The United States Constitution has become the most important document ever created in American history. The delegates who met in Philadelphia in 1787 were given the arduous task of creating a government that firmly guaranteed freedom, liberty, and justice. Many of the members of the Constitutional Convention witnessed the incredibly challenging task of declaring independence from Britain, and now once again they were forced to fight to establish freedom. Compromise would become integral in the pursuit of progress in the summer of 1787. The ideals set forth by the new Constitution did not come easy, but as the newly established republic would find out, the years of compromise would lead to a much stronger and unified Union.
By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!
Although the American Revolution is remembered for the series of military battles from 1775 to 1783, the unprecedented political battles that occurred simultaneously were equally as significant. Before the surrender of Yorktown by the British, colonial delegates gathered in secret to formulate a structure for the future of American Democracy. Before many of these delegates would be enshrined as America’s “founding fathers”, they had to formulate a long-term plan for a stable and just republic. The first attempt at the creation of a new government came under the Articles of Confederation.
The government under the Articles of Confederation gave too much power to the states which resulted in a weak central government that lacked adequate executive and judicial branches. Following the American Revolution, American delegates would convene again with the fate of the new nation hanging in the balance. The weak government created under the Articles of Confederation had left these new American states in a disjointed and very vulnerable position. Delegates had to act quickly to create a new government which ensured liberty but also was strong enough to function effectively. The delegates drafted the United Stated Constitution, which outlined a three-branched government that balanced the needs and securities of the American people.
In this Constitutional Convention lesson plan, students will be be introduced to the creation and ratification of the United States Constitution. Students will discuss and research the background of the Constitution, understand the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, examine the role that compromise had in this new republic, and connect how these freedoms and liberties created still remain in society today.
Essential Questions for the Constitutional Convention
What was the purpose of the Constitutional Convention?
How did the delegates of the Constitutional Convention use compromise to resolve their differences?
Why did the Articles of Confederation need to be altered?
What were the results of the Constitutional Convention?
What were the proposed plans for representation in Congress?
Constitutional Convention Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers
The Five Ws Graphic Organizer of the Constitutional Convention
[ELA-Literacy/RH/6-8/2] Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
[ELA-Literacy/RH/6-8/7] Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
Students will create a spider map that represents the essential background information about the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Students are required to create five questions surrounding the Constitutional Convention using the 5Ws: "Who, What, When, Where, and Why". This introductory activity will allow students the opportunity to understand the fundamental reasons for the convention along with potential connections to the direction impact it has on our daily lives.
Extended Activity Students will create a T-Chart that reflects the formulation of another government in world history. Depending on the curriculum, students may compare the United States convention with another democracy. Teachers may ask students to create a T-Chart that compares the two governments or contrast the differences of both.
For this activity, students will create storyboards of the vocabulary terms for the Constitutional Convention of1787. For each term, students should include a definition of the term along with a visual representation. Teachers may refer to the fifteen vocabulary terms provided below or use specific vocabulary terms from their classroom instruction.
Extended Activity For this extended activity, students may create a secondary storyboard that represents how these terms are used in their own lives or modern society. For example, students may choose to compromise and include a visual representation of how they have made a compromise in their everyday lives.
In this activity, students will create a spider map that reflects the weaknesses of America’s first government under the Articles of Confederation. The spider map should include what the student believes are the top three flaws or weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. For each reason, students should include a title, a description, and a representation of the reason selected. This activity can be used as a supplement or even replacement for a research paper that asks students to answer a prompt related to the evaluation of the Articles of Confederation.
Extended Activity Students will have the task of defending the Articles of Confederation through a persuasive spider map. This extended activity will allow students to argue either what they believe are the strengths of the Articles of Confederation or the weaknesses of the proposed United States Constitution. Before assigning this activity, teachers may pose the question, “Why would colonists fear a powerful new government?” to the class and use the classroom discussion as a way to introduce this activity.
[ELA-Literacy/RH/9-10/3] Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Students will create a timeline that reflects the major events of the Constitutional Convention and ratification process. Students should research events that were influential in the formation of the American republic along with events that show the process of ratification. For each cell, students should include a title of the event, a representation of each event in their storyboards, and a description of the event in the space below.
[ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/9] Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington's Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech, King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"), including how they address related themes and concepts.
[ELA-Literacy/RH/9-10/2] Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
[ELA-Literacy/RH/9-10/6] Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
In this activity, students will create a three panel storyboard that reflects the two proposed plans of the Constitutional Convention along with the Great Compromise that came from the convention. The New Jersey and Virginia Plans were the conflicting proposals by delegates Paterson and Madison in the quest to establish fair representation in the United States Congress. For each plan, students should include who created the plan along with a description and visualization of the plan itself. In the final panel, students should create a description and visualization of the Great Compromise of the Constitutional Convention.
For this extended activity, students will create a persuasive advertisement that attempts to convince a colonist to choose either the New Jersey Plan or the Virginia Plan. Students are free to choose whichever type of storyboard they feel will best reflect their plan. Students who complete the extended activity can present their advertisement to the class. Students in the audience will select which plan they would choose if they were a colonist based off of the information provided to them in the student presentations.