The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 1: The Road to the Constitutional Convention

In February of 1787, Congress authorized a convention, to be held in Philadelphia in May of that year, for the purpose of recommending changes to the Articles of Confederation. In what has come to be known as the Constitutional Convention of 1787, all of the states—with the exception of Rhode Island—sent delegates to debate how to amend the Articles of Confederation in order to alleviate several problems experienced by the United States after the War for Independence.

This lesson focuses on the problems under the Articles of Confederation between 1783 and 1786 leading to the 1787 Convention. Through examination of primary sources, students will see why some prominent American founders, more than others, believed that the United States faced a serious crisis, and that drastic changes, rather than minor amendments, to the Articles were necessary.

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

Learning About Articles I, II, and III!

This resource provides students with an English language video and associated student friendly readings (in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole), as well as reading and video guides and self assessment tools. Using these, students will explore the basic foundation of the Constitution contained in Articles I, II, and III.
Free registration is required to use the resource.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Quizzes, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitutional Convention: Reform or Revolution?

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students at the opening of the Constitutional Convention and asks them to deliberate on the overarching question delegates faced at that moment: Should they propose alterations to the Articles of Confederation, or should they construct an entirely different plan that would supplant the Articles? By engaging with this momentous issue, students will understand the enormity of the “revolution in favor of government” that occurred in 1787.

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

Drafting the Nation

As the Framers drafted different versions of our founding documents, their ideas of what it meant to be a republic also changed. In this unit, four lessons based on the drafts of the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, held at the collection at HSP, allow students to explore the language and ideas behind these pivotal documents

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

The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation

It is Fall 1787. The Federal Convention has recently concluded its closed door meetings in Philadelphia and presented the nation with a new model for the government. It is now up to each special state convention to decide whether to replace the Articles of Confederation with this new constitution. The debate is passionate and speaks directly to what the founding fathers had in mind in conceiving this new nation. Does this new government represent salvation or downfall?

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Constitutional Convention

This article focuses on George Washington’s role in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia from May 14 to September 17. Delegates were gathering to correct the various problems that had arisen while the newly-independent nation was operating under the Articles of Confederation, but Washington had to be persuaded to even attend.

  • Resource Type: Essays
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Challenges to Ratification of the Constitution

This video examines the need for and the challenges faced by the new Constitution. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention, originally an ad hoc gathering to revise the Articles of Confederation, quickly realized the need for a new political structure to strengthen the federal government. Professor John Kaminksi notes the role played by George Washington in legitimizing the Convention, as well as the significance of the decision to require ratification through conventions in 9/13 states.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 11, 12

Birth of American Democracy: Discourse, Debate and Compromise

In this exploration of American democracy students will follow the path to representative government by analyzing the tradition of discourse, debate, and compromise from Jamestown to Williamsburg and Philadelphia and finally to Washington. Students will determine the importance of debate and compromise for the development of a government by and for the people and also identify strategies for making their voices heard in government today.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The United States Constitution (CKHG Unit)

This unit explores the creation and central ideas of the United States Constitution. Across 18 lessons, students learn how, after the Revolution, the Founding Fathers worked to confront the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. They learn why the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, and explore reasons why the Constitution has survived as the guiding document of government in the United States.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Books, Descriptive Text, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Timelines
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8