While surfing the Net to put together resources for teaching about the U.S. Constitution, we came across a number of great activities to share. Click on each lesson headline below to view that lesson. Approximate grade levels for each lesson are indicated in parentheses.
Teaching With documents -- Constitution Day
These lessons from the Web site of the National Archives include
- The Constitution Game This simulation helps students understand how the members of the Constitutional Convention might have felt as they began the arduous task of writing the U.S. Constitution.
- The Ratification of the Constitution Uncover the issues involved in the ratification of the Constitution in this "Teaching With Documents" lesson on Delaware's ratification.
The National Endowment for the Humanities
The NEH's "EdSiteMent" lesson plan database includes these excellent lessons.
- Balancing three branches at once: Our system of checks and balances Using primary source documents, your students can see clear demonstrations of how one branch of our government can check another. (Grades 3-5)
- The Preamble to the Constitution: How do you make a more perfect union? Archival materials and other resources help students understand why the Founders felt a need to establish a more perfect Union and how they proposed to accomplish such a weighty task. (Grades 3-5)
- The First Amendment: What's Fair in a Free Country Balancing rights and responsibilities is difficult, even for the Supreme Court. This lesson demonstrates to students that freedom of speech is an ongoing process. (Grades 3-5)
- The Constitutional Convention: Four Founding Fathers You May Never Have Met James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are among the best known of our Founding Fathers. There were others, however, who also played major roles in founding the new nation. Four such "others" -- Oliver Ellsworth, Alexander Hamilton, William Paterson, and Edmund Randolph -- are the subjects of this lesson. (Grades 6-8)
- The Constitutional Convention: What the Founding Fathers Said In this lesson, students will learn how the Founding Fathers debated, then resolved, their differences. (Grades 6-8)
- The Federalist Debates: Balancing Power Between State and Federal Governments This series of activities introduces students to one of the most hotly debated issues during the formation of the American government -- how much power the federal government should have or, alternatively, how much liberty states and citizens should have. (Grades 6-8)
- Before and Beyond the Constitution: What Should a President Do? In this curriculum unit, students look at the role of President as defined in the Constitution and consider the precedent-setting accomplishments of George Washington. (Grades 6-8)
- James Madison: From Father of the Constitution to President In this lesson, Madison's words help students understand the constitutional issues involved in some controversies that arose during his presidency. (Grades 9-12)
On this Web site from the National Constitution Center you will find some excellent lesson plans, including
- Picture Books and the Bill of Rights This lesson is designed to acquaint students with sections of the Bill of Rights through the use of Caldecott Medal Books and other picture books. (Grades K-8)
- Respecting Freedom of Speech Students examine the point where respect and freedom of expression intersect as they consider five controversial instances of "free speech." (Grades 6-12)
- Getting to Know the Founding Fathers A Readers' Theater activity offers insight into how one Founder attempted to act with moderation in a stressful situation. Role play ideas included. (Grades 6-12)
Educator's Reference Desk
This lesson plan clearinghouse offers many teacher-created lesson plans, including
- U.S. Constitution and Amendments Students role play one of the three branches of government. They determine which of ten situations fall under their jurisdiction. (Grades 4-12)
- The First Day of Class This activity is a good "icebreaker" to begin the new school year. It provides an opportunity to collect students' input into class rules, rewards, and consequences. (Grades 5-12)
- The Constitution -- Behind Closed Doors Simulations help students gain insight into the special interests delegates brought to the Constitutional Convention and the compromises that were required. (Grades 6-12)
- Reorganizing the Bill of Rights This culminating activity to a study of the Bill of Rights allows students to become aware of the main ideas and importance of amendments subsequent to the first eleven. (Grades 6-12)
CongressLink's Teacher Resources: The Constitution
- A Mock Constitutional Convention "Reality checks" throughout this lesson experience challenge students to compare their convention results with the actual U.S. Constitution. (Grades 9-12)
- Amending the Constitution Students learn how it's done -- and that it's rarely done. Did you know that more than 7,000 amendments have been proposed since the Constitution was ratified? Only 33 have been passed by Congress, and just 26 have been ratified by the states. (Grades 11-12)
- Class Constitution Students analyze the basic components of the U.S. Constitution in order to create a "class constitution." (Grades 6-12)
- Teaching the Amendments Students gain a sense of their rights as United States citizens, as well as the reality that many rights are limited and controversial. (Grades 6-12)
This isn't really a lesson, and it's not even related to the Constitution. But you and your students can have some fun by typing your names and then clicking the Submit button. Your name will appear, in "colonist script," as a signer of the Declaration of Independence! See this resource, Join the Signers, on the National Archive Web site.
In Congress Assembled: Continuity and Change in the Governing of the United States
This unit, from the Library of Congress, offers four lessons using the LOC's American Memory Collection of primary sources.
The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation?
Another Library of Congress lesson. Students use primary documents to identify arguments for and against the ratification of the constitution. They produce a broadside in which they take a position on whether their state should ratify the Constitution.
American Writers: Jefferson & Madison
This video lesson plan (video clips included) uses the resources of C-Span's American Writers series.
First Amendment Center Lesson Plans
Dozens of lesson plans, teacher's guides, and supplementary handouts on the freedoms of religious liberty, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
Constitutional Scavenger Hunt
How many answers to these 45 questions about the Constitution can your students track down within a time limit? (Grades 6-12)
We the People Lesson Plans
The Center for Civic Education provides a sampling of lesson plans to accompany their We the People texts.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Copyright © 2010, 2016 Education World
Originally published 09/01/2005
Last updated 04/10/2016