The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Who Were the Foremothers of the Women’s Suffrage and Equality Movements?

This lesson looks at the women’s suffrage movement that grew out of the failing of the Continental Congress by “remembering the ladies” who are too often overlooked when teaching about the “foremothers” of the movements for suffrage and women’s equality in U.S. history. Grounded in the critical inquiry question “Who’s missing?” and in the interest of bringing more perspectives to whom the suffrage movement included, this resource will help to ensure that students learn about some of the lesser-known activists who, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony, participated in the formative years of the women’s rights movement.

  • Resource Type: Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: History
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Teacher’s Guide for Women’s History

The 116th U.S Congress that began its two-year session in January 2019 is historic for a few reasons. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is not only the first woman to hold the position, but also is the first person to return to the Speaker’s office in the House since Sam Rayburn in 1955. On another historical note, 102 women were elected to the House of Representatives and 25 serve in the Senate — the most women ever elected to Congress. With next year marking one hundred years since ratification of the 19th Amendment, this Women’s History Month is about more than just looking back. In this resource, find a list of compelling questions, student activities, and resources and lesson ideas.

  • Resource Type: Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Vietnam War Lesson Guide

Explore classroom lesson plans related to Ken Burns’s and Lynn Novick’s 10-part, 18-hour documentary series, The Vietnam War, which tells the story of one of the most consequential, divisive and controversial events in American history. The series explores the human dimensions of the war through the testimony of nearly 80 witnesses from all sides.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Oral Histories, Photography, Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The President’s Roles and Responsibilities: Understanding the President’s Job

As a nation, we place no greater responsibility on any one individual than we do on the president. Through these activities, students learn about the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. president and their own roles as citizens of a democracy.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

The President’s Roles and Responsibilities: Communicating with the President

In order to become informed participants in a democracy, students must learn about the women and men who make decisions concerning their lives, their country, and the world. The president of the United States is one such leader. As a nation, we place no greater responsibility on any one individual than we do on the president. Through several activites, students learn about the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. president and their own roles as citizens of a democracy.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Video
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: K, 1, 2

The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?

Help your students understand, by way of primary source documents from archival sources, why the Founders found it necessary to establish a more perfect Union and what goals guided them in accomplishing such a weighty task.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 3, 4, 5

The First Amendment: What’s Fair in a Free Country?

Young people have a profound sense of the importance of fairness. “It’s not fair” is often used as a one-size-fits-all argument when a child feels victimized. In situations where the child has an interest in protecting his or her actions, “It’s a free country!” is often the argument of choice. On the other hand, children are very sensitive about speech and policies they consider to have a negative effect on their well-being.

Balancing rights and responsibilities is difficult, even for the Supreme Court. This lesson demonstrates to students that doctrine of freedom of speech and its proper application is an ongoing process.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 3, 4, 5

The Constitutional Convention: What the Founding Fathers Said

By examining records of the Constitutional Convention, such as James Madison’s extensive notes, students witness the unfolding drama of the Constitutional Convention and the contributions of those who have come to be known as the Founding Fathers: Madison, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and others who played major roles in founding a new nation. In this lesson, students will learn how the Founding Fathers debated, and then resolved, their differences as they drafted the U.S. Constitution.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Quizzes, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8