Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention (Library of Congress)
The Library of Congress Continental Congress Broadside Collection (256 titles) and the Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection (21 titles) contain 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. There are two special presentations: To Form a More Perfect Union and The Work of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. There is also a timeline and essay. See also these Library of Congress Web Guides to related primary and secondary sources:
- Declaration of Independence
- U.S. Constitution
- The Bill of Rights
- The Federalist Papers
- Transcription of the Introduction and the U.S. Constitution from the First Volume of the Annals of Congress
- Notes of the Founding Fathers Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789
NARA Exhibit Hall: The Charters of Freedom
The National Archives offers a copy of the U.S. Constitution and biographies of the document’s fifty-five framers. The article “A More Perfect Union” is an in-depth look at the Constitutional Convention and the ratification process. “Questions and Answers Pertaining to the Constitution” presents dozens of fascinating facts about the Constitution.
The Avalon Project: The American Constitution – A Documentary Record
The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy offers a varied array of primary source documents. The American Constitution – A Documentary Record offers documents on The Roots of the Constitution, Revolution and Independence, Credentials of the Members of the Federal Convention, The Constitutional Convention, and Ratification and Formation of the Government.
James Madison: Did You Know? (History Channel Video)
Internet Modern History Sourcebook
The Internet History Sourcebooks are wonderful collections of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts for educational use by Paul Halsall at Fordham University. The site and its documents are well organized and the breadth of materials is impressive. The Internet Modern History Sourcebook contains documents of special interest in the American Independence section on The Establishment of the American State, Commentators on America, Native Americans, and Slavery.
National Constitution Center: Education
The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is a non-partisan and non-profit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution and its history and contemporary relevance. Its Education section includes biographies of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and full text of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence It also offers offers lesson plans and resource guides and the opportunity to explore the Constitution through online games and interactives.
- Interactive Constitution
This section enables visitors to search the Constitution by keyword, topic, or Supreme Court case.
- Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline
This interactive timeline highlights key dates and events of the key dates and events from more than 200 years of American constitutional history.
Alexander Hamilton on the Web
On this site you will find biographies, Hamilton’s writing – including the complete Federalist Papers, images of Hamilton, reviews and excerpts from some of the recent books about Hamilton, essays on the Hamilton/Burr duel, and more.
The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden
This Smithsonian site explores the history and operation of the American presidency. The exhibit displays more than 375 images of documents, paintings, photographs, buttons, posters, paraphernalia, and objects along with short texts explaining their significance.
ConstitutionFacts.com provides the entire text of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence – and more. Of note are the insights into the men who wrote the Constitution, how it was created, and how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution in the two centuries. The interactive quizzes and games are fun. You can test your constitution IQ with an interactive quiz and see how you scored against others in your state and nationally, see which founding father you’d vote for, determine which founding father you’re like, and test your knowledge with the “Real or Fake?” interactive quiz.
This website is geared toward teaching the history of the American presidency, primarily to high school students. The Presidency in History contains detailed biographies of each of the 43 past and present Presidents and First Ladies. The site also contains biographies of Cabinet members, staff, and advisers; timelines detailing significant events during each administration; and multimedia galleries to explore. The Presidency in Action delves into the function and responsibilities of the modern presidency. Here you will find detailed descriptions of the areas of presidential responsibility, updated organization charts, staff listings, and biographies of past and present staff and advisers. Brought to you by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.
Africans in America; The Terrible Transformation, 1750-1805
Part of PBS’s African-American Journey site, here you’ll find part one of a rich collection of resources — images, documents, stories, biographies, commentaries — on the experience of slavery in America. There is also a useful teacher’s guide and activities for students. See Part 2: Revolution: 1750-1805.
Archiving Early America
A worthwhile commercial site for links to historical documents, biographies, and even on-line books on 18th century America. These archival materials are displayed in their original formats so they can be read and examined close-up and in detail. Of special interest is the Maryland Gazette containing George Washington’s Journal of his historic trip to the Ohio Valley. It is the only original copy privately held. Materials are free for personal use.
Early America’s Digital Archives
The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities has produced a searchable collection of electronic texts written in or about the Americas from 1492 to approximately 1820. The Archive also features a collection of links to early American texts on the Internet. Open to the public for research and teaching purposes.
The American Colonist’s Library
A massive collection of the historical works that contributed to the formation of American politics, culture, and ideals. Arranged in chronological sequence (500 B.C.-1800 A.D.). Go to Eighteenth Century Sources Which Profoundly Impacted American History. Very helpful collection of primary sources.
George Washington Resources
This electronic collection of papers by and for George Washington contains a staggering 17,400 letters and documents. Search keyword “Constitution” and you’ll find letters Washington wrote to James Madison about the Constitution.
Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (OIEAHC)
The College of William and Mary and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation founded the Institute of Early American History and Culture in 1943 and still jointly sponsor its work. The Institute’s full-time professional and support staff is responsible for a variety of valuable research and publication programs for scholars. Most services are fee-based but Uncommon Sense is a free online journal on early American history. Important site for serious scholars.
The Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive
Though not present at the Constitutional Convention, Jefferson followed the proceedings closely. The Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive provides more than 1,700 texts written by or to Thomas Jefferson. The site also includes a biography of Jefferson and The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, which organizes more than 9,000 quotes according to theme and other categories.
The Constitution Society
The Constitution Society is a private non-profit organization dedicated to research and public education on the principles of constitutional republican government. It publishes documentation, engages in litigation, and organizes local citizens groups to work for reform. It offers a Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics, a Constitutional Weblog, and a Constitutional Examination.
ConSource.org explores the history of the United States Constitution and its Amendments and provides an indexed online library of constitutional sources, including the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and more. Yet, much is under construction and several key sections have little information or resources.
Biographies of the Founding Fathers
Colonial Hall provides bios of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The sketches of America’s founding fathers are taken from the 1829 book, Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, by the Rev. Charles A. Goodrich.
The Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia has produced this fun and engaging site where you can enjoy a virtual tour of Philadelphia and visit Betsy Ross’ House. You can also learn why Pennsylvania is misspelled on the Liberty Bell and the story of the crack. There are several section that deal with the revolutionary war and you can learn about The President’s House in Philadelphia, Executive Mansion of the United States from 1790 to 1800 during Philadelphia’s tenure as the national capital.
Constitution Primary Set & Teacher’s Guide
This Library of Congress teaching set includes 18 primary sources accompanied by historical context, teaching suggestions, links to online resources, graphic organizer, and an analysis tool.
Teacher Lesson Plan: Created Equal?
This Library of Congress lesson focuses on a few key concepts of the Declaration of Independence, beginning with the phrase “All men are created equal.” Students gain an appreciation of Thomas Jefferson’s efforts to deal with the complex issues of equality and slavery in the Declaration of Independence. Recommended for High school students.
The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation?
This LOC lesson plan encourages students to make critical observations on the nature of the U.S. Constitution. It is presented by the Library of Congress and includes multiple online resources for students. Intended for grade 11.
Using letters from the Library of Congress collection “George Washington Papers, 1741-1799,” three units are designed to allow students to examine Washington’s leadership during pivotal events in early American history: the French and Indian War, the Federal Convention, and Washington’s presidency. A main goal is to understand both Washington’s role in early America and the reasons for his rise to prominence. Featuring pre-selected letters from LOC collections and focus questions to evaluate each document, the lesson promotes careful explication of the meaning and implications of primary sources. Designed for grades 8 to 12.
Debating the Constitution
This WGBH Teachers Domain activity for grades 5 -12 prompts students to explore how delegates to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 addressed slavery in the Constitution. This multimedia rich activity features video clips and interactive exercises.
C-Span U.S. Constitution Page
C-Span’s U.S. Constitution page provides a series of video clips related to constitutional issues. C-SPAN Teacher Fellow Joe Karb demonstrates how to access and use C-SPAN Classroom’s Constitution Clips teacher resources. Select offerings:
- Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer explains the workings of the judiciary
- Pauline Maier presents a history of the ratification process of the U.S. Constitution
- Mark Dimunation talks about The Federalist Papers
- A panel discussion about the Bill of Rights, the Constitution
- Chief Justice John Roberts discusses the role of the Constitution in American politics
Bill of Rights Institute
If you haven’t discovered the Bill of Rights Institute, this should be an early stop on your lesson planning journey. They have a curriculum book with videos that is very useful, as well as a new book of lesson plans (Media and American Democracy) and an abundance of great stuff on their website.
Which Founder Are You?
A quiz from the National Constitution Center that allows students to match their personalities against those of the founding fathers.
Students can explore the constitution by keyword, topic, or Supreme Court Case.
Bill of Rights Game
A fun way for students to test their knowledge of the Bill of Rights. They navigate through a cartoon town to discover the missing words from the Constitution.
State of the Union Bingo
A tool designed by the National Constitution Center to help students understand the President’s address to congress.
Daily news stories and headlines that have something to do with the Constitution and its impact on the latest current events.
Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
This site by the U.S. Government Printing Office teaches K-12 students how the U.S. government works. Sections are K-2 | 3-5 | 6-8 | 9-12 | Parents & Teachers. Resources for teachers include curriculum links, related web sites, and more.
Lesson Plans: Constitution
Provided by the Civic Center of Education, these lesson plans use probing questions to analyze the framing of the constitution. They offer guidelines for both teachers and students, as well as supplemental lessons regarding James Madison and George Washington. The lessons are adapted from We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution
- We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution
This high school lesson plan describes some conflicting points of view about the Constitution and calls on students to explain the positions of Franklin and Mason.
- Why Do We Need a Government?
This middle school lesson helps students understand how the Framers believed governments should be created and what they should do.
- Also view the complete list of Elementary School, Middle School, and High School lesson plans
Bill of Rights in Action
This is the online archive of Bill of Rights in Action, the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s curricular newsletter. The Constitutional Rights Foundation seeks to instill in American youth a deeper understanding of citizenship through values expressed in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and to educate them to become active and responsible participants in American society. Each edition has a lesson (reading, discussion questions, and interactive activity) on U.S. history, world history, and a current issue. Lessons are balanced to present various viewpoints. Bill of Rights in Action has been published for more than 30 years and the Constitutional Rights Foundation has archived about 10 years of the newsletter.
Teaching With Documents: Observing Constitution Day
The National Archives and Records Administration celebrates Constitution Day by offering activities, lesson plans, and related information. Included is a simulation of how members of the Constitutional Convention might have felt as they gathered in Philadelphia to write the United States Constitution. Students also analyze historic documents.
Lesson Plan – Constitutional Issues: Separation of Powers
Presented by the National Archives and Records Administration, this lesson plan examines FDR’s attempt to add a Justice to the Supreme Court.
Teaching With Documents: Observing Constitution Day
The National Archives and Records Administration celebrates the signing of the Constitution by presenting activities, lesson plans, and information.
National Endowment for the Humanities: Constitution Day
The National Endowment for the Humanities invites you to take a few moments to read the United States Constitution carefully, to engage with its history, its content, its authors’ aspirations, and its lasting legacy. NEH has assembled documents, background essays, and a bibliography to help you celebrate and deepen your understanding of the United States Constitution.
The First Amendment: What’s Fair in a Free Country
This EDSITEment lesson plan explores the difficult issues that arise related to our right to free speech.
The First Amendment: The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?
This lesson plan is designed to use EDSITEment resources to help students understand why the Founders felt a need to establish a more perfect Union.
Annenburg classroom offers educational presentations on the Constitution including How Laws are Made and Understanding the Courts. These provide lessons and related video discussions by noted academics.
- Student Voices is an Annenburg project that offers “Speak Outs” for students to join an online conversation about important constitutional questions.
- Sunnylands is another Annenburg project and offers interactive educational resources about the Constitution: The Constitutional Convention; Being John Marshall;The First Amendment; Branches of Power; Executive Command; LawCraft; Court Quest; and Jury Selection. It also features a video conversation on the Constitution with Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy.
Teaching the Constitution with the New York Times
The New York Times offers almost two-dozen lesson plans for teaching the Constitution with New York Times articles. They also provide an organizer for collecting articles, a fill-in First Amendment exercise, information on constitution related events and other resources. Here are select samples from their Lesson Plans on Constitutional Issues.
- Studying the Constitution with the Times
A New York Times infused lesson plan whereby students find articles in the news that reflect freedoms outlined in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights.
- We the People
In this New York Times lesson plan students research constitutional issues that have both historic and modern connections and write articles for a class newspaper honoring Constitution Day.
- Power to the People
In this New York Times lesson plan students explore Supreme Court cases that have challenged the First Amendment and then create communication campaigns that urge fellow protesters to a peaceful assembly.
- Free Speech in School
In this New York Times lesson plan students explore their First Amendment rights via the Supreme Court case Frederick v. Morse and create a brochure illustrating their rights.
- Preserve, Protect and Defend? Considering Violent Protests and American Values
In this New York Times lesson plan students explore if ever Americans should ever use threats and violence to promote and defend their definitions of America
- Mixed Blessings: Exploring the Separation of Church and State in Patriotic Poetry
In this New York Times lesson, students will learn about the recent federal appeals court decision finding the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. They then further investigate the notions of constitutionality and separation between church and state by researching and analyzing another patriotic American poem or song.
- The Right and the Power
In this New York Times lesson students explore how the president and Congress made decisions about the war in Iraq and write letters to their representatives expressing their opinions on the issues.
- Burning Hatred: Discussing the Constitutional Conflict Over Cross Burning
In this lesson, students examine the constitutionality of various forms of expression; they then take part in a mock trial on the issue of cross burning.
What Constitutes a State?
In this New York Times lesson students examine differences between various state constitutions in the United States and write a preamble and three articles for a constitution intended for their school or community.
On the Edge and Under the Gun
This middle school lesson will expose students to the issues of gun control, the right to bear arms, and the overwhelming seriousness of gun related violence. After exploring the complexities of this problem, students will then examine what can be done and what has been done to redress the situation using the Million Mom March as a reference point. Students will be required to synthesize web information on the topic in the form of a research paper.
CQ Press: U.S. Constitution
CQ Press in Context is a free web site for information on pivotal events shaping today’s world of politics. In honor of National Constitution Day CQ Press devoted a section of the CQ Press in Context web site to documents and analytical content related to the U.S. Constitution locatedhere . This includes a ready-to-teach, downloadable lesson plan written by CQ Press author Maryam Ahranjani and designed specially for teachers who want to take advantage of Constitution Day as a classroom learning tool. The lesson plan, titled “The First Amendment and Protection of Students’ Rights,” is designed for instruction of 9th-12th graders and focuses on the history of the Pledge of Allegiance and the ground-breaking Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, which addressed the issue of teacher and student First Amendment rights in schools. Teachers can use these tools to engage students in lively discussions of how the First Amendment relates to their own lives and their rights as students and citizens.
Constitution and the Idea of Compromise: Lesson Plan
In this PBS lesson plan, students analyze the various changes and compromises that went into the framing of the constitution. Written for high school students, the lesson plan also asks several follow-up questions at the end.
Debate on Ratification
In this activity students become a Constitutional Convention delegate and stage a debate in front of a state legislature (the class).
In this classroom activity students learn, among other things, how the “checks and balances” system functions to protect individual citizens.
Constitutional Convention Lesson Plan
Supplied by the Utah Education Network, this is a three-day lesson plan to help students understand the structure and function of the United States government established by the Constitution.
Celebrating the Constitution
This Scholastic News offering for kids provides a background article, classroom activities, a Constitution quiz, and additional resources.
U.S. Constitution Web Quest
“You are a journalist for a school newspaper. In your research you have discovered that many of your peers do not know anything about the US Constitution. Your task is to complete this WebQuest so that you may understand the US Constitution and teach your classmates about its origins, significance, and relevance to our society.”
CEC: Separation of Powers Between the Three Branches of Government
Recommended for grades 10-12, this little mini-lesson uses a class activity to teach students about checks and balances.
Interview With Signers of the Constitution
This Education World lesson plan is for grades 6-8. Students work in small groups to develop three questions that a newspaper reporter assigned to cover the signing of the Constitution might have asked each of the following signers of the Constitution: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.
What Conflicting Opinions Did the Framers Have about the Completed Constitution?
This lesson describes some conflicting points of view of leading Framers about the Constitution. Most of the delegates argued for the adoption of the Constitution, although many had reservations about all or many parts of it. The reservations of three were so serious that they refused to sign the document. The position of one of these Framers, George Mason, is explored in detail. You also will examine Benjamin Franklin’s statement in defense of the Constitution. High School level.
First Amendment Lesson Plans
Education for Freedom is offered by The Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan center dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of the values of the First Amendment. These lessons (beginning and advanced levels) address constitutional principles and contemporary issues involving the First Amendment.
Create a New Amendment
This Education World lesson plan is for grades 6-12. Students demonstrate critical and creative thinking skills in developing a new amendment.
The Constitution Tested: Nationalism and Sectionalism Practice Test
High School level quiz on Constitutional issues in American history from Prentice Hall.
The Constitution Tested: Document Based Essay Question
This Prentice Hall activity is designed to test your ability to work with historical documents and is based on the accompanying documents (1-6).
The Constitutional Society offers multiple choice questions on constitutional government, history, and law. There are some browser requirements in order to view the exams.
Is Everyone Protected By the Bill of Rights?
In this high school lesson plan, students explore whether gays should be entitled to serve in the military. To understand this issue, students take a look at the civil rights afforded to every US citizen. We explore how this applied to the civil rights movement, and whether it is also applicable to gays who want to serve in the military. All this is used to gather information for a final debate about the issue using skills and research found in the lesson.
HistoryTeacher.net: AP United States History Quizzes
A New York teacher has produced a great general site for history teachers that offers AP-level United States history quizzes on many different periods and topics.
AP United States History DBQs: 1775-1825
These student-created DBQs are part of the excellent Historyteacher.net site.