Teaching the Constitution

The U.S. Constitution contains many complicated ideas and concepts that can be hard for students to grasp. The resources in this unit leverage the strong imagery of Mount Vernon’s video “A More Perfect Union: George Washington and the Making of the Constitution” to help connect the concepts that shaped our nation’s government in order to reach students in new ways.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources, Quizzes, Timelines, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

George Washington and the Founding of the U.S. Government

The founding of the United States government is intimately intertwined with George Washington’s own biography. This web page offers resources for teachers to use in their classrooms associated with Washington’s role in the creation of the government. Included are primary and secondary sources, as well as essential questions for teaching the founding, lesson plans and classroom ready activities.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Media, Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A More Perfect Union: George Washington and the Making of the Constitution

This animated video highlights the Constitutional Convention and George Washington’s role in the formation of the new government. Events covered in the video include the causes leading to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the numerous compromises included in the document, and the challenges in ratifying the Constitution. The video has a run time of 23 minutes, and is broken into three chapters for easy navigation.

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

The Acts of Congress

George Washington’s copy of the Acts passed at a Congress of the United States of America (New-York, 1789) contains key founding documents establishing the Union: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a record of acts passed by the first Congress. In the margins, Washington wrote “President,” “Powers,” and “Required,” underscoring the responsibilities of the first Chief Executive. Learn more about this rare volume in the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

  • Resource Type: Books
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Be Washington

Be Washington is an interactive experience in which YOU take on the role of George Washington, either as commander in chief or president. Come face to face with a leadership challenge, listen to advice from his most trusted sources, and decide how to solve the same problems Washington himself faced. Learn how Washington actually handled the situation, and see how other players voted. Play as an individual or hosts a game for a group. Lesson plans are available for each scenario. The game may be played online and is also available as an app. Visiting Mount Vernon? Make plans to play Be Washington in the Interactive Theater.

  • Resource Type: Games, Lesson Plans, Simulation
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Presidents’ Day

Presidents’ Day is a U.S holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. This holiday was first established in 1885 as “Washington’s Birthday” to celebrate President George Washington’s birthday on February 22. In 1971, the federal government renamed the holiday Presidents’ Day to honor all US presidents, past and present. The Share My Lesson team has selected a variety of free lesson plans, educational resources and classroom materials to support teachers as they celebrate Presidents’ Day.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

George Washington and the Revolution

This short video examines the role played by George Washington in the defeat of the British during the American Revolution. From the moment he assumed command, Washington emphasized the importance of union to the war effort, in spite of challenges faced while commanding forces that were ill-fed, ill-supplied, and ill-served by the Confederation Congress. Professor W. B. Allen concludes that Washington’s leadership held both the military and the nation together during this tumultuous period.

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

George Washington and the Constitutional Convention

This short video discusses George Washington’s “infinite care in preparing the Constitution for posterity.” As Chair of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was most often silent, but he did cast a crucial vote in the Virginia delegation, resulting in the adoption of the Connecticut Compromise. Professor W. B. Allen emphasizes the role played by Washington in providing leadership and structure as the principles of the Constitution were argued and articulated.

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