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The U.S. Constitution

As the end result of the effort of many individuals, the Constitution represents an excellent model of cooperation, diplomacy, and compromise.

constitution signing Imagine you have graduated and are now setting up your own apartment for the first time. As part of your independence you decide to live with a few of your friends who are doing the same thing. Would you want to set up some rules for sharing living space? How would you decide which rules were fair to everyone? Would you need a leader to move things along? Would you want to limit the power the leader has?

Those are the same questions that faced the founding fathers of the United States of America after they had won their independence from England as a result of the American Revolution.

The States did have a temporary agreement in place called the Articles of Confederation, but it did not have as many details as it needed. Each state --except Rhode Island--sent representatives, called delegates, to a meeting in Philadelphia in May 1787, to discuss changes to the Articles of Confederation. Once discussion began, the group decided to start writing an entirely new document, which became the Constitution of the United States.

Three months of discussion, debate, and compromise led to a final version of the text. Some of the bigger issues discussed included how much power to allow the fundamental government, how many representatives to send to Congress from each state, and how the representatives should be elected.

The completed document had to be voted on. Nine states had to vote in favor of the Constitution for it to be accepted. The ninth state voted its approval on June 21, 1788, and the United States became governed based on the document. The Constitution begins with the Preamble (an introduction) and is divided into Articles1-7, which discuss in detail items such as the branches of power, the states, the amendment process, and the presidency. The Constitution has been amended only 27 times in more than 200 years. The initial document was a well-constructed agreement based on compromise.

Facts and Figures

  • The Constitutional Convention took place at the State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • The Constitution was drafted in fewer than 100 working days.
  • There were 55 delegates to the Convention.
  • Rhode Island did not send delegates to the Convention, so only 12 of the 13 states were represented.
  • The first state to ratify the Constitution was Delaware, and the ninth state was New Hampshire.
  • Of the 55 delegates, 24 were lawyers or had studied law.
  • The Constitution is preserved at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Learn More!
General Resources about the U.S. Constitution

 

  • A Roadmap to the U.S. Constitution
    This searchable introduction to the U.S. Constitution will tell you about the amendments to the Constitution. The site includes an annotated text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the history of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a description of landmark Supreme Court cases, and more. Also, see how the amendment process has dealt with past issues and may be used to handle current controversies. From ThinkQuest.

     

  • The U.S. Constitution: The Delegates
    Biographical information about the men who created the U.S. Constitution.

     

  • U.S. Constitution Table of Articles
    Cornell Law School provides a hyperlinked version of the Constitution, where amended sections are linked to their appropriate amendments.

     

  • Questions and Answers Pertaining to the Constitution
    Discover additional information about the Constitutional Convention and the ratification process and dozens of fascinating facts about the Constitution from the National Archives and Records Administration.

     

  • Constitution Facts
    At constitutionfacts.com you'll see the entire text of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence - and much more! You'll find interesting insights about the men who wrote the Constitution, how it was created, and how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution in the two centuries since its creation. At this site, you will also find: Famous Quotes about the Constitution

     

  • Dates to Remember


LESSON 1:
Searching for More Information

Concepts:
You will gain additional knowledge about the Constitution, and learn how to participate in a Web Quest.

Lesson:
To give learners some deeper knowledge about the Constitution and its relevance, take your students on a Web Quest! The activities on the U.S. Constitution Web Quests worksheet are designed specifically to allow students to draw information from the Web about a particular subject, from a list of Web sites and criteria.

Additional Resources:


LESSON 2:
Fun and Games with the Constitution

Concepts:
You will learn about the Constitution by playing educational games.

Lesson:
Who says learning about the U.S. Constitution has to be dull and dry? Try the quizzes, puzzles, and games on the Constitution Fun and Games worksheet all centered on the history, content, and meaning of the U.S. Constitution.

Additional Resources:

  • Cullop, Floyd G. The Constitution of the United States: An Introduction. New American Library, 1999. ISBN 0451627245.

     

  • Jordan, Terry L. The U.S. Constitution : And Fascinating Facts About It. Oak Hill Pub, 1999. ISBN 1891743007.


LESSON 3:
Shh!

Concepts:
You will learn about the making of the U.S. Constitution, and gain skills in creating book reports.

Lesson:
For younger students, read all or part of one of the books on the Book Report Worksheet aloud and initiate discussion. Have them create artwork based on the story.

For older students, have them read part or all of one of the children's books on the U.S. Constitution, on the Book Report Worksheet. Students may work together in groups to create one report or each student may write his or her own book report. Encourage students to include artwork or other illustrations.

Feel free to substitute another book of your choosing if you prefer.

Additional Resources:


LESSON 4:
"We the People…"

Concepts:
You will learn how to create a constitution-like document.

Lesson:
After learning about the Constitution and the compromises involved in its creation, challenge students to create their own Bill of Rights or Notebook of Core Democratic Values. These documents can be set up to govern the classroom, a household, or even the playground. Be sure to remind students that all parties affected by the rules either need to be involved in the creation, or be represented at the creation meetings. Choose from the three activities offered on the activities worksheet.

 

  1. The Web site of Michigan EPIC, is an educational technology project focused on the social sciences and designed to both enrich the K-12 social studies discipline and provide Michigan citizens with vast primary and secondary resources, rare and authentic material (like diaries, documents, photographs, and films), recreated historical environments, interactive and animated visuals. Here students can create a book of core democratic values.

     

  2. Use the activities from abcteach.com to have students create their own Bill of Rights. Remind the children that in order for it to go into effect, a majority must ratify the document. Stress to the students that compromise will be a key factor to having the Bill pass.

     

  3. For a more difficult challenge, have students read through this site to learn many of the freedoms and concepts that people think are in the Constitution, but are not. Invite discussion with students as to why these were not originally put into the Constitution, why they have not been added as amendments, and why they probably don't need to be.


LESSON 5:
Constitutions of the World

Concepts:
You will learn about the constitutions of three other countries.

Lesson:
How has the rest of the world set up their government? Have students visit the International Constitutional Law Web site to research the constitutional documentation of three different countries.

  • Laws from Around the World
    Cornell University provides English translations of and other textual material related to a wide range of law documents including constitutional documents. Look in the "National Law Material" sections for constitutional law documents.

Once students have gathered their information, have them write a comparison/contrast essay detailing the similarities and differences between each of the three countries' and the United States' constitutions.

You may want to vary the number of countries assigned or limit the essays to the Preamble section of the documents for younger students, or if there are time constraints. Use the attached worksheet to help students get started.

Additional Resources:

Article by Nancy Ooki, HLN Curriculum Development
Article © Homeschool Learning Network, All Rights Reserved.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 20 February 2012 19:08
 

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