For Constitution Day this year, explore our Library of Congress primary source set, The Constitution, for everything you need to facilitate a meaningful classroom activity. This primary source set offers a selection of key primary sources, a Teacher’s Guide with background information and teaching suggestions, and tools to help your students closely analyze each item.
Here’s a sampling of the teaching suggestions in The Constitution Teacher’s Guide.
- Read George Washington’s diary entries. Pair these with a map of the nation from that time and check off the states as they arrive according to Washington’s entries. Discuss the definition of “quorum,” and why it was important to have a quorum present before the convention could proceed.
- Read Washington’s letter introducing the Constitution. What democratic principles (e.g., separation of powers, compromise, and government responsibilities) does he illustrate?
- Analyze the cartoon “The Looking Glass for 1787” using the primary source analysis tool and questions selected from the Teachers Guide to Analyzing Political Cartoons. What issues does the cartoon raise? How has the artist used satire?
- Ask each student to select a single amendment from the 12 proposed in the draft of the Bill of Rights, analyze it, and make a case to their classmates for its ratification. After the class debates each amendment and votes on its ratification, compare the class’s list of rights with the Bill of Rights as it was eventually passed. How would the nation be different if your class’s list of rights were in effect?
If Internet access isn’t available for your students, you can facilitate the activities by printing out the PDF of each primary source ahead of time, along with the primary source analysis tool.
Are you a Library Media Specialist? Consider printing out the primary source set to check out to teachers. Or create a Constitution Day center in your library by laying out all the items along with magnifiers, pencils, and sticky notes on which students can record their thoughts about each item.
Have access to iPads? Students can do the activities using the free eBook version of the primary source set.
You’ll find many more ideas for Constitution Day – and the rest of the year – in our previous blog posts:
- Encouraging Student Interest in the Economic Context of the Constitution with Continental Currency
- Constitution Day and Congress.gov: Exploring the Legislative Process
- The Preamble to the Constitution: Making Inferences About Intent Using Two Drafts from the Library of Congress
- Constitution Day: Celebrating the Father of the Constitution
- Constitution Day: Exploring the Creation of the Constitution Online
What are you planning to do to observe Constitution Day in your classroom or library?