Teaching With Documents:
U.S. Constitution Workshop
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:
- Suitable for grades 4 through 12
- Fully self-contained, requiring little advance prep time
- Correlated to the National History Standards and the National Standards for Civics and Government.
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.
- Instructions for conducting the workshop
- Suggested Vocabulary List
- Transcriptions and Select Documents
- Document Analysis Worksheets
- Standards Correlations
- 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 Videoconferences. 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 Page 1
Article I, Sections 1-6::
Legislative Branch: Congress, the House of Representatives, The Senate, Congressional Elections and Meetings, Organization and Rules, Privileges and Restrictions
- Credentials of Hiram Revels, 1869 [Article I, Section 3]
- Population Schedule for the 1930 census [Article I, Section 2]
- John F. Kennedy’s... election to Congress, 1946 [Article I, Section 2]
Constitution Page 2
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…
- Patent Drawing: Game Board, 1904 [Article I, Section 8]
- Albert Einstein’s naturalization application, 1940 [Article I, Section 8]
Constitution Page 3
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…
- John Marshall’s Supreme Court nomination, 1801 [Article II, Section 2]
- Electoral College tally sheet, 1824 [Article II, Section 1]
- Telegram from Lincoln to Grant, 1864 [Article II, Section 2]
- Johnson Oath Photo, 1963 [Article II, Section 1 (2 places)]
- Child’s Letter on Nixon Pardon, 1974 [Article II, Section 2]
- Photograph of Supreme Court Building [Article III, Section 1]
Constitution Page 4
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
- Proclamation to New Orleans, 1803 [Article IV, Section 3]
- Map of the Louisiana Purchase Territory, 1803 [Article IV, Sections 3 & 4]
- 19th Amendment to the Constitution, 1919 [Article V]
- Child’s letter on New Flag, 1958 [Article IV, Section 3]
National Standards for U. S. History
Era 3: Revolution and the New Nation (1754 – 1820s)
Standard 3: The institutions and practices of government created during the revolution and how they were revised between 1787 and 1815 to create the foundation of the American political system based on the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Standards 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D.
Note: Other National Standards for U. S. History, as they apply, based on documents selected.
National Standards for Civics and Government
I. c. What are the nature and purposes of Constitutions?
II. a. What is the American idea of constitutional government?