What are the roles of citizens in a democracy?
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First edition. July 2021.

This collection of eleven civics lessons selected from the Choices Program’s curriculum series provides teachers with stand-alone activities that have a special focus on civic education. The lessons help students explore the founding documents, important Supreme Court cases, and key congressional debates. The lessons not only help students understand the basis and functions of government, but also encourage them to consider and develop their own roles as citizen participants in the democratic process. These lessons do not have the accompanying readings contained in standard Choices curriculum units. Teachers may need to provide some basic context to students before beginning the lessons. Each lesson plan includes some suggestions about context.

The lesson collection is divided into four parts that focus on the following areas:

  1. The Founding Documents – This part includes the following lessons: 1) The Declaration of Independence, 2) Slavery and the Constitution,  3) Ideals in U.S. Founding Documents, and 4) Black National Conventions, Abolition, and the Constitution. 
  2. Congress and the Constitution – This part includes the following lessons: 1) Congress Debates the Thirteenth Amendment, and 2) The Constitution and the War on Terror.
  3. Supreme Court Cases – This part includes the following lessons: 1) Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831, 2) Separate, but Equal? Measuring Plessy v. Ferguson in Mississippi, and 3) The Insular Cases: Deciding the Constitutional Status of the Colonies.
  4. Civic Participation – This part includes the following lessons: 1) Oral Histories: Students in the Civil Rights Movement, and 2) Taking Action on Climate Change. 

Each lesson can be completed in one or more periods and includes videos that feature leading experts. You do not need to use the entire collection; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

Preview this collection. Preview includes the Table of Contents and one lesson plan.

LESSONS

The Declaration of Independence

Using primary sources from various moments in U.S. history, students examine how the principles of the Declaration of Independence have been interpreted and invoked.

Slavery and the Constitution

Students analyze historical documents from the 1787 Constitutional Convention and trace the debate that took place at the convention over the international slave trade.

Ideals in U.S. Founding Documents

Students collaborate to identify key principles in the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and U.S. Bill of Rights and consider the importance of founding documents to a nation’s history.

Black National Conventions, Abolition, and the Constitution

Students examine an address delivered at the Black National Convention held in Philadelphia in 1855 and analyze the ways its authors made arguments based on the U.S. Constitution.

Congress Debates the Thirteenth Amendment

Working collaboratively, students take on the roles of historians and analyze primary sources from two Congressional debates in 1864 about whether to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery.

The Constitution and the War on Terror

Students analyze the constitutional and legal basis for the war on terrorism and consider the roles of the public and the executive and legislative branches.

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831

After examining U.S. Supreme Court Justice Marshall's decision on the status of Indians in the United States, students analyze the government's role in determining the status of Native American groups.

Separate, but Equal? Measuring Plessy v. Ferguson in Mississippi

Students analyze historical data to compare education resources for white and black students in Mississippi.

The Insular Cases: Deciding the Constitutional Status of the Colonies

Students compare, contrast, and analyze Supreme Court majority and dissenting opinions in Downes v. Bidwell, one of the 1901 Insular Cases that decided the constitutional status of U.S. colonies. Students also assess the role racism played in an influential Supreme Court ruling still in effect today.

Oral Histories: Students in the Civil Rights Movement

In this lesson, students hear stories from former civil rights activists about what motivated them to join the movement.

Taking Action on Climate Change

Students articulate their own opinions on the international response to climate change based on personally held values, evidence, and political understanding. Students then work in groups to design an organization to address their top concerns about climate change and create a visual publicity tool for their organization.

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