Key Constitutional Concepts

This three-part documentary discusses why and how the Constitution was created at the Constitutional Convention and explores the protection of individuals’ rights in the Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright and limits on presidential power through checks and balances in the Supreme Court case Youngstown v. Sawyer.

Each segment is about 20 minutes.

Closed captions available in multiple languages, including Spanish.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Special Needs/Language Focus, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Grade 6-8 An Energetic Executive

The purpose of this lesson is to assist student understanding of the expressed and implied powers of the president. By the conclusion of this lesson, students will understand the scope and purpose of these powers and be able to describe how they play out in real life. Students will also understand the importance of constitutional checks on presidential powers–examining the ways that a president could abuse his or her power should constitutional checks not exist.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Commemorating Presidents’ Day Resources

Teach your high school students about the constitutional legacy of George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan this Presidents’ Day. These free, ready-to-use lessons will engage your students in learning about these important presidents and how they shaped the history and Constitution of our nation. Each lesson was written and reviewed by scholars and contains questions to test student knowledge.

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

Abraham Lincoln and Executive Power

This lesson traces the rise of Abraham Lincoln from his humble beginnings to the presidency. It examines Lincoln’s ideas and decisions regarding slavery and the use of presidential power to preserve the Union during the Civil War. After the lesson, students should be able to explain how Lincoln overcame daunting disadvantages to become a great president, analyze and evaluate his decisions in response the critical constitutional issues of the Civil War, and understand and appreciate his legacy to American constitutionalism and citizenship.

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

Korematsu and Civil Liberties

This documentary explores the landmark case Korematsu v. U.S. (1944) concerning the constitutionality of presidential executive order 9066 during World War II that gave the U.S. military the power to ban thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas considered important to national security. A PDF lesson plan accompanies this video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Pursuit of Justice

The Pursuit of Justice book, written by Kermit L. Hall and John J. Patrick, analyzes 30 Supreme Court cases chosen by a group of Supreme Court justices and leading civics educators as the most important for American citizens to understand. An additional 100 significant cases included in state history and civics standards are summarized. The complete book or individuals chapters can be downloaded.

  • Resource Type: Books
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Constitution Day Across the Country

Various free, downloadable lessons across grades K through 12 to facilitate providing educational programs on Constitution Day. These interactive lessons teach about the development and evolution of the U.S. Constitution. Students are able to express themselves through discussion and debates while engaging in various activities.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Power of the Crowd

Political rallies: the scene of rousing speeches, cheering supporters and seas of signs and flags. These events are presidential campaign staples, but what do they offer the electorate?

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12