Constitutional Principles Videos

The Constitutional Principles Videos are engaging presentations that detail the principles upon which the Constitution of the United States was founded and how each principle is important and relative to our understanding of the Constitution today. Presentations address the principles of Separation of Powers, Consent of the Governed, Rule of Law, and Representative Government in a Republic.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Books, Closed Captions, Editorial Cartoons, Essays, Media, Photography, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Special Needs/Language Focus, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Letter to James Madison

This letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison in September, 1789 focuses on human rights and the principles of every government. The question: Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here on the elementary principles of society has presented this question to my mind and that no such obligation can be transmitted I think very capable of proof.

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

Defining Classroom Citizenship

The founders understood that, in order to preserve their liberty and happiness, and that of future generations, the foundation of successful self-government was citizens who understood and applied certain virtues. They constructed the U.S. Constitution according to their study of the principles and virtues that were most necessary to sustain a free, prosperous, and orderly society. This lesson is ideal for the first day of school.

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

Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment

The American Bar Association Dialogue program provides lawyers, judges and teachers with the resources they need to engage students and community members in a discussion of fundamental American legal principles and civic traditions. This Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment is composed of three parts:
Part 1: Equal Protection and Civil Rights – Participants discuss the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and consider how Congress, through federal legislation, has worked to help realize its constitutional promise.
Part 2: Incorporating the Bill of Rights examines the concept of incorporation. Using a case study of Gitlow v. New York, this section provides a guide to how courts have applied the Bill of Rights, selectively, to the states using the 14th Amendment.
Part 3: Ensuring Equality and Liberty explores how the 14th Amendment has been interpreted by courts to protect fundamental freedoms, including individuals’ right to marry.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Timelines
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Foundations of Democracy: Lesson Plans & Resources

This Share My Lesson collection provides teachers with free lesson plans and resources on the foundational principles of democracies, including rule of law, limited government, and checks and balances. It can be used to build background knowledge to analyze the health of our democracy over time and in today’s environment.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12

Engaging Congress Game

Engaging Congress is a fun, interactive game that uses primary source documents to explore the basic principles of representative government and the challenges they face in contemporary society.

  • Resource Type: Games
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Equal Justice Under Law

In its first constitutional challenge to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a case brought by a Chinese immigrant, not an American citizen. Yick Wo believed city ordinances had been unfairly applied to him, so he challenged their constitutionality under the equal protection clause, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

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

Grades 6-8 Freedom and Equality: American Principles at Odds?

This lesson will use close reading of documentary selections and class discussion to analyze the concepts of “freedom” and “equality” as they have appeared and been tested throughout American history. By the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able to view these ideas as contested concepts that can and often do exist in tension. Students will assess whether or not “equality” comes at the expense of “freedom” and vice versa.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Congress, the President, and the War Powers (Fundamental Principles of Government)

This lesson will explore the implementation of the war-making power from the first declared war under the Constitution—the War of 1812—to the Iraq War. Using primary sources, students will investigate how the constitutional powers to initiate war have been exercised by the legislative and executive branches at several key moments in American history. They will also evaluate why and how the balance of authority in initiating war has changed over time, and the current balance of power.

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