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

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

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

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Lesson on the Declaration of Independence

With this teacher-created lesson plan, students will be able to: understand the meaning and central ideas of the Declaration of Independence; cite textual evidence to analyze this primary source; and analyze the structure of the document. Common Core-aligned.

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

Law-Abidingness: Reading Guide for “A Jury of Her Peers”

Does our obligation to uphold the law admit of exceptions? Debate the elementary civic virtue of law-abidingness and the appropriateness of civil disobedience as editors Amy A. Kass, Leon R. Kass, and Diana Schaub discuss Susan Glaspell’s story with Christopher DeMuth. Includes discussion guide and model conversation. Common Core-aligned.

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

Documents of Freedom: History, Government, and Economics Through Primary Sources

This complete online textbook covers American history, government, and economic concepts. Resources include readings for students, activity directions for teachers, and handouts that are downloadable and printable for classroom use. Content is geared toward students in grades 8-12. All materials are aligned with Common Core and individual state standards.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Books, Descriptive Text, Essays, Games, Interactives, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Quizzes, Special Needs/Language Focus, Surveys, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 12

Teaching Six Big Ideas in the Constitution

This lesson engages students in a study of the Constitution to learn the significance of “Six Big Ideas” contained in it. Students analyze the text of the Constitution in a variety of ways, examine primary sources to identify their relationship to its central ideas, and debate the core constitutional principles as they relate to today’s political issues. (Duration: 45-minute segments, up to 4.5 hours.)

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