The Constitutional Convention: Four Founding Fathers You May Never Have Met

Introduce your students to four key, but relatively unknown, contributors to the U.S. Constitution — Oliver Ellsworth, Alexander Hamilton, William Paterson, and Edmund Randolph. Learn through their words and the words of others how the Founding Fathers created “a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.”

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

45 Words

In the video accompanying this lesson plan, actor Martin Sheen narrates this story of the political struggles involved in establishing the First Amendment and early challenges to it.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Descriptive Text, Lesson Plans, Media, Special Needs/Language Focus, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 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

Martin’s Big Words

In this lesson, students will experience unequal treatment first hand – some will receive a sticker based on an arbitrary characteristic, like hair color – and by discussing their reactions, they will come to understand the meaning of equality. Students will learn about the life and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King and write about what his dream for equality means in their own lives.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Arguing Arkansas: Analyzing the Impact of Eisenhower’s Little Rock Speech

This lesson, developed in collaboration with the National Archives, has students explore a number of primary sources, all connected to the events at Little Rock High School. It asks students to consider how the events at Little Rock may or may not have been impacted by the words and leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: History
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Dolley Madison and Politics

This short video analyzes both the practical and the psychological contributions made by Dolley Madison to the young republic. Practically, Dolley’s weekly receptions in the drawing room of the White House became the only public gathering place in Washington, DC for doing the real business of politics. Psychologically, Dolley became, in the words of Professor Catherine Allgor, a “Republican Queen”, whose charm and charisma made her a symbol of America during the War of 1812.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

I Have a Dream: A Civil Conversation

Understanding the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution is important because it sets out the purposes or functions of government as envisioned by the framers. This lesson opens with a group activity in which students look at the words in the Preamble and translate them into everyday language. Then students take part in a civil conversation on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Through discussion of the speech, students will delve more deeply into the meaning of the Preamble.

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

Comprehensive Sex Education

This lesson discusses whether Illinois should pass a law that requires all public schools to provide comprehensive sex education in grades 6-12. In other words, should schools be required to teach students about both abstinence and contraceptives as possible prevention strategies for unintended teen pregnancy and STIs? Students will consider arguments supporting and opposing a comprehensive sex education law by deliberating the question using Structured Academic Controversy (SAC).

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Meaning of George Washington’s Birthday

Why should a nation that loves equality single out one man for special honors? In this ebook, we examine the words and deeds of the “Father of Our Country” and consider the qualities of leadership needed for the flourishing of our nation. Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion. Includes stories, speeches, and other writings by Thomas Paine, John Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Brookhiser, Allen Guelzo, and more.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Songs for Free Men and Women

How can songs—moving speech, set to rhythmic music—shape hearts and minds? What do America’s national songs mean, and what feelings does singing them inspire? “Songs for Free Men and Women” carefully examines our major national songs, both to understand their words and to discover what they contribute to making attached citizens. Includes discussion questions for the National Anthem, “God Bless America,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and more.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12