Constitution Day Scavenger Hunt with 60-Second Civics

Fifty-five delegates attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Most students can identify George Washington or James Madison. But what about the 53 other delegates? Who were they? How did they influence the convention? In this lesson, students will familiarize themselves with the delegates by listening to a series of 60-Second Civics podcast episodes devoted to the Framers of the Constitution.

  • Resource Type: Audio
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

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

“Father” of Our Country v. “Father” of the Bill of Rights

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, delegates analyzed, argued, and debated the new Constitution. George Mason, a Virginian, pleaded with the fifty-five delegates for the inclusion of a list of guaranteed rights. Mason (sometimes referred to as the “father of the Bill of Rights”) wanted the new Constitution to guarantee freedom of speech, press, and religion, and the right to a fair jury trial. He also wanted to include the freedom to vote.

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

The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 3: Creating the Office of the Presidency

This lesson focuses on the arguments over the various characteristics and powers of the office of president as debated at Constitutional Convention of 1787. By examining the views of delegates as recorded in James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, students will understand the arguments of those who supported either a strong, independent executive, or a very limited and highly controlled executive. Students will also see why, in the end, the delegates compromised.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Ratifying the Constitution

This lesson introduces students to the vigorous debates between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalists surrounding the ratification of the Constitution that took place in the state conventions.

In the state ratification conventions, delegates argued the wisdom of adopting the Constitution. Elected specifically to serve in these conventions, they came from a range of backgrounds, from the very elite and highly educated, to those of humbler birth and station. State delegates grappled with questions about the nature of democracy, the distribution of wealth and power in society, the rights of individuals and minority groups, and the role of dissent in a republic.

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

The Constitutional Convention: Slavery and the Constitution

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students at the Constitutional Convention and asks them to engage in the most problematic issue the framers faced: how to deal with slavery. Although most delegates believed slavery was deplorable, it was so deeply entrenched that any attempt to abolish it would likely keep several states from approving the proposed Constitution. By confronting this issue, students will experience for themselves the influence of socioeconomic factors in the political arena, and they will see how political discourse is shaped by arguments based on morality, interest, and pragmatic considerations, often intertwined.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 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

Choosing to Make a Nation: Constitutional Convention Simulation

The Choosing to Make a Nation Curriculum Project developed by award-winning author Ray Raphael is a student-centered, primary source-rich approach to teaching about American history and our nation‘s founding documents.

An 8-lesson simulation in which students become delegates from specific states and address the same issues the framers faced. Unit includes the following lesson plans –

(1) Reform or Revolution?
(2) Composition of Congress
(3) Creating an Executive Branch
(4) Should Judges Judge Laws?
(5) Balance of Powers
(6) Slavery and the Constitution
(7) Amendments and Ratification
(8) To Sign or Not to Sign?
Option A: The historical Constitution
Option B: Student-generated constitution

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

Act IV: How Did the Constitutional Convention Conclude

This short video analyzes the final days of the Convention, when the delegates were eager to leave but also mindful of the work they had accomplished. They were “smart people who had learned from spending 88 days together” and even those opposed to the Constitution (Randolph, Mason, and Gerry) had the opportunity to dissent. Professor Gordon Lloyd agrees with Franklin that the Constitution did not achieve perfection but, rather, created a “more perfect union.”

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Act II: What Was the Connecticut Compromise at the Constitutional Convention?

This short video explores the Connecticut Compromise, in which the delegates rejected an “either/or” solution to the question of representation and instead “thought out of the box,” creating a government that was partly national and partly federal. Professor Gordon Lloyd points out that although the final vote (5/4/1) on the Compromise did not reflect a bi-partisan consensus, it nevertheless was a significant breakthrough for moving on to other issues.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12