Birth of American Democracy: Discourse, Debate and Compromise

In this exploration of American democracy students will follow the path to representative government by analyzing the tradition of discourse, debate, and compromise from Jamestown to Williamsburg and Philadelphia and finally to Washington. Students will determine the importance of debate and compromise for the development of a government by and for the people and also identify strategies for making their voices heard in government today.

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

The Constitution in Action: Republic or Democracy?

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This lesson places students at the First Federal Congress and asks them to consider whether citizens have the right to instruct their elected representatives on how to vote. This gets to the very heart of what our government is all about. Should we have a republic—a representative government in which elected leaders are free to deliberate and decide on their own—or a democracy, in which representatives follow the lead of their constituents?

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

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

Freedom of Speech: Finding the Limits

As part of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not defined by it. That task is left up to the people through a representative government that makes the laws and a judicial system that interprets and applies the laws to resolve disputes. In this lesson, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Freedom of Speech,” students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from Supreme Court decisions and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.

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

Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Freedom Summer is a game-based learning module in which players explore the relationship between the Civil Rights Movement and the contentious civil rights debate in Congress. Players are presented with a series of 20 historic events and are required to predict the consequences of each event. Players discover how events of the Civil Rights Movement and concurrent events in Congress impacted each other and the role that both Congress and individuals play in representative democracy.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Audio, Games, Interactives, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Photography, Primary Sources, Quizzes, Timelines, Video
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The 2015 Baltimore Riots: A Teachable Moment

The Newseum believes that improving civic education has the power to improve our schools, communities and our democracy. The Baltimore unrest can be an entry point in your conversation with students.

The Newseum has numerous resources to help teachers broach this topic in the classroom. Lesson plans, videos and activities guide students in how civil rights issues have been represented in the media over many decades. And how citizens, including young people, can develop a voice and use the freedoms of the First Amendment to effect change and inspire action.

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

The Constitutional Convention: Fine Tuning the Balance of Powers

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students in the midst of the Constitutional Convention, after the Committee of Detail has submitted its draft for a new Constitution on August 6. With that draft’s concrete proposals on the floor, students will ponder questions such as: Is this the Constitution we want? Are the people adequately represented? Are the branches well structured? By engaging with these questions mid-stream, before the Convention reached its final conclusions, students will experience the Constitutional Convention as process, a supreme example of collective decision-making.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The YLI E-Congress Legislative Simulation

Looking for an interactive way to teach about the legislative branch? The Youth Leadership Initiative’s E-Congress program allows students to learn about Congress by writing original legislation and following it through the lawmaking process. Registration is required.

  • Resource Type: Editorial Cartoons, Lesson Plans, Quizzes, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Surveys
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12