People's History, Founding Myths, and the American Revolution


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Choosing to Make a Nation: Interactive Lessons on the Constitution and the Founding Era

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. Students understand choices – they make them all the time. These lessons, prepared for the Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource), involve students by placing them in the shoes of historical people and asking: “What might you do in such instances?”

Points of decision create teachable moments. We help students imagine, from a distant time, the hopes of historical actors, but also the constraints that limited possibilities. Students explore the available options: How did people at the time view the chances for a desired outcome? What were the potential drawbacks or dangers? Having skin in the game, students can better understand why people acted as they did. They will think more deeply about the paths actually taken — how events ensued, the consequences of decisions, and the subsequent issues these created. By exercising individual and group decision-making skills within political contexts, they prepare for civic life.

Four units are currently available, with more to come.

Declaration of Independence

Independence in 1774? The Suffolk Resolves
Independence in 1776?
Writing the Declaration of Independence

Articles of Confederation

Franklin’s Initial Draft
Deliberations in Congress
Attempts to Amend

Constitutional Convention

Reform or Revolution?
Composition of Congress
Creating an Executive Branch
Should Judges Judge Laws?
Balance of Powers
Slavery and the Constitution
Amendments and Ratification
To Sign or Not to Sign?

Constitution in Action: Interpreting and Implementing the Constitution in the Early Republic

Origin of the Bill of Rights
Republic or Democracy?
Strict v. Loose Construction
Who Shapes Foreign Policy?
State Challenges to Federal Authority: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions
Political Parties and Presidential Electors: The Election of 1800

Teacher’s Guide to People’s History of the American Revolution. A wide variety of material that can be adapted to all grade levels or to adult study groups. (Developed by Ray Raphael)

  • The “review” questions deal with knowledge, comprehension, and application, focusing on “defining detail.” These questions can be used as a study guide.
  • The “historical reasoning and discussion” questions deal with analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. These make use of an inductive approach that encourages discovery and critical thinking.
  • Students can use the “class activities” to explore major themes through simulations and hands-on projects in group settings.
  • “Unit projects” challenge serious students of history and stimulate further inquiry.

Sample lesson plans on the role of plain farmers, common soldiers, African Americans, and Native Americans in the American Revolution. These plans can be used in conjunction with People’s History of the American Revolution or as stand-alones. They can be adapted for use in elementary school, middle school, secondary school, or college. (Developed by Ray Raphael)

Lesson plans for Founding Myths. Practicing teachers enrolled in the “Teaching American History” Master’s of Arts program at Humboldt State University have prepared and tested lesson plans for each of the thirteen chapters in Founding Myths. For each chapter, they have provided a sample lesson plan geared to the fifth, eighth, and eleventh grades, in conformity with both the California and National Standards.

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