What Responsibilities Accompany Our Rights?

This lesson looks at an important question students will face as citizens: What responsibilities accompany our basic rights?
Grade Level

  • Students should be able to explain the importance of the fulfillment of responsibilities by citizens if everyone's rights are to be protected.
  • Students should be able to describe specific responsibilities associated with five essential rights of citizens.


The lesson begins with a class discussion of the importance of citizens fulfilling responsibilities in order to protect their rights.

The class then engages in a problem-solving activity that examines specific responsibilities that might be connected with protecting the five basic rights, and poses the question of what might happen if citizens did not fulfill these responsibilities.



Introductory Activity: Examining the Importance of Citizenship Responsibilities

Have the students read the "Purpose of Lesson" and "Is a Good Constitution Enough?" from their text. Go over the three prerequisites discussed in the text for the protection of rights:

  1. A good constitution;
  2. Good leaders; and
  3. Good citizens.


Reading and Problem Solving: Identifying a Citizen's Responsibilities

Have students read the first paragraph of the next section, "What responsibilities go along with our rights?"

Then divide the class into five groups.

Assign each group one set of questions in the problem-solving activity, "Can you have rights without responsibilities?" If the groups have more than five students, subdivide the groups so all students will have a chance to discuss the questions. Each group is to develop answers to its set of questions, write down the answers, and assign one or more members of the group to report the group's responses to the class.

Allow time for class discussion of each group's responses. You may wish to develop a class consensus on what responsibilities should be associated with each of the basic rights discussed.

In a class discussion, have students consider these questions:

  • Do most people understand these responsibilities and the importance of fulfilling them?
    How do young children learn these responsibilities?
  • Would they add any other responsibilities to the list?
  • Which responsibilities do they think are the most difficult to fulfill?


Concluding Activity

Conclude the lesson by leading a class discussion of the questions asked in "Reviewing and Using the Lesson."

This activity is excerpted from the Center for Civic Education's We the People curriculum. Reprinted with permission from the Center for Civic Education. (Calabasas, Calif.)


Extension Activity

Optional Activities: For Reinforcement, Extended Learning and Enrichment

  • Have students draw posters that illustrate responsibilities that are associated with each basic right.
  • Divide the class into groups of three to five students and have each group develop a skit that demonstrates a citizen's responsibility in a particular situation.
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