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Constitutional Theme Guides

Constitutional Theme guides are tools for educators and members of the general public interested in exploring the history of the Constitution or particular Constitutional sections, themes and topics through primary source documents.

Description Download
United States Constitution for Kids pdf
Primary Sources: Alexander Hamilton and the American Founding pdf | docx
Primary Sources: Judicial Appointments and the Constitution pdf | docx
Primary Sources: Reconstruction and the American Founding pdf | docx
Primary Sources: Slavery and the Constitution pdf | docx
War Powers Timeline pdf

Choosing to Make a Nation: Interactive Lessons on the Revolution, Constitution, and Bill of Rights

The Choosing to Make a Nation Curriculum Project developed by award-winning author Ray Raphael is a student-centered, primary source-rich approach to teaching about American history and our nation‘s founding documents. The lesson plans in this curriculum are premised on the idea that history is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. Students understand choices – they make them all the time. These lessons involve students by placing them in the shoes of historical people and asking: “What might you do in such instances?”

For these exercises to be historical (more than affirmations of individual whims), we needed to provide context: what was the issue, the problem to be solved? What were the existing realities/constraints that limited possibilities? With those in mind, what were the available options? For each option, how did people view the possibilities for a desired outcome? What were the potential dangers? When studying battles, we see how generals evaluate troop strengths, positioning, logistics, morale, and so on. In fact, all historical actors do this—not just leading political figures, but ordinary people and collective bodies. In Revolutionary times, people often made decisions in groups, both indoors (town meetings, caucuses, conventions, congresses) and “out-of-doors,” as they said at the times, informal gatherings that protested authority or enforced popular will. Individuals, forced to navigate the troubled waters of those days, also faced momentous decisions.

Our task is to introduce students to historical protagonists who confronted such choices. Points of decision create teachable moments. We help students imagine, from a distant time, the hopes of these people, but also their constraints. With these protagonists, students explore the available options. Having skin in the game, they will better understand why people acted as they did. They will think more deeply about the paths actually taken — how events ensued, the consequences of decisions, and the subsequent issues these created. By exercising individual and group decision-making skills within political contexts, they prepare for civic life.

Three units are currently available for free download below.

Other units will be published online once completed, and include: The Road to Revolution, The Revolutionary War, Articles of Confederation and State Constitutions, Ratification of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

The Declaration of Independence Unit

Description Download
All files in a single .zip zip
Below are the files contained in the .zip above
Independence in 1774? The Suffolk Resolves 1 class
Independence in 1776? 1 class
Writing the Declaration of Independence 1 class

The Constitutional Convention Unit

Description Download
All files in a single .zip zip
Below are the files contained in the .zip above
Reform or Revolution? 1 class | 2 classes
Composition of Congress 1 class | 2 classes
Creating an Executive Branch 1 class | 2 classes
Should Judges Judge Laws? 1 class
Balance of Powers 1 class | 2 classes
Slavery and the Constitution 2 classes
Amendments and Ratification 1 class | 2 classes
To Sign or Not to Sign?
Option A: The historical Constitution
Option B: Student-generated constitution

Option A
Option B

The Constitution in Action: The Early Republic Unit

Description Download
All files in a single .zip zip
Below are the files contained in the .zip above
Unit Introduction Intro
Origin of the Bill of Rights: State Amendments 1 class
Origin of the Bill of Rights: Madison's Amendments 1 class
Republic or Democracy? 1 class
Strict vs. Loose Construction 1 class | 2 classes
Who Shapes Foreign Policy? 1 or 2 classes
State Challenges to Federal Authority: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions 1 or 2 classes
Political Parties and Presidential Electors: The Election of 1800 1 or 2 classes

Lesson Plans by Grade

These lesson plans have been developed by ConSource staff members and/or teacher content partners.

Grade Description Download
3-5 The Supreme Court pdf
4 Ratification of the Constitution pdf | docx
6 Declaration of Independence pdf | docx
6-8 Article III - The Supreme Court pdf | docx
6-8 Give and Take at the Constitutional Convention pdf | docx
6-8 An Energetic Executive pdf | docx
6-8 Freedom and Equality pdf | docx
6-8 Judiciary Act of 1789 pdf | docx
8 An Anti-Federalist Perspective pdf | docx
8 The Bill of Rights and Me pdf | docx
8 Second Amendment and Primary Sources pdf | docx
9-10 Declaration of Independence pdf | docx
9-12 Civic Discourse at the Constitutional Convention pdf | docx
9-12 Civilian Led Military pdf | docx
9-12 Dynamics of War Powers pdf | docx
9-12 The Executive Branch pdf | docx
9-12 Interpreting the Constitution pdf | docx
9-12 The Judiciary Act of 1789 pdf | docx
11-12 The Bill of Rights pdf | docx
11-12 Second Amendment and Primary Sources pdf | docx