Thursday, August 27, 2009

Podcast #197 - Brainstorming Ideas for Constitutional Convention Activity

Hello. We will be starting our unit on the Constitutional Convention in about two months and for the past two years I've had an idea that I think would work well with my students but I have yet to flesh it out. I would like to match each of my students with a delegate at the convention and then as we study about the issues and debates at the convention they would look at the issue through the eye of "their" delegate. Each student would become personally connected to that delegate during the unit.

Today's podcast discusses how this project might look in an 8th grade classroom, what resources could be used to build this activity, and (probably most importantly) does this activity already exist in some format?

After you listen to the podcast I'd love to hear what you think. If you any thoughts or suggestions please leave a comment on this blog post. Thanks.


  1. Anonymous7:41 AM

    Eric, here is an idea I discovered and have used with my high school students in the past that works well for researching the delegates.

  2. Eric,

    I think that instead of talking about some of the great debates in the Constitutional Convention - you ought to have the students conduct a debate.

    Perhaps you cover one or two of the debates (to give the students an idea of what the debates were like) - and then, with each student having a role, you let them debate the particular question.

    Group them as states, provide them with the background information, tell them to dress up (nice shirt and slacks or skirts & dresses) - and then you can be George Washington - and you grade them on participation (and guide the debate).

    The teacher I did my student teaching with did at least 3 or 4 debates like this during the course of the school year. One was on the revolutionary war (British vs. the Colonies), another on the Battle of New Orleans, one on the Battle of the Alamo (Texans vs. Mexicans, vs. Americans), still another on the Civil War.

    You spend the time to prep the students on the background of each of their identities, let them do some research on their own, and then let them debate.

  3. oh - I should have said a role play debate.

    So each of the students plays the role of a particular person in the debate - and then they debate how they believe the person would have.

    I was assuming that was assumed!

  4. We are actually about to start this in my 8th Grade class here in the next two weeks. The HistoyAlive!! curriculum ( has a Constitutional Convention Role Play Activity, where we divide students into the delegates. I hate to promote a specific textbook company (specially if I don't get paid for it), but this activity has been one of many from this resource that I have found to be effective with students.

    Each student gets a card that has a short 'bio" of the Delegate that also includes their stance on three main issues (A. Representation, B. Slavery, C. Electing a President) We spend a day or two on each issue (and each student also has a popsicle stick face of their delegate which makes the debates fun).

    We start the class learning about each issue. The students discuss by state delegations on their delegates position. We have a mock debate and vote as a class. With most of these issues, we end up having to compromise (which mirrors what the delegates had to do) and at the end of class we talk about what the delegates decided and how they settled this issue.

    The HistoryAlive!!! lesson plan is pretty well laid out. On the final day of the convention, the delegates that signed the Constitution come up and sign in a big ceremony, and the delegates who didn't sign sulk at the back of the room. This than launches us into our discussion on the Federalist and ant-Federalists and the Bill of Rights.

    I have done this activity the past couple of years and students typically have a lot of fun.

    I have also used these websites to also help students learn more about each of the delegates: (

    I also have shown in class selected clips from a DVD series titled "A More Perfect Union" ( to show students some of the basics of the debates at the convention.

    After some lengthy lectures during the American Revolution, this activity is a nice break for students to actively participate in creating the Constitution.

  5. Another website to get students starting to think about the Delegates is

    Might be fun for students to take the quiz to find out which delegate they would be, and than they could research their founder before the Mock Role Play.

  6. Eric (and all) - I have been using a historical facebook format for the Constitutional Convention over the past three years with great success and engagement Students rate it very highly - and it's a lot of work for them. Now that ning has gone to a pay for play model, I am experimenting with this year. We'll see how it goes. I will be presenting it at NCSS in Denver, and you are more than welcome to have anything and anyting I have.

    Chuck Taft from Milwaukee