Constitutional Conversations: Civil Dialogue Toolkit

This toolkit is a component of the module Constitutional Conversations: How to Have a Civil Dialogue. Use this toolkit to help facilitate civil, constructive conversations about the Constitution in the classroom. The two other components: a video analysis lesson plan about Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s explanation of how the Court decides cases and an […]

  • Resource Type: Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Media Literacy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11

Civil Conversation on the 14th Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment fundamentally redefined the central institutions of American civic and political life after the Civil War and remains the bulwark of our Constitutional rights today. Use the Civil Conversation strategy to take a closer reading of Section 1 of the Amendment.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Civil Conversation

Our pluralistic democracy is based on a set of common principles such as justice, equality, liberty. These principles are often interpreted quite differently in specific situations by individuals. This civil conversation activity offers an alternative. In this structured discussion method, under the guidance of a facilitator, participants are encouraged to engage intellectually with challenging materials, gain insight about their own point of view and strive for a shared understanding of issues.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Guns and School Safety

The Constitutional Rights Foundation provides resources to help students, teachers, administrators, and districts think about the best way forward for their communities and states. Resources include a simulation activity in which students act as state legislators trying to design the most effective policy for reduction of gun violence in their state (grades 9-12); a civil conversation in which students participate in a small-group discussion (middle school); talking points on the causes of school violence; and more.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Simulation
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Civil Conversation: Immigration Enforcement Raids

Controversial legal and policy issues, as they are discussed in the public arena, often lead to polarization, not understanding. This Civil Conversation activity offers an alternative. In this structured discussion method, under the guidance of a facilitator, participants are encouraged to engage intellectually with challenging materials, gain insight about their own point of view, and strive for a shared understanding of issues. This lesson plan addresses the debate over the policies of the federal agency – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – that investigates and enforces the nation’s immigration laws.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

I Have a Dream: A Civil Conversation

Understanding the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution is important because it sets out the purposes or functions of government as envisioned by the framers. This lesson opens with a group activity in which students look at the words in the Preamble and translate them into everyday language. Then students take part in a civil conversation on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Through discussion of the speech, students will delve more deeply into the meaning of the Preamble.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8

To Kill a Mockingbird Classroom Conversation

This civil conversation is designed to help students gain a deeper understanding of responsibility and justice; identify common ground among differing views; and enhance their reading, speaking, listening, and skills. Conversations for classroom purposes should have a time limit generally ranging from 15 analytical to 45 minutes and an additional five minutes to reflect on the effectiveness of the conversations.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The 2015 Baltimore Riots: A Teachable Moment

The Newseum believes that improving civic education has the power to improve our schools, communities and our democracy. The Baltimore unrest can be an entry point in your conversation with students.

The Newseum has numerous resources to help teachers broach this topic in the classroom. Lesson plans, videos and activities guide students in how civil rights issues have been represented in the media over many decades. And how citizens, including young people, can develop a voice and use the freedoms of the First Amendment to effect change and inspire action.

  • Resource Type: Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Video
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Conversation on the Constitution: Jury Service

Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy discuss the history and responsibilities of juries and the role they play in the U.S. judicial system. This video complements FAQs: Juries, 11 short videos about the history of juries and what to expect as a potential juror.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Special Needs/Language Focus, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Emoluments Clause and the President (Civil Conversation)

The emoluments clause is a provision in the U.S. Constitution. An emolument is a profit or advantage an official gains from his or her office. The framers of the Constitution feared that ambassadors in the early republic might be corrupted by gifts from foreign countries. The framers wanted public servants to be free from outside influence.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12