperatively to construct a graphic organizer comparing the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Declaration of Rights.







  1. Hook: Display a picture of George Mason. Use the website noted in the day 6 lesson. Tell students Mason was a neighbor and friend of George Washington. He was concerned about individual rights and wrote a Virginia document about them.
  2. Have cooperative groups discuss and define rights. List their responses on the board. Ask the following question.
    • How might these ideas about rights relate to what we just learned about the Constitution?
    Review with students that the Constitution as we know it today protects our rights but when it was written some people would not sign it. Ask them to hypothesize why this might have happened.
  3. Explain that the Bill of Rights was added after the Constitution was written. Hand out copies of the Bill of Rights.

    Discuss the ten articles and explain they are called amendments. Tell them an amendment is a change or revision. Read and discuss the meaning of each amendment. Tell students they will discover how George Mason was connected to the Bill of Rights.
  4. Have pairs summarize the main ideas of the Bill of Rights. Share with another pair and then cooperative groups report to the class. Have students confirm or adjust the information shared until an accurate summary is given.
  5. Tell students they will find out where the ideas for the Bill of Rights originated. Distribute copies of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Tell them that this document was written in 1776 long before the Bill of Rights was written. Read and discuss the document. Have students make connections between the two documents.
  6. Distribute copies of the Bill of Rights. Cooperative groups will work to compare and contrast the two documents. They will construct a Venn diagram to display their work.




Some teacher directed activities will be used to scaffold the lesson. Students will work in pairs or cooperatively to discuss information supporting different ability and skill levels. Pictures and graphic organizers will support visual learners.