Comparing American and French Revolutionary Documents

This activity engages students in a comparison of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. Students will focus on analyzing message, purpose, and audience. Students should complete the activity with an understanding that while the ideals underlying the two documents were very similar, the purpose and audience of the two documents differed significantly.

To Sign or Not to Sign

Students will consider the arguments made by members of the Continental Congress regarding whether or not to sign the Declaration of Independence. They will also have the opportunity to analyze each section of the Declaration to understand its meaning and consider the consequences of signing the document.

Grades 6, 7, 8
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Extending Suffrage to Women

In this activity, students will analyze documents pertaining to the woman suffrage movement as it intensified following passage of the 15th Amendment that guaranteed the right to vote for African American males. Documents were chosen to call attention to the struggle’s length, the movement’s techniques, and the variety of arguments for and against giving women the vote.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Evaluating the New Departure Strategy in the Fight for Women’s Suffrage

In this activity, students will evaluate the New Departure strategy of the women’s suffrage movement – the idea that the Constitution already guaranteed the right to vote for women, they just had to test it by voting – that was championed by the National Woman Suffrage Association. Students will analyze documents from Susan B. Anthony’s arrest and trial for voting in the 1872 election. They will answer questions as they work through the documents and evaluate the claim that the Fourteenth Amendment enfranchised women.

Provide for the General Welfare – Interstate Highway and Defense Act

In the Constitution, Congress is charged with providing for the general welfare of the country’s
citizens. Historically, this has meant improving transportation, promoting agriculture
and industry, protecting health and the environment and seeking ways to solve social and
economic problems. In 1956, Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, authorizing federal funding for the extension and
construction of a robust network of interstate highways. This project was one of the largest public
works in U.S. history establishing key transportation infrastructure that impacted lives of all
Americans — changing communities, access and economic possibilities and also providing key
routes for evacuating urban centers — a critical national defense issue in the Cold War era.
Analyzing primary source material, students discuss the origins and reasons for the National
Interstate and Defense Highways Act. Then, they work with historical and contemporary maps
as they consider the impact this important congressionally funded project. While intended for 8th
grade students, the lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.

Congress Investigates – Virtual Exhibit

The power to investigate, implied by the U.S. Constitution, is one of Congress’s most important tools for developing effective public policy, conducting oversight, and informing the public. Congress has investigated issues throughout its history via formal investigations and fact-finding inquiries with wide-ranging results, often significantly affecting the history of the United States.

Grades 7-12
Legislative Branch/Congress
Primary Sources