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
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.
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
If you teach students in grades 3 to 5, Jean Fritz has a book for you: Shh! We're Writing the Constitution, illustrated by Tomie dePaola. In her conversational and entertaining style, Fritz takes readers behind the scenes to learn what it was like during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A really delightful way to learn American history. As follow-up activities, you might use some of these printable pages:
Literature Circle Notes
More Books of Interest
Nothing But the Truth
A Newbery Award-winning book from popular children's author Avi.
The 39 stories behind the U.S. Constitution. Written by Dennis Brindell Fradin and illustrated by Michael McCurdy.
The U.S. Constitution for Everyone
History comes alive-in this illustrated guide to the Constitution and all 27 amendments.
The U.S. Constitution
Fascinating facts about it.
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)
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
Constitution Students analyze the basic components of the U.S. Constitution
in order to create a "class constitution." (Grades 6-12)
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.
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 Education World
Originally published 09/01/2005
Last updated 08/21/2010