This lesson is meant to be an introduction to primary source analysis, but is best used with students who have a basic understanding of the Bill of Rights and the amendment process.
Have the requisite materials ready before the activity:
- John Beckley’s copy of the Bill of Rights, 1789 as sent to the states (PDF, 9.54 MB) (one assembled copy per student or per group)
- The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, later known as the Bill of Rights (PDF, 245 KB) (one copy per student or per group)
Brief background to the lesson:
In September 1789, under the direction of John James Beckley, clerk of the United States House of Representatives and the first Librarian of Congress, twelve possible amendments to the Constitution were sent to the states for their ratification. By December 15, 1791, ten of these amendments were ratified by ten states and have since been known as the Bill of Rights. (Note: Do not share this information with students until after lesson step 3.)
Before leading students through the exploration process, teachers should make themselves familiar with the drafting and ratification of the Bill of Rights by reading the following Library of Congress resources: