1. Students will work in groups to research an American figure from the late 18th century: either someone involved in the writing of the Constitution or a representative of one of the groups excluded from the debate. James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Hiawatha, Benjamin Banneker, Daniel Shays, and Abigail Adams.
Students will work in groups of four or five to create a panel giving their opinions of the Constitution. Each student should be assigned a role.
Group Leader Leads the group is its research efforts. Communicates with the teacher if there are any problems. Makes sure all deadlines are met. Works with Historical Figure on the position statement and the Biographical Expert to find historical pictures and to plan an accurate costume for the Historical Figure with available resources.
Recorder Records the group’s 10 biographical facts during research. Creates a name card for the Historical Figure with a visual symbol for the Historical Figure’s beliefs. Works with the Biographical Expert to write and rehearse the Biographical Introduction for the Historical Figure.
Biographical Expert Writes a Biographical Introduction for the Historical Figure, to explain to the others at the Convention who the Figure is and why they are qualified to give their opinion on the Constitution. Rehearses the Biographical Introduction with the Recorder. Responsible for finding historical pictures and designing an accurate costume for the Historical Figure with available resources.
Historical Figure Writes a Position Statement explaining how the group thinks the Historical Figure really would have, or did responded to the Constitution. The Position Statement should have a clear opinion on the Constitution, and at least 3 supporting pieces of evidence to back up that opinion. The Historical Figure tries to convince the convention to view the Constitution the same way he/she does. Has veto power over costume ideas.
Instructions to Students
1. Research your figure, finding out 10 biographical facts about the person. The group should find facts in a mix of categories, such as: life experience, beliefs, accomplishments, connection to the Constitution.
2. Predict your figure’s opinion of the Constitution. What would he/she like about it? Dislike about it?
3. Read the quote from your figure and answer the following questions:
a) What is your figure’s opinion of the Constitution? Use an excerpt from the quote that best summarizes the figure’s opinion and explain what it means in your own words.
b) What evidence does your figure provide to support his/her
opinion? Find three pieces of evidence and list them in your own words.
4. Write a speech that your figure would deliver to the Constitutional Convention, either supporting the Constitution, or explaining a problem it has. If your figure does not like an aspect of the Constitution, ask the convention members to make a specific change. If he/she does like it, explain why a change in the Constitution would be negative.
5. Practice your speeches in preparation for the Constitutional Convention.
Students will prepare to enter a debate on whether the Constitution serves all Americans, or only propertied white men. They will participate in a panel-style debate, giving statements and taking questions from an audience of their peers. The teacher should act as facilitator, introducing the panel, it purpose, establishing a procedure for questions, and announcing the panel’s conclusion. It is a good idea to debrief afterwards with student, to discover what they learned, what they liked, and how they felt they could have improved their performance or learned more from the activity.