On September 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the new legal foundation of our nation, the U.S. Constitution. Now a federal holiday also known as Citizenship Day, this commemoration of the world’s oldest functional constitution serves as an ideal launching point for a year of civics and U.S. history instruction.
Unlike other historical records sealed behind bulletproof museum glass, the Constitution is still very much a living document, directing and constraining government activities while protecting the rights of American citizens (and non-citizens as well, in certain cases).
These free Constitution Day lessons and activities will dramatically convey the 234-year-old document into the 21st-century classroom while inspiring students to understand, question, and debate the most important issues of our day.
America's Founding Documents (opens in new tab)
Read a transcript of the Constitution and its amendments, view the scanned original documents, meet the framers and scrutinize fascinating facts about the Constitution—including errors and inconsistencies. Want to be part of history? Sign your John Hancock digitally and see how it looks next to the original signatures. Use this digital signing as a springboard to a wider classroom discussion of why or why not to sign, the nature of political compromise, and contemporary issues. Fun fact: John Hancock did not sign the Constitution.
Bill of Rights Institute: Constitution Day Live (opens in new tab)
The Bill of Rights Institute invites educators and students to celebrate Constitution Day with live streaming interactive video, pre-recorded videos, and lesson plans. Teachers can submit questions about the Constitution to be answered during the live presentation.
Building a Nation (opens in new tab)
It’s easy from our modern vantage point to criticize the Founders’ decisions. But to truly understand how difficult their task was, try building your own country—and writing your own constitution.
Center for Civic Education Constitution Day Lesson Plans (opens in new tab)
Find a Constitution Day lesson plan for every grade from kindergarten to 12, covering key questions such as “How Should We Choose People for Positions of Authority?” and “What Is Democracy?” Games and stories help to engage learners in this most important of civics lessons.
Constitute: The World’s Constitutions
(opens in new tab)Compare and contrast the U.S. Constitution, the world’s oldest, with the two hundred constitutions from around the world, written in the centuries since 1789. How many countries live up to the ideals espoused within their foundational document? What articles in other Constitutions should the U.S. consider adding to its own?
The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation? (opens in new tab)
This fascinating, in-depth interactive Constitution lesson will bring the 200+ year-old document to life in your classroom. Students will research the issues surrounding the creation and adoption of this new form of government, then argue for or against ratifying—just as politicians of the time did. Excellent step-by-step guidelines are provided for lesson preparation, implementation and evaluation of students’ work.
(opens in new tab)From the champions of non-partisan civics education, this middle and high school curriculum devoted to the Constitution provides lesson plans, games, and guided primary-source inquiry. A great place to start your Constitution lesson planning.
The Constitution for Kids (opens in new tab)
It’s never too early to teach the Constitution. But teaching this complicated historical-political-social topic to youngsters may be a challenge. The Constitution for Kids rises to it, offering constitutional basics for K-3 kids.
Constitution in the Classroom (opens in new tab)
Explore everything needed to teach the Constitution, from the Interactive Constitution to study plans to live online classes. Professional development webinars, workshops, and seminars allow educators to sharpen their Constitution teaching skills.
Constitutional Sources Project Lessons
(opens in new tab)Peruse dozens of standards-based Constitution-related lessons for grades 3-12, ranging from “Freedom and Equality: American Principles at Odds” to “The Bill Of Rights 2.0” to “Understanding The Second Amendment.” Search by grade and resources type.
Crash Course U.S. History: The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism (opens in new tab)
Hilarious and fast-paced, John Green’s video take on the U.S. Constitution is nonetheless chock-full of important facts and details, and would serve as a great flipped classroom assignment. Plus, kids will love watching it!
iCivics Constitution Games (opens in new tab)
Why not have fun while learning history? Fourteen engaging online games cover topics such as voting, the three branches of government, constitutional rights, how laws are made, and much more.
James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859 (opens in new tab)
What informed James Madison’s ideas about government? Long known as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison’s notoriety has only increased since the hit musical Hamilton highlighted his critical role as a Founding Father. Featured on this Library of Congress site are correspondence, notes on the Constitutional Convention debates, legal documents, and more.
Live Online Learning (opens in new tab)
Engage your learners with live online constitutional lectures and conversations, virtual exhibit tours, and peer-to-peer exchanges. Introductory and advanced sessions take place Wednesdays and Fridays. Don't miss the Constitution Day: All-Star Edition September 17th!
National Constitution Center Educational Resources For The Classroom (opens in new tab)
A one-stop shop for Constitution-related teaching resources, the National Constitution Center’s resources include the Interactive constitution, educational videos, lesson plans, historical documents, and much more. Check out the hands-on arts and craft activities, perfect for younger learners. For advanced students, take a deep dive into the documents and arguments that influenced the Founders in “The Drafting Table." Podcasts, Town Hall videos, and blog posts invite participants to ponder cutting-edge constitutional views and controversies.
National Constitution Center Interactive Constitution (opens in new tab)
The precise wording of the Constitution matters a great deal to its interpretation. With the Interactive Constitution, students can drill down to the critical details, starting with the Preamble and continuing with each article and amendment. Each section includes commonly accepted and debatable interpretations, podcasts, and videos.
NewseumED: Constitution 2 Classroom (opens in new tab)
This collection of PD modules focuses on religious freedoms, especially as it relates to public schools. Free registration required.
Observing Constitution Day (opens in new tab)
From the National Archives comes this treasure trove of educator resources for observing Constitution Day (and teaching the Constitution any time of year). Activities and programs include investigating primary sources, an online or print Constitution Workshop, the Constitutional Convention, distance learning, and ebooks. Bonus for teachers: free PD.
Online Events for Constitution Day (opens in new tab)
Commemorate this historic day by participating in online events September 17. Join government, educational and cultural leaders to discuss the state of American civics education. During Constitution All Stars, students can ask the experts their toughest Constitution Day questions and learn how the federal courts of appeals work from sitting federal judges.
Politicfact "The U.S. Constitution owes its notion of democracy to the Iroquois Tribes." (opens in new tab)A fascinating look at the case for and against the proposition that the Founders were influenced by the governing practices of the Iroquois confederacy. Students investigating this topic will learn about not only the U.S. Constitution, but also the powerful Indigenous union, comprising the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations.
School House Rock - The Constitution (opens in new tab)
While this 1975 animated singing Preamble has a catchy tune, it wraps the Constitution in a gauzy mantle of ideals that were actually unrealized by the majority of the population for more than a century after the signing. Black citizens and women in Colonial garb are shown serving as jurors and casting votes—rights that they certainly weren’t able to practice at the time. This cartoon would best be used with older students as an example of how historical truths can be incomplete or distorted due to misplaced patriotism.
TEDEd Does Your Vote Count? The Electoral College Explained (opens in new tab)
What is the Electoral College and why did the Founders create this rather cumbersome and indirect method of electing the U.S. President? This animated five-minute video explains the sometimes-confusing and always-newsworthy topic of the Electoral College.
United States Capitol Historical Society Constitution Day Resources For Educators and Students (opens in new tab)
A great resource for open-ended exploration of the Constitution. As you read the full annotated text, click on underlined phrases and a convenient tooltip displays additional relevant information. Standards-based lesson plans and a constitutional quiz are also provided.
United States Courts: Distance Learning Activites (opens in new tab)
Learn how Americans’ everyday lives are touched by the Constitution through case law and short videos. Want to go deeper? Take a look at the free distance learning modules Social Media and Cyberbullying (opens in new tab) and 16-Year-Olds and the Right to Vote (opens in new tab).
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