Popular Sovereignty and Constitutional Ratification

This short video highlights the importance of popular sovereignty in the ratification debates. The people themselves, through their elected delegates in specially-called conventions, voted up or down on the new Constitution. Professor John Kaminksi notes how the Antifederalists also used the principle of popular sovereignty to justify their call for constitutional amendments.

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

“An Expression of the American Mind”: Understanding the Declaration of Independence

The major ideas in the Declaration of Independence, their origins, the Americans’ key grievances against the King and Parliament, their assertion of sovereignty, and the Declaration’s process of revision. This lesson will focus on the views of Americans as expressed in primary documents from their own time and in their own words.

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

The Constitutional Convention: Should Judges Judge Laws?

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 with a problematic question: Who should have the final say in deciding whether a law or executive action is constitutional? Students will explore this in theoretical, practical, and political contexts. If one branch has the final say, does that negate the separation of powers? But if no branch has the final say, how are inter-branch disputes to be settled? If unelected justices of the Supreme Court can nullify legislative and executive measures, does that fly in the face of popular sovereignty? On the other hand, if constitutional interpretation is left to “the people,” how might that work, and might that lead to political turmoil?

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 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

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Students will create visual metaphors to explain the seven principles of the Constitution. Students will practice their speaking skills as they explain their visual analogies to the rest of the class. Students will reflect on the big ideas and make personal connections to the material by recording their learning in a Learning Log during and after the presentations.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Constitution Day Lesson Plan (High School)

In this lesson, students will study the Constitution from three perspectives, examining its structure, content, and underlying philosophy. After skimming and making inferences about the Constitution, students will focus on the separate articles: their purpose, content, and underlying ideas.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12