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Teacher Resources

This page contains specific resources developed for teachers using this Exploration.

Entire Unit | Test Your Knowledge | Who Were the Delegates?
Overview of the Delegates | The Delegates in Art


Focusing Event for Entire Unit:

Pose the following situation to the class:

Imagine that, on a field trip to a remote location, the students became stranded—without any adults and with little hope of being rescued in the foreseeable future.

Start with a brief, general discussion about such matters as:

  • How will you work together?
  • How will you create rules?
  • How will you deal with people who group members think are not following the rules?

Then, either brainstorming as a class or working in small groups (if desired, groups can be assigned the questions below), make lists of the things the group would have to consider in developing its own government.

Help the students by asking these guiding questions, which relate to phrases from the Preamble:

  • How will you make sure that anyone who feels unfairly treated will have a place to air complaints? (establishing justice)
  • How will you make sure that people can have peace and quiet? (ensuring domestic tranquility)
  • How will you make sure that group members will help if outsiders arrive who threaten your group?(providing for the common defense)
  • How will you make sure that the improvements you make on the island (such as shelters, fireplaces and the like) will be used fairly? (promoting the general welfare)
  • How will you make sure that group members will be free to do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else? (securing the blessing of liberty to ourselves)
  • How will you make sure that the rules and organizations you develop protect future generations? (securing the blessing of liberty to our posterity)
     
 

Preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 
     

If the students worked in groups, allow time for sharing.

Continue by reading excerpts of the Constitution

There are several versions of the Constitution for different grade levels:

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Explore the timeline of the Constitution

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The Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline is an online experience highlighting some of the key dates and events that mark more than 200 years of our constitutional history. These timeline entries, taken as a whole, tell the evolving story of the U.S. Constitution and the continuing role that it plays in our lives.
http://www.constitutioncenter.org/timeline/

More resources for teachers are available at EDSITEment:
http://edsitement.neh.gov/ConstitutionDay/constitution_index2.html#teachers

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Test Your Knowledge

The test may be used as an opening activity. The Constitution Test is available in Microsoft Word format.

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Who Were the Delegates?

Use the in-depth discussion of each of the delegates on the National Archives' page, The Signers of the Constitution:

http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/signers.html

Reading the personal correspondence of delegates may help students gain a better understanding of hopes, aspirations, and fears of members of the Federal Convention.

Suggested primary sources:

  • Of the 42 delegates who stayed to the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, 39 signed the document. One who did not sign the Constitution of the United States was Elbridge Gerry, a delegate from Massachusetts. In a letter written to the Massachusetts state legislature, Gerry describes why he did not sign the Constitution.
  • Numerous letters from Elbridge Gerry to his wife Ann are included in Supplement to Max Farrand's The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 edited by James H. Hutson (Yale University Press, 1987).
    Elbridge Gerry's letters
  • George Washington's letters
    • to Thomas Jefferson (5/30/1787)
      “The business of this convention is as yet too much in embryo to form any opinion of the conclusion. Much is expected from it by some; not much by others; and nothing by a few. That something is necessary, none will deny; for the situation of the general government, if it can be called a government, is shaken to its foundation, and liable to be overturned by every blast. In a word, it is at an end; and, unless a remedy is soon applied, anarchy and confusion will inevitably ensue.”
    • to the Marquis de Lafayette (6/6/1787)
    • to David Stuart(7/11/1787)
      “I have no wish more ardent, through the whole progress of this business, than that of knowing what kind of government is best calculated for us to live under.”
    • to Patrick Henry (9/24/1787)
      “I wish the constitution, which is offered, had been more perfect; but I sincerely believe it is best the could be obtained at this time. And, as a constitutional door is opened for amendment hereafter, the adoption of it, under the present circumstances of the Union, is in my opinion desirable. From a variety of concurring accounts it appears to me, that them political concerns of this country are in a manner suspended by a thread, and that the convention has been looked up to, by the reflecting part of the community, with a solicitude which is hardly to be conceived; and if nothing had been agreed on by that body, anarchy would have soon ensued, the seeds being deeply sown in every soil.”
    • to Col. David Humphreys (10/10/1787)
      “The Constitution that is submitted, is not free from imperfections, but there are as few radical defects in it as could well be expected, considering the heterogeneous mass of which the Convention was composed and the diversity of interests that are to be attended to. As a constitutional door is opened for future amendments and alterations, I think it would be wise in the People to accept what is offered to them…”

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Overview of the Delegates

Use the Constitution Game as a good overview of the delegate and the process

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The Delegates in Art

Student question: Only 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention are pictured in the Christy painting. Who isn't shown and why were they not included in the painting?

Teacher response: Not included are the 3 delegates who did not sign the Constitution: Edmund J. Randolph (Virginia), George Mason (Virginia), and Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts).

Also not included are the 13 delegates who left the convention: Oliver Ellsworth (Connecticut), William Houston (Georgia), William L. Pierce (Georgia), Luther Martin (Maryland), John F. Mercer (Maryland), Caleb Strong (Massachusetts), William C. Houston (New Jersey), John Lansing, Jr. (New York), Robert Yates (New York), William R. Davie (North Carolina), Alexander Martin (North Carolina), James McClurg (Virginia), and George Wythe (Virginia).

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