The New York State Constitution


  • Begin by giving the following instructions to the group:
    • We will give you a series of binary choices.
    • Each choice requires you to choose a side of the room to stand on.
    • Once you’ve made your choice, please go stand on that side of the room facing into the room
    • You may not stand in the middle as a hedge of your choice; you must choose a side. But it’s just for the sake of this exercise and not etched in stone for all eternity! So no pressure.
  • Start with some innocuous prompts to introduce the concept of the exercise:
    • If you prefer warm weather, please go stand on that side of the room, and if you prefer cold weather, please stand on the other.
    • Vanilla vs. Chocolate
    • Dogs vs. Cats
    • Have siblings vs. only child
  • Move on to prompts relevant to the source text (in this case, the New York State Constitution):
    • States rights vs. Strong federal gov’t
    • Identify as a New Yorker first vs. identify as an American first
    • Feel close to power vs. distant from power
    • Your opinions have a voice in government vs. your opinions are absent from government deliberations
    • You vote regularly (however you define that) vs. you don’t vote regularly
    • You are engaged and informed vs. you are not engaged and informed
    • You feel loyalty to New York state vs. you don’t feel loyalty to New York state
    • You feel loyalty to the US vs. you don’t feel loyalty to the US
  • Invite everyone to sit down somewhere on their own to do a minute of free writing about the experience of that exercise.
  • Put people in groups of four to share some initial thoughts
  • Invite everyone back together as one big group to share thoughts in an organized way


Debrief Questions:

  • If forcing you to choose a side allowed you to make a choice that surprised you, how did that feel?
  • In what ways have your opinions on the source text changed, softened, or hardened by doing this exercise?
  • Do you feel more clear or less clear about your feelings?


Feel free to leave a comment about your experience with this lesson. All comments are reviewed and moderated by our team.

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