This lesson is meant to be an introduction to primary source analysis, but is best used with students who have a basic understanding of events leading up to the signing of the final draft of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.
Have the requisite materials ready before the activity:
- Committee of Style Report in the Federal Convention, September 1787, page one, [emendations in the hand of George Washington at the Convention] (PDF, 2.43 MB) (one copy per student)
- Committee of Detail Report in the Federal Convention, August 1787, page one, [emendations in the hand of William Samuel Johnson at the Convention] (PDF, 1.56 MB) (one copy per student)
- Constitution: Making Comparisons handout (PDF, 41 KB)(one copy per student of page one; one copy per student of either the complete set or specific pages by excerpt topic)
Brief background for the lesson:
Delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia debated the Committee of Detail’s draft of the United States Constitution for a month before referring the document to the Committee of Style. Few critical alterations were made to the Committee of Style’s draft before the final draft of the Constitution was signed by the delegates on September 17, 1787. (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 background of the drafting of the United States Constitution by reviewing the following Library of Congress resources: