This post comes from Anne Savage of the Library of Congress.
Looking for a Constitution Day activity – one that is ready to use, yet allows students to “go deep” in creating new understanding?
If you asked me to pick my favorite Library of Congress interactive for this time of year, it would have to be the Creating the United States Constitution interactive. It’s the ready-to-use, hands-on activity I love to tell teachers about. It’s my favorite because you can zoom in on each page and see George Washington’s handwritten changes; you can click once to get a line-by-line transcription for those unusual spellings, old-fashioned long S’s, and cross-outs made by the founding fathers; and you can closely examine several famous documents that led up to the Constitution. It makes the gray pages of the Constitution come to life for students, and encourages them to look even closer.
It’s also my favorite interactive because I’ve discovered many intriguing details about the creation of the new nation: For example, at one point the President was to be called “His Excellency.” (See the Report of the Committee of Detail, 1787; Sect. 1.)
More importantly for the classroom, this interactive highlights important themes we want our students to understand about the Constitution, and it connects those ideas with the texts that preceded it for a deeper understanding of the process of creation and of the document itself.
To get started, check out the interactive to see if you need a Silverlight plug-in on your computers. Then, consider these teaching ideas for your classroom or tech lab:
- Have pairs of students choose an idea in the interactive to explore together, and find one detail that changed across documents during the creation of the Constitution. Why is that detail important to the students or to the country?
- Have students use the Primary Source Analysis Tool from the Library of Congress while examining and zooming in on Page 3 of the draft Constitution. Use “Show Themes” to help them understand what they are reading, and “Transcribe” to assist with reading.
- After some online exploration, have students brainstorm a topic of interest. For example, students could explore why they think “His Excellency” was considered an appropriate title for the President. Why might that idea have been abandoned?
For additional resources, including ideas for younger students, see the Library’s Constitution Day Resources for Teachers.
What themes or ideas do you think your students would understand more fully after exploring the Creating the United States Constitution interactive? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.