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. Free registration required to access lesson plan.

Grades 7-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

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?

Freedom Summer 1964

Freedom Summer is a digital learning tool (available on the web or as an app) for teachers and students that explores key events surrounding this time in America’s history and the impact of the civil rights movement on civil rights legislation. Players predict the outcomes of civil and congressional actions and discover how the events are intertwined. Students have the opportunity to view informative intro and outro videos and analyze 20 primary sources depicting images of civil rights events. Analysis of a variety of primary sources and supplemental information leads students to identify varying perspectives and potential outcomes. Freedom Summer is formatted for all types of computers and mobile devices, including Chromebooks, and can be found on the website or in any app store for download.

Grades 7-12
Foundations of Democracy
Interactives

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.

Grades 12, 9, 10, 11
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Compromise at the Constitutional Convention

This activity is designed to help students understand the debates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that shaped America’s legislative branch of government. The primary goal is for students to discover how a compromise balanced the needs of large states and small states and how this led to the
creation of the current House of Representatives and Senate. In contrast to the real convention, this activity is simplified and focused to come to a conclusion in a class period.

Starter Kit: Legislative Branch Podcast

There are 535 people who meet in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill. They go in, legislation comes out. You can watch the machinations of the House and Senate chambers on C-SPAN, you can read their bills online. But what are the rules of engagement? Where does your Senator go every day, and what do they do? What does it mean to represent the American people?
This short episode includes a one-page Graphic Organizer for students to take notes on while listening, as well as discussion questions on the back side.

Grades 12, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Federal Government
Audio

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.

Grades 9-12, 6, 7, 8
Voting, Elections, Politics
Research (Digests of Primary Sources)