What does the light bulb have to do with the U.S. Constitution? Or the board game "Monopoly"? How about the letter you wrote to the President when you were in elementary school? The answer to all three questions is: Plenty! – if you know your Constitution.
Our Constitution workshop is available as an online or on-paper activity. In both versions, students will analyze primary source documents, then establish each document's constitutional relevance.
"The Constitution at Work" Online Activity
In this online activity students will analyze primary source documents that span the course of American history to determine their connection to the U.S. Constitution. Students will then make connections between the primary sources they have examined and sections of the Constitution, and determine the big idea(s) found in the Constitution exemplified by each.
This activity is available on DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. A print version is available on the website as well.
Constitution Workshop for Print
The Constitution Workshop is a two-part group activity: Part one requires students to analyze primary source documents. Part two asks them to establish each document’s constitutional relevance.
- Suitable for grades 4 through 12
- Time needed: in-class review of the Federal period, plus 1 hour for the workshop (or more, depending on documents selected and grade level)
Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, Judicial Branch, Enumeration, Subsequent, Patent, Ratify, Amendment, Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan, Bill of Rights, Balance of Powers
Prior to conducting this activity with your students, introduce them to the Constitution, and share or display the four pages of the Constitution for students to examine in advance of the workshop. Review the Federal period and the vocabulary list provided.
Divide the class into four groups (corresponding to the four pages of the Constitution), and distribute the following to each group:
- a copy of one of the four pages of the Constitution
- the corresponding transcription of their page of the Constitution
- corresponding documents (The number of documents you distribute to each group is up to you. When deciding, consider how much class time you have as well as your students’ reading abilities.)
- document analysis worksheets
Provide student groups with approximately 20 minutes to read their page of the Constitution and analyze their primary source documents (using the aid of their document analysis worksheets). Ask group members to discuss with one another how their document relates to particular article(s) and section(s) of their page of the Constitution. During this activity, circulate among your students, encouraging them to question their documents thoroughly, and provide assistance in interpreting the Constitution, where needed.
Next, invite one or two representatives from each group to describe their documents to the rest of the class, and then quote from the particular articles and sections of the Constitution that relate to the documents.
For example, group one might be given page 1 of the Constitution and a census schedule. After describing the types of information the schedule records, they should conclude that the census schedule relates to Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution because it is a method for obtaining an "actual enumeration" of the population.
Documents and Transcriptions
Article I, Sections 7-10, & Article II, Section 1:
Legislative Branch: Method of Passing Laws, Powers Granted to Congress, Powers Denied to the Federal Government, Powers Denied to the States
Executive Branch: President and Vice President, cont’d...
Article II, Sections 2-4, & Article III, Sections 1-2:
Executive Branch: Powers of the President, Duties of the President, Impeachment
Judicial Branch: The Federal Courts, Federal Court Jurisdiction, cont’d...
Article 3, Section 3, Article IV, Sections 1-4, & Articles V-VII:
Judicial Branch: Treason
The States and The Federal Government: State Records, Rights of Citizens, New States and Territories, Federal Duties to the States
Amending The Constitution
Supremacy of National Law
Ratification of The Constitution