Our Constitution: The Bill of Rights

These lessons on the Bill of Rights are part of Gilder Lehrman’s series of Common Core–based units. These units were written to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance. Students will demonstrate this knowledge by writing summaries of selections from the original document and, by the end of the unit, articulating their understanding of the complete document by answering questions in an argumentative writing style to fulfill the Common Core Standards. Through this step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze any primary or secondary source material.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9

The Meaning of America

What kind of citizens are likely to emerge in a nation founded on individual rights, equality, and freedom of religion? What virtues are required for a robust citizenry? The Meaning of America, a ten-part curriculum, explores American character and identity through the use of imaginative fiction. Includes short stories by Jack London, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Willa Cather, and Kurt Vonnegut. Discussion guides and video model conversations. Common Core-aligned.

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

Understanding Federalist 10: Analysis and Evaluation

Students will understand the arguments set forth by Publius in Federalist 10 by reviewing and memorizing the document’s terms. Students will also scrutinize the text by mapping the argument sequentially in a concept (tree) map. Finally, students will judge the overall message set forth in Federalist 10 by writing a letter to the editor either as a supporter or a detractor of the message. Common Core-aligned.

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

A Lesson on Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Project for Moral Perfection’

This selection is taken from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. This excerpt focuses on self-improvement, specifically the pursuit of “moral perfection” through carefully structured and documented practice. Through textual analysis and group discussion, students will reflect on their own personal value systems and articulate principles by which they choose to live. Common Core-aligned. Includes a model discussion.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Media, Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 11, 12

Jury Service: Our Duty and Privilege as Citizens

In America, the responsibility to protect individual rights and promote the common good ultimately rests with its citizens, not the government. When citizens participate in thoughtful and responsible ways, the welfare of our constitutional democracy is ensured. While most civic participation is voluntary, the call to serve on a jury is not. It comes as an order by the court.

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

Weights and Measures

In this lesson, students will come to understand why having common weights and measures, imposed and enforced by the government, is important in day-to-day life. They will discuss how weights and measures permeate the sciences, industry, and commerce, discovering the importance of such standards in their own lives. In the process, students will identify concepts underlying the need for weights and measures, such as private property and fair treatment under the law.

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

What’s in a Constitutional Preamble?

Students will compare the preamble of the U.S. Constitution with the preambles from two state constitutions. They will extract common themes from the three, and note key differences. The preamble to the Constitution has not been changed since its drafting; the Constitution, however, has been amended. Students will reevaluate the ideals expressed in the Preamble and consider their relevance today. They are given the chance to rewrite the Preamble, share their rationale, and explain the values contained expressed inside.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Anyone Home? Using Political Cartoons to Consider the Lawmaking Process

This secondary level lesson plan, developed in collaboration with the National Archives, draws on the legendary political cartoons of Clifford Berryman to consider the lawmaking process. Students analyze the cartoon and describe how it illustrates the process. It aligns with both Common Core ELA standards and C3 Framework components.

  • Resource Type: Editorial Cartoons, Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Colonial Influences (Lesson Plan and Powerpoint)

American colonists had some strong ideas about what they wanted in a government. These ideas surface in colonial documents, and eventually became a part of the founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. But where did they come from? This lesson looks at the Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, English Bill of Rights, Cato’s Letters and Common Sense.

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