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CONSTITUTION DAY: September 17


Lesson 3: “Mock Constitutional Convention” (Grades 3-5)

Background: With the Articles of Confederation clearly failing to properly govern the fledgling United States of America, delegates from the thirteen states convened a constitutional convention to attempt to create a more centralized government that could effectively govern its people.  This was no easy task and the arguments were heated at times, but eventually compromise prevailed.

This activity gives students the ability to take on the role of the various delegates, get to know their beliefs and backgrounds, how they felt about the many issues being debated, what arguments they formulated, and their opinion about the eventual resulting document.

Objective: At the conclusion of this activity, students will be able to identify the major players involved in drafting the Constitution, what role they played, and why they were significant.  Students will also be able to identify and explain the reasons for creating three branches with checks and balances between all of them, as well as the major powers granted to each branch within the document.

DAY ONE:

  • Assign students to represent the various delegates from the 13 states (the number of students in your class will obviously determine how many per state, but try to at least assign more to the states that actually had larger delegations there, though don’t put fewer than two students in any group).
  • Students should then research their delegates, their original roles, and positions they took during the convention, as well as conferring with their other group members to start to divide up roles for each of them to play during the mock convention.  (How much you provide in the way of resources, structure, etc. will be dependent upon the age group, but this can be tailored to just about any age group.  If you’re able to provide class time in your school library that would probably work well, as would coordinating with your library/media specialist ahead of time to already have resources pulled that students can use).  The National Archives has outstanding resources on their website, which has profiles of each of the delegates who were at the Constitutional Convention that can be printed, as well as other background info and documents that may be useful.

DAY TWO:

  • Students should work in their groups for one more day before the convention begins.  This class period should be focused on going through their research and crafting their speeches, remarks, etc.
  • Students should plan on giving opening and closing statements (they should split these up so everyone gets to speak), as well as have statements and arguments to make on the following topics:
    • The Virginia Plan
    • The New Jersey Plan
    • Hamilton’s Plan
    • The Connecticut/Great Compromise (i.e., the issue of representation)
    • Regulation of Commerce

DAY THREE:

  • • The mock convention takes place.  You should moderate and provide structure, but also allow for students to freely discuss and debate, stepping in when necessary and in order to keep things on track.
  • They should have to vote on each resolution and it will pass by a 2/3 majority
  • You should be recording the decisions of the convention as they tackle each issue and then put it all into a document for them to sign at the end, just as the actual Framers did, and then hang it in the classroom

WRAP-UP:

  • As a culminating activity, students should have to write a reflection of their experience as a delegate, being sure to address the following:
  • What they learned about their delegate’s role in the Convention
  • Did the document the class created and ratified look like our Constitution?  If not, why?  What could they not agree on or what did they want to be different?
  • What surprised them the most about this exercise and why?

DCPS Social Studies Standards covered:

  • 4.10.1, 4.10.2, 4.10.3

US History Content Standards covered:

  • Era 3, Standards 1 and 3

Virginia History and Social Studies Content Standards covered:

  • USI.1, USI.6, USI.7, CE.1, CE.2

Maryland State Social Studies Curriculum Standards covered:

  • 
Standard 1.0, Topic A, Indicator 2, Objectives b-d
  •  Standard 1.0, Topic B, Indicator 1, Objectives a

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