We, the Citizens
Mailbox Magazine — Dec/Jan 2001-2002

Encourage students to reflect on what it means to be a citizen with this poetry-writing activity. In advance, collect an empty coffee can (with the lid) for each student. List these questions on the board:

What does it mean to be a citizen?

What rights does a citizen enjoy?

What responsibilities or duties does a citizen have?

Why be a member of a nation instead of acting on your own?

Divide the class into groups to discuss the questions. Then have students share their ideas as you list them on chart paper. Guide students through the list shown below, pointing out that many rights have limits. For example, the freedom of speech doesn’t allow a person to harm another person’s reputation by telling lies.

Next, give each student a lidded coffee can. Have each student measure and cut a piece of white construction paper to fit around the can. Have the students write a poem on the paper about what citizenship means to him/her. After the students illustrate the poem, have him/her glue the paper around the can. Challenge each group formed earlier to come up with a unique way to display the decorated cans; then vote to select the class’s favorite idea. Invite other classes to view your students’ salute to citizenship.

Rights of U.S. Citizens include the following:
freedom of speech
freedom of religion
freedom of assembly
right to vote
right to run for political office
right to travel throughout the United States
can't be forced to leave homeland
can't lose citizenship except for serious actions


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society