Causes of the American Revolution

This short video examines the Boston Tea Party of 1773 as the critical event which transformed political discussion about British imperial authority into an active source of controversy. By the early 1770’s, British and Americans thought differently about the extent of Parliament’s power to legislate for the American colonies. Professor Jack Rakove notes that British punishment of Massachusetts for its defiance of the Tea Act precluded a peaceful resolution of the political controversy.

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

Decoding Elections: Chaotic Conventions

National conventions are supposed to be a show of party power and solidarity, but there’s always the potential for dissent. See how they have evolved and how they can impact candidates and the electorate. Registration on NewseumED is required to view resource.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the issue of slavery divided the Democratic Party and newly formed Republican Party. One of the most prominent Democrats was the U.S. Senator from Illinois Stephen Douglas. When he ran for re-election in 1858 against Republican Abraham Lincoln, the two men held a series of debates. In the activity, students read statements made by Douglas in the debates, discuss how Lincoln would respond, and create responses to each statement.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Presenting Political Parties

Using the political cartoons of Clifford Berryman, this lesson, developed in collaboration with the National Archives, has students consider the impact of political parties on politics, government, lawmaking, and voters. The heavy focus here is on breaking down and interpreting some powerful primary sources to learn more about the role of political parties.

  • Resource Type: Editorial Cartoons, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Sedition Act: Certain Crimes Against the United States

The Sedition Act of 1798 passed during John Adam’s administration by the Federalist Party touched off a lively debate about the right of free speech. It also presented an early test case to the citizens and government of the United States. In times of war or imminent danger, how do you balance the need for security with the rights of individuals? How can partisan politics affect the process of shaping security policies?

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

Immigration Reform (SIM Lesson Plans)

The purpose of this learning module is to help students learn how a U.S. Senator might address an issue of public significance under consideration in the United States Congress. Learning about personal, state, party, and national interests will help students understand representation more fully. The pre-visit examines how elected representation works. The post-visit lesson supports critical analysis of each student’s strategic choices and votes, preparing them to defend their efforts.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitution in Action – Political Parties and Presidential Electors: The Election of 1800

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the Early Republic and asks them to engage in the politics of those times. Acting as either Federalists or Republicans, they will be asked to develop strategies for electing their party’s standard bearer as president, using the Constitution’s complex system of presidential electors to their advantage.

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

Dangerous Freedoms: Debating the Sedition Act

Prominent Republican Party members immediately denounce the Act as a violation of First Amendment freedom of speech and of the press, but the Federal courts move forward with cases brought under the law. The still-new nation is drawn into a tense debate: To what extent should the government of a young nation limit criticism of its leaders and policies to protect its stability in the face of foreign threats?

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

Early Presidents (CKHG Unit)

This unit (first half of Early Presidents and Social Reformers) focuses on the first seven presidents of the United States. Across 9 lessons, students learn about how the early presidents organized the federal government, built a national capital, directed a second war with Great Britain, more than doubled the size of the country, and formulated a “hands-off” foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Books, Descriptive Text, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Timelines
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Debate Watching Guide

This lesson is designed to help students view political debates. The resources provided support the critical evaluation of the candidate’s performances. Body language, demeanor, appearance and positions on key issues are analyzed in an attempt to help students determine the importance of debates to the election cycle. This lesson could be used in class or as a homework assignment.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Editorial Cartoons, Essays, Lesson Plans, Surveys, Video
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12