This document is a choice board covering 12 different topics related to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Students are linked to a C-SPAN video and other .gov source, and then have specific activities to complete for each topic. Teachers can customize this document as needed — the current directions ask students to complete 6 topics, but that can be adjusted. This is a multi-day activity that can be done in person or via distance learning.
The Constitution EXPLAINED
This comprehensive, short-form video series explains the text, history, and relevance of the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and additional amendments. The videos are assignable and end with call-to-action questions, prompting learners to further explore the topics covered in the video through a modern lens. Click on each category to see its related videos, and click on the video thumbnail to watch the full clip. You can also autoplay each category’s videos using YouTube playlists. The series was developed in partnership with the Center for Civic Education, and with the contributions of constitutional scholar Linda R. Monk, JD.
The Bill of Rights – Module 5 of Constitution 101
Shortly after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the Founding generation added the Bill of Rights—the Constitution’s first 10 amendments. These amendments guarantee many of our most cherished liberties, including the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to a jury trial. After the Constitutional Convention, the absence of a bill of rights emerged as a key part of the debates over ratification. Anti-Federalists — those who opposed the Constitution — pointed to the missing bill of rights as a fatal flaw in the new document. Several states ratified the Constitution with an understanding that amendments would be promptly added by the new government. This module will explore the origins of the Bill of Rights, explain its importance to the debate over the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and walk through the specific rights enshrined in each of the first 10 amendments.
Constitutional Convention and Ratification – Module 4 of Constitution 101
In the summer of 1787, delegates gathered for a convention in Philadelphia, with the goal of revising the Articles of Confederation—the nation’s existing governing document. However, rather than simply revising the Articles of Confederation, they wrote an entirely new framework of government: the U.S. Constitution. This new government was more powerful than the national government established by the Articles of Confederation, but the Constitution also limited the powers of this new government. In this module, you will explore the debates and compromises that occurred at the Constitutional Convention and explore the key arguments during the battle over ratification. Meet the framers of the Constitution and their influence on the new constitution.
The Bill of Rights Choice Board
The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, adopted through ratification, are collectively referred to as the Bill of Rights. As the first nine outline fundamental guarantees to the citizenry and the tenth reserves some governmental powers to the state governments, the Bill of Rights establishes limitations on the scope of the federal government.
Constitutional Debate Choice Board: George Mason vs. James Madison
The Articles of Confederation, ratified on March 1, 1781, created a loose confederation of sovereign states along with a weak central government. After several years living under the provisions of this document, the idea of establishing a stronger central government emerged. This led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Debates surrounding the ratification of the new document followed, with the Federalists supporting the ratification of the Constitution, and the Anti-Federalists opposing it, concerned it provided too much power to a central government. In this lesson, students will view videos of Virginian Founding Fathers James Madison and George Mason debating issues related to the Constitution.
From Watergate to Campaign Finance Reform
This 12-minute video is useful for any lesson that introduces students to the Watergate scandal, and any lesson focused on the constitutional and political challenges that complicate the regulation of campaign contributions. After clarifying the connection between the Watergate break-in and subsequent campaign finance scandal, the video documents how campaign finance regulations created in the wake of Watergate would eventually be manipulated by donors seeking to convert money into political influence. The video helps students make the connection between the history of Watergate and current controversies surrounding campaign finance, and to see how, after decades of attempted reforms, the United States is once again experiencing the same unregulated flow of campaign cash that helped give rise to the issues in the 1970s.
Presidents vs. Press: How Pentagon Papers Leak Set Up First Amendment Showdowns
This 12-minute video clarifies the connections between the New York Times Co. v. United States Supreme Court case and the recent battles that Presidents Obama and Trump have fought to contain national security leaks. Focusing on the broader issues of freedom of the press in a democracy, the video helps students draw a line between the New York Times decision from 1971 and the ongoing disputes between the public’s right to know and the president’s right to secrecy. Useful for examining the First Amendment and the role of the press in a democratic society, the video also provides students with the historical context surrounding the Pentagon Papers, and the Vietnam War and consequences of the New York Times court decision.
Aftermath of the War on Terror
This 11-minute video and lesson plan enable students to examine the experiences of Muslims and Arab Americans following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Students will investigate one example of a flawed prosecution of Arab immigrants living in Detroit as a case study in the climate of fear following the attacks. Students will then choose from among other primary source materials to describe particular experiences and generalize about the broader experiences of Muslims and Arab Americans.
The War on Terror and the Debate Over Torture
This 13-minute video and lesson plan are designed for students to analyze the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the public debate over the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by U.S. officials and government contractors. Students will evaluate multiple perspectives from a mix of resources (video clips, a short film, documents and political cartoons) and classify arguments as being supportive, neutral or critical of government action.