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.
Choice Board: Our Founding Documents
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 Legislative Branch: How Congress Works – Module 7 of Constitution 101
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.
Separation of Powers and Federalism – Module 6 of Constitution 101
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.
The Constitution EXPLAINED
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.
The Bill of Rights – Module 5 of Constitution 101
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.
Constitutional Convention and Ratification – Module 4 of Constitution 101
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.
Road to the Convention – Module 3 of Constitution 101
The founders were children of the Enlightenment, a European intellectual movement beginning in the late 1600s. The ideas that fueled this period were a celebration of reason, the power through which human beings might understand the universe and improve their condition. Overall, the movement strived for knowledge, freedom, and happiness. These ideas sparked transformational changes in art, philosophy, and politics. When crafting a new constitution, the founders followed this Enlightenment model and drew lessons from history and from their own experiences. Between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, the American people were governed at the national level by the Articles of Confederation and at the state level by state constitutions. From the founders’ perspective, these frameworks of government were noble experiments, but also deeply flawed. With the U.S. Constitution, the Founding generation established a new national government designed to address the deficiencies in these forms of government—creating a new government that was strong and deliberative enough to achieve common purposes and check mob violence, but also restrained enough to protect individual liberty. Understand Shays’ Rebellion and its influence on the Founding generation.
Principles of the American Revolution – Module 2 of Constitution 101
In this module of the Constitution 101 curriculum, you will examine the form of government established by the American Revolution and the Constitution, and its key ideas—including natural rights, popular sovereignty, and the rule of law. By examining the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, you will learn how these two documents set the foundation for American democracy.
The Bill of Rights Choice Board
The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, adopted through ratification, are collectively referred to as the Bill of Rights. As the first nine outline fundamental guarantees to the citizenry and the tenth reserves some governmental powers to the state governments, the Bill of Rights establishes limitations on the scope of the federal government.