Nav Bar Home Curriculum Ideas Postcards Research Tools Treasure Hunts Web Links Web Projects Web Picks About
U. S. Constitution Lessons

National Standards for Civics and Government

II. What are the Foundations of the American Political System?
IIA. What is the American idea of constitutional government?

III. How Does The Government Established By The Constitution Embody The
Purposes, Values, And Principles Of American Democracy?

A. How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the
government established by the United States Constitution?

National Standards in Civics and Government from the Center for Civic Education:

V. What Are the Roles of the Citizen in American Democracy?

We the People: Constitution and Citizenship Day

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

- Preamble to the U.S. Constitution In 2004, Congress passed a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 establishing a day to commemorate the September 17, 1787 signing of the Constitution. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who inserted this mandate into the bill, felt this was a way to educate Americans about history. President George W. Bush signed it into law on December 8, 2004. Designated as Constitution and Citizenship Day, schools receiving federal money are required to hold an educational program about the United States Constitution each year. Schools may choose what kind of program to hold.

Starting Points

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

A caricature of Ben Franklin leads learners of all ages in finding information about the Constitution and the United States Government.  Primary grade students learn of the three branches of government.  Intermediate grades find information on the separation of power, checks and balances and the Articles of Confederation.  Middle school students learn about making laws, national verses state government, the election process, and historic documents.  Detailed information on federalism, powers of national and state governments, and how laws are made are written for grades 9-12.  High school students are invited to engage in a national debate topic.  Debate topics for the past six years are included.

Bill of Rights Institute

America's Founders online provides portraits of 24 individuals who who framed our constitutional republican system of government. People like Abigail adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason are among those highlighted with biographical information and famous quotes.

Celebrating the Constitution

This Scholastic lesson is designed for lower grades. Activities include creating a classroom constitution, writing your own Bill of Rights, and a scavenger hunt through the constitution by looking for answers to questions. Supplemental material includes interviews with Caroline Kennedy and the late Robert Byrd. Heroes of the Constitution focuses on Ben Franklin, the framers, a timeline of Democracy, the Supreme Court, Women's right to vote and civil rights.

Charters of Freedom: The Constitution

Which state did not send any delegates to the Constitutional Convention? Who insisted that the Bill of Rights be adopted. Who gave the most speeches? Begin your research at the National Archives where you can view original documents, read transcriptions, and gather biographical information about the founding fathers who attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. High resolution images of documents can be downloaded for printing and observation while changes in the U.S. Constitution are indicated with links to the current verbiage or amendment. In addition, there is an article about the restoration of the historic murals found in the rotunda of the National Archives. Teachers will want to use this site for preparing lessons.

Continental Congress Broadsides

In a special presentation from the Constitutional Convention Broadsides collection, students will learn about the process by which the constitution was drafted and revised. From the abandonment of the Articles of Confederation to the penning of a final version of the U.S. Constitution, students will recognize that it was no easy task to ratify this new form of government. Drafts were kept secret, amendments were presented, and fierce debates ensued. This compelling information is highlighted with documents, images, and short biographical sketches. Click on different topics to view suggestions on how this collection might fit into a lesson on persuasive writing or creating a broadside. A wealth of search strategies will guide the high school student deeper into critically thinking about the impact broadsides had on the population during that time period. Rounding out the presentation is a timeline of America during the Age Revolution. The Library of Congress provides a rich source for primary sources from broadsides to period illustrations that definitely will enhance the study of the Constitution. One middle school teacher used illustrations from this and other collections to teach about it in her classroom. In addition, she created a Who Signed the Constitution quiz to complete using an interactive PowerPoint slide show. She was amazed at how engaged her students were when they recognized the individuals they had researched. This teacher had transformed a dry topic as she described it into living history with just a few illustrations.

National Constitution Center

Wow! Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline is a phenomenal presentation spanning years of history. Period music and sounds are provided for each decade. At each stop along the way, you can choose to hear about the era, listen to a Point/Counterpoint, learn facts, and participate in an interactive questionnaire to determine if you could vote during that year. This is an excellent introduction to key events while allowing students to think about the issues. Do not miss visiting this site! In addition to the timeline, there is an interactive Constitution based on Linda Monk’s The Words We Live By that allows students to search by keywords, specific topics, or court case. Detailed explanations are provided along with viewpoints and Supreme Court Updates. This website is a program of the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach and is an excellent source for historical and current Constitutional discussions.

Citizenship and Democracy

Committee for Citizen Awareness

The Committee for Citizen Awareness is a non-partisan organization established in 1985 to promote democracy, citizenship, and voting. Excerpts from six video clips narrated by such well-known figures as Caroline Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and former Secretary of Education Richard Riley are provided as a preview to the complete video. The titles include, The U.S. Congress and You, Your Court System and You, The Executive Branch and You, We the People…The U.S. constitution and You, Patriotism and You, and Where We Stand. Each video clip is accompanied by a synopsis, viewer feedback, and a list of sponsors. The CCA  sends a copy of the videotapes with explanatory materials to each of the following organizations within the congressional district being sponsored: every public and private high school , every community and junior college, the major public libraries, the major chambers of commerce, and the cable television facilities within the sponsored district. Check to see if you fall under one of these categories. You can contact the Committee for Citizen Awareness at info@citizenawareness.org.

The Constitution: That Delicate Balance

Sign up to view free videos prepared by the Annenberg Foundation. Prominent individuals spontaneously debate the pros and cons of controversial issues such as the right to die, first amendments rights, and immigration. Supporting resources further enhance the learning experience by examining democracy, citizenship, and primary sources. Videos on this site are gathered together from a variety of reputable organizations that produce high quality educational media.

Constitutional Rights Foundation Educating Tomorrow’s Citizens

What is the foundation for American democracy?  Visit the Constitutional Rights Foundation and delve into the history behind American freedoms.  Although this is a text based site it contains fascinating readings about the foundations for the United States Constitution. Read about the history of the Magna Carta, why there was Mayflower Compact, why there were so many changes to Thomas Jefferson’s first writing of the Declaration of Independence, the purpose of the Federalists papers and who wrote 60 percent of them, and finally the writing of the Constitution. Readings, activities, and the complete texts of these documents illustrate how they serve as the foundation for American democracy. The activities following each document include questions that engage the reader to think, discuss and explain. 

Lessons

In Congress Assembled: Continuity and Change in the Governing of the United States

The American Memory collection at the Library of Congress includes a teaching unit on the Constitution, Congress, and current events using Thomas Legislative and Documents of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention collection. Using these primary resources four lessons examine continuity and change in the governing of the United States. Documents are used to study the Constitution and Bill of Rights in lessons one and two. Lesson three investigates important issues that confronted the first Congress. Broadsides from the Continental Congress that called for special days of remembrance and thanksgiving are used to teach lesson four. Each lesson includes a preliminary activity, discussion, culminating activity and extensions.

C-Span

Engage students in the process of amending the Constitution with C-Span’s classroom materials.  Examine an overview of the procedure by reading a Bill from Congress and a Bill from the Constitutional Convention. Assess student understanding of the process with the review and discussion questions that are provided. View a video to determine how Woodrow Wilson’s presidency led to the creation of the 25th Amendment and view a video of President Bush speaking on a recent joint resolution.  Explore the three branches of government through engaging questions with links to information and answers.  Test student knowledge of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government with quizzes. Hone vocabulary skills with definitions related to each branch of government. C-Span’s activities are linked to state and national standards.  Many videos and activities are included to make this an invaluable site when studying the United States Constitution.

U.S. Constitution Online

Want to locate quick links and information about the U.S. Constitution? Need some ready-made constitutional questions with the answers a click away? Want to participate in a survey on a current events issue or ask a question? Then, head straight for the U.S. Constitution Online.

We the People: Behind the Scenes with Benjamin Franklin

The U.S. Constitution is a living, flexible document that is the foundation of American government. Benjamin Franklin played a key role as elder statesman at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Join Dr. Franklin as he shares his views about the framing of the U.S. Constitution in the town where history was made - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Celebrate

Each year as the signing of the U.S. Constitution is celebrated, more and more Americans will be made aware of the founding fathers and their ideas for government rule that have lasted over two centuries. This is an opportunity to educate all students about the basic principals of democracy to the more complex constitutional issues that are in the news today.

Videos

Independence Hall

Independence Hall
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Video Tour National Park Service

Celebrating the Constitution

Celebrating the Constitution

Updated August 27, 2015
© 1996 - 2015 Linda C. Joseph
All Rights Reserved
All CyberBee Graphics are Trademarked

Graphics by
Darlene Vanasco/Creative Director
Erika Taguchi/Designer & Illustrator
Hosting Provided by Iwaynet