The Impact of Congress

The Impact of Congress looks at the work of the First Congress, 1789-91, and its impact on the country over the years. In this module you will learn about eleven of the First Congress’s most important accomplishments through primary source images and documents – accomplishments that still have a major impact on our country today. Then you will pick a later session of Congress and explore and analyze its accomplishments.

  • Resource Type: Editorial Cartoons, Interactives, Media, Photography, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Timelines, Video
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Teacher’s Guide for Women’s History

The 116th U.S Congress that began its two-year session in January 2019 is historic for a few reasons. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is not only the first woman to hold the position, but also is the first person to return to the Speaker’s office in the House since Sam Rayburn in 1955. On another historical note, 102 women were elected to the House of Representatives and 25 serve in the Senate — the most women ever elected to Congress. With next year marking one hundred years since ratification of the 19th Amendment, this Women’s History Month is about more than just looking back. In this resource, find a list of compelling questions, student activities, and resources and lesson ideas.

  • Resource Type: Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The American Founding: The Bill of Rights

This comprehensive, multimedia online exhibit features a trove of resources on the Bill of Rights. Part I contains the English, Colonial, State, and Continental origins of the Bill of Rights; Part II features the Federalist/Antifederalist Debate over the Bill of Rights; and Part III explains the politics of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress through its adoption.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Interactives, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The U.S. Constitution: Continuity and Change in the Governing of the United States

This unit examines continuity and change in the governing of the United States. Lessons one and two are focused on a study of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and provide access to primary source documents from the Library of Congress. Lesson three investigates important issues which confronted the first Congress and has students examine current congressional debate over similar issues. Lesson four features broadsides from the Continental Congress.

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

Congress and the Creation of the Bill of Rights

Students will explore the protections and limitations on authority contained in the Bill of Rights and the process by which the First Congress created it. They will do this by compiling a list of their rights as students, analyzing the Bill of Rights, and studying primary source documents to trace the origin and development of the first ten amendments. Students will then consider how the Bill of Rights might be updated to reflect 21st century circumstances. (Duration: 30–90-minute segments, up to 5 hours.)

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

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights

Within the half-billion pages of records in the care of the Center for Legislative Archives, there are some special treasures from the First Congress that show how the ratification of the Constitution necessitated the creation of the Bill of Rights, and how the creation of the Bill of Rights, in turn, completed the Constitution. This remarkable story is told in Congress Creates the Bill of Rights, which consists of a mobile app, an ebook, and online resources for teachers and students.

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

The 14th Amendment and the Evolution of Title IX

Congress and the courts have applied the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to many aspects of public life over the past 150 years. In this activity, students will explore the evolution of the 14th Amendment through the lens of Title IX, which prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from excluding students from participating in educational and athletic programs on the basis of sex. The Supreme Court’s first Title IX case, Grove City College v. Bell, also demonstrates how each of the three branches exercises its authority.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitution in Action: Republic or Democracy?

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This lesson places students at the First Federal Congress and asks them to consider whether citizens have the right to instruct their elected representatives on how to vote. This gets to the very heart of what our government is all about. Should we have a republic—a representative government in which elected leaders are free to deliberate and decide on their own—or a democracy, in which representatives follow the lead of their constituents?

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Congressional Timeline

The Congressional Timeline, developed and maintained by The Dirksen Congressional Center, arrays more than 900 of the nation’s laws on a timeline beginning with the first Congress in 1789 and continuing to the present. A second timeline “band” depicts major political events as context for Congress’s law-making.

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

United States Founding Documents

A gallery of study resources about significant primary source documents from American history. This gallery highlights resources designed to enhance study of a few significant primary source documents from American history.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12