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. The education team of the National Archives and Records Administration is pleased to present, for the first time, a self-service online version of our popular U. S. Constitution Workshop! This activity is:
We hope that you and your students will enjoy this unique opportunity to learn, through analysis of primary source documents, about the content, impact, and perpetual relevance of the U. S. Constitution to the daily lives of American citizens.
- Prep time: 1 hour (making copies + in-class review of the Federal period)
- Activity time: 1 hour (or more, depending on documents selected)
The Constitution Workshop is a two-part group activity: Part one requires students to analyze primary source documents, and part two asks them to establish each document’s constitutional relevance. The success of your workshop will depend, in large part, upon your pre-activity preparation.
Prior to conducting this activity with your students, introduce them to the Constitution, and display the four facsimile pages of the Constitution in your classroom for students to examine in advance of the workshop. Review the vocabulary list that is provided.
Divide the class into 4 groups (corresponding to the four pages of the Constitution), and distribute the following to each group:
- 1 of the four facsimile pages of the U. S. Constitution
- 1 of the corresponding transcribed pages of the four pages of the Constitution
- Corresponding documents and Document Analysis Worksheets (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.)
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 their page 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.
*A Note for U. S. Constitution Videoconference Participants
This workshop is available as an hour-long videoconference conducted by a NARA Education Specialist. For details, please visit Distance Learning. Be advised that the one-hour time limit on our sessions requires you and your students to be prepared for this activity when we go live. A basic review of the principles of U. S. Government will suffice (the branches of government and their responsibilities; the system of checks and balances; the chronology of major events of the Federal period, i. e., drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the adoption of the Bill of Rights).
Please note in the instructions above that during the videoconference each group works with ONLY ONE (1) transcribed page of the U. S. Constitution and ONE (1) facsimile. We cannot debrief properly in the one hour allotted otherwise.
Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, Judicial Branch, Enumeration, Subsequent, Patent, Ratify, Amendment, Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan, Bill of Rights, Balance of Powers.
Transcriptions and Documents
Constitution of the United States (Page 1)
; Signed Copy of the Constitution of the United States; Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention; Record Group 360; National Archives.