This article was updated for September 2023
On September 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the new legal foundation of our nation, the U.S. Constitution. Now a federal holiday also known as Citizenship Day, this commemoration of the world’s oldest functional constitution serves as an ideal launching point for a year of civics and U.S. history instruction.
Unlike other historical records sealed behind bulletproof museum glass, the Constitution is still very much a living document, directing and constraining government activities while protecting the rights of American citizens (and non-citizens as well, in certain cases).
These free Constitution Day lessons and activities will dramatically convey the 235-year-old document into today’s classroom while inspiring students to understand, question, and debate the most important issues of our day.
Best Free Constitution Day Lessons and Activities
CONSTITUTION DAY EVENTS AND WEBINARS
Streaming from September 13-15, 2023, these live webinars are a great way to engage kids in the living Constitution. Webinars cover various topics, from voting rights to conscription, and are identified for the intended grades.
American Bar Association Constitution Day 2023
The American Bar Association’s collection of Constitution Day events and resources include the online Law Library of Congress Constitution Day Lecture, a webinar focusing on a racial reckoning in the story of Bruce’s Beach, and articles examining the meaning of the Constitution and the Preamble. Need a lesson plan? Be sure to check out 25 Great Lesson Plans for Constitution Day.
Bill of Rights Institute: Constitution Day Live – September 17, 2023
The Bill of Rights Institute invites educators and students to celebrate Constitution Day with live streaming interactive video, pre-recorded videos, and lesson plans. Teachers can submit questions about the Constitution to be answered during the live presentation.
Live Online Learning
Engage your learners with live online constitutional lectures and conversations, virtual exhibit tours, and peer-to-peer exchanges. Introductory and advanced sessions take place Wednesdays and Fridays.
CONSTITUTION DAY CURRICULA AND PRIMARY DOCUMENTS
Bill of Rights Institute Educator Hub
Though the Bill of Rights was not included in the original Constitution, it’s perhaps the most well-known element today. Comprising the enumerated civil rights, and frequently the subject of legal dispute, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are worthy of close study and understanding. Dive into primary sources, lesson plans, and professional development courses focused on the Bill of Rights.
The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
A rich resource for teaching and learning about the Constitution, this guide from Annenberg Classroom includes lesson plans, important Supreme Court cases, games, books, handouts, videos, and much more. Looking to drill down to a specific topic? Be sure to check out Teaching the Constitution, in which you’ll find videos, handouts, and timelines covering the Magna Carta’s influence on the Constitution, separation of powers, landmark cases, and more.
Center for Civic Education Constitution Day Lesson Plans
Find a Constitution Day lesson plan for every grade from kindergarten to 12, covering key questions such as “How Should We Choose People for Positions of Authority?” and “What Is Democracy?” Games and stories help to engage learners in this most important of civics lessons.
The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation?
This fascinating, in-depth interactive Constitution lesson will bring the 200+ year-old document to life in your classroom. Students will research the issues surrounding the creation and adoption of this new form of government, then argue for or against ratifying—just as politicians of the time did. Excellent step-by-step guidelines are provided for lesson preparation, implementation and evaluation of students’ work.
iCivics Constitution Curriculum
From the champions of non-partisan civics education, this middle and high school curriculum devoted to the Constitution provides lesson plans, games, and guided primary-source inquiry. A great place to start your Constitution lesson planning.
The Constitution for Kids
It’s never too early to teach the Constitution. But teaching this complicated historical-political-social topic to youngsters may be a challenge. The Constitution for Kids rises to it, offering constitutional basics for K-3 kids. Also available for grades 4-7 and 8-12.
Constitution 101: Curriculum – High School Level
This is a 15-unit asynchronous, semester-long curriculum that provides students with a basic understanding of the Constitution’s text, history, structure, and caselaw.
National Constitution Center Educational Resources For The Classroom
A one-stop shop for Constitution-related teaching resources, the National Constitution Center’s resources include the Interactive constitution, educational videos, lesson plans, historical documents, and much more. Check out the hands-on arts and craft activities, perfect for younger learners. For advanced students, take a deep dive into the documents and arguments that influenced the Founders in “The Drafting Table.” Podcasts, Town Hall videos, and blog posts invite participants to ponder cutting-edge constitutional views and controversies.
NewseumED: Constitution 2 Classroom
This collection of professional development modules focuses on religious freedoms, especially as they relate to public schools. Free registration required.
Observing Constitution Day
From the National Archives comes this treasure trove of educator resources for observing Constitution Day (and teaching the Constitution any time of year). Activities and programs include investigating primary sources, an online or print Constitution Workshop, the Constitutional Convention, distance learning, and ebooks. Bonus for teachers: free PD.
United States Capitol Historical Society Constitution Day We the People Hub
The We the People Hub offers free access to high-quality activities, videos, interactives, and primary sources from our member organizations, including the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, the White House Historical Association, the National Archives and Records Administration, President’s Park/White House Visitor Center (National Park Service), and the George Mason Memorial (National Park Service).
CONSTITUTION DAY VIDEOS AND PODCASTS
Civic 101 Constitution Podcast
Conveniently divided into 9 clips and featuring a complete transcript, this podcast delves into the sometimes-contentious process through which our Constitution was conceived and developed. Includes a copyable Google Doc graphic organizer so students can take notes as they listen.
Constitutional Interpretation & The Supreme Court: American Government Review
One of the most forward-thinking aspects of the Constitution is its flexibility and emphasis on general principles rather than specific directives. Knowing that the future was unknowable, the framers wisely allowed room for interpretation. But this flexibility also leads to judicial and political disputes over how to interpret certain parts of the Constitution. In this engaging video, explore the difference between strict and loose constitutional interpretation.
Crash Course U.S. History: The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism
Hilarious and fast-paced, John Green’s video take on the U.S. Constitution is nonetheless chock-full of important facts and details, and would serve as a great flipped classroom assignment. Plus, kids will love watching it!
CONSTITUTION DAY GAMES AND INTERACTIVES
iCivics Constitution Games
Why not have fun while learning history? Fourteen engaging online games cover topics such as voting, the three branches of government, constitutional rights, how laws are made, and much more.
Building a Nation
it’s easy from our modern vantage point to criticize the Founders’ decisions. But to truly understand how difficult their task was, try building your own country—and writing your own constitution.
National Constitution Center Interactive Constitution
The precise wording of the Constitution matters a great deal to its interpretation. With the Interactive Constitution, students can drill down to the critical details, starting with the Preamble and continuing with each article and amendment. Each section includes commonly accepted and debatable interpretations, podcasts, and videos.
America’s Founding Documents
Read a transcript of the Constitution and its amendments, view the scanned original documents, meet the framers and scrutinize fascinating facts about the Constitution—including errors and inconsistencies. Want to be part of history? Sign your John Hancock digitally and see how it looks next to the original signatures. Use this digital signing as a springboard to a wider classroom discussion of why or why not to sign, the nature of political compromise, and contemporary issues. Fun fact: John Hancock did not sign the Constitution.