After wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War, three students – two of them siblings – were suspended by the Des Moines Independent Community School District for disrupting learning. The parents of the children sued the school for violating the children’s rights to free speech. The landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Districtdetermined it was a First Amendment violation for public schools to punish students for expressing themselves in certain circumstances. This lesson uses expert analysis, perspectives from the Tinkers, oral arguments and archival video to explore the case and the legacy of the ruling.
In March of 1965, civil rights activists and religious leaders marched from Selma to Montgomery to demand African Americans be given the right to vote. In this lesson, students will hear about the factors that contributed to the marches that occurred in Selma as well as visit key locations in the area and view archived video of the events that unfolded.
Deliberations over the role of religion in public life are as old as the United States itself – and, of course, a significant part of the causation of there being a United States at all! In numerous cases, the Supreme Court has examined the question of if and how religion can be integrated into public schools and established parameters for that inclusion. One of those landmark decisions was the 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale, involving a challenge to the daily formal recitation of the “Regents Prayer” by New York schoolchildren.
The 1st Amendment to the Constitution provides for freedoms: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. This lesson has students examine the concepts of these freedoms through a variety of perspectives and explore current examples through video-based resources. This lesson works well in classes with one-to-one devices or could be adapted to fit a flipped classroom.
This document is a choice board covering 12 different topics related to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Students are linked to a C-SPAN video and other .gov source, and then have specific activities to complete for each topic. Teachers can customize this document as needed — the current directions ask students to complete 6 topics, but that can be adjusted. This is a multi-day activity that can be done in person or via distance learning.
The Constitution grants Congress—our nation’s legislative branch—the power to make laws. The legislative branch is outlined in Article I of the Constitution. The Constitution divides Congress into two houses—the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives is composed of representatives proportionate to each state’s population. At the same time, the Senate is organized under the principle of equal state representation—with each state, regardless of its population, receiving two Senators.
In this module, students will examine primary and secondary sources to learn about the legislative branch’s structure, functions, and powers as granted by the Constitution and defined by the courts over time. Students will also explore the legislative process and the role that civil dialogue and political compromise play in crafting national laws.
When crafting the Constitution, one of the central concerns of the Founding generation was how best to control government power. With the new Constitution, the Framers looked to strike an important balance—creating a new national government that was more powerful than the one that came before it while still protecting the American people’s most cherished liberties. They settled on a national government with defined but limited powers. Instead of placing authority in the hands of a single person (like a king), a small group of people (like an aristocracy), or even the whole people (like a direct democracy), the Framers divided power in two ways. At the national level, the Framers divided power between the three branches of government—the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. This process of dividing power between different branches of government is called the separation of powers. From there, the Framers further divided power between the national government and the states under a system known as federalism. In this module, students will explore the key functions of the different parts of government and the role that the Constitution plays in controlling government power.
This comprehensive, short-form video series explains the text, history, and relevance of the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and additional amendments. The videos are assignable and end with call-to-action questions, prompting learners to further explore the topics covered in the video through a modern lens. Click on each category to see its related videos, and click on the video thumbnail to watch the full clip. You can also autoplay each category’s videos using YouTube playlists. The series was developed in partnership with the Center for Civic Education, and with the contributions of constitutional scholar Linda R. Monk, JD.
Shortly after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the Founding generation added the Bill of Rights—the Constitution’s first 10 amendments. These amendments guarantee many of our most cherished liberties, including the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to a jury trial. After the Constitutional Convention, the absence of a bill of rights emerged as a key part of the debates over ratification. Anti-Federalists — those who opposed the Constitution — pointed to the missing bill of rights as a fatal flaw in the new document. Several states ratified the Constitution with an understanding that amendments would be promptly added by the new government. This module will explore the origins of the Bill of Rights, explain its importance to the debate over the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and walk through the specific rights enshrined in each of the first 10 amendments. Learning objectives: Define the Bill of Rights and explain why the Founding generation added it to the Constitution; identify the factors influencing the Founding generation’s move to add a bill of rights to the new Constitution; describe the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights; describe the role that the battle over ratification (and the views of the Anti-Federalists) played in creating a Bill of Rights; describe how the 14th Amendment and later Supreme Court decisions transformed the Bill of Rights through the process of incorporation.
In the summer of 1787, delegates gathered for a convention in Philadelphia, with the goal of revising the Articles of Confederation—the nation’s existing governing document. However, rather than simply revising the Articles of Confederation, they wrote an entirely new framework of government: the U.S. Constitution. This new government was more powerful than the national government established by the Articles of Confederation, but the Constitution also limited the powers of this new government. In this module, you will explore the debates and compromises that occurred at the Constitutional Convention and explore the key arguments during the battle over ratification. Meet the framers of the Constitution and their influence on the new constitution. Learning objectives: Describe the main debates and compromises reached by the delegates at the Constitutional Convention and explore the key arguments advanced by the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists during the battle over ratification.