Constitutional Convention Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

With this lesson plan and a video lesson from, you'll have all that you need to thoroughly teach the Constitutional Convention. Engage students with an in-class activity, then further learning with extensions and related lessons.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson students will be able to do the following:

  • identify the problems that came with establishing the U.S. Constitution
  • analyze the positions held by various states
  • follow the evolution to the document that was finally approved


45 minutes, plus additional time for extensions

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).


Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

Key Vocabulary

  • Constitutional Convention
  • New Jersey Plan
  • Virginia Plan
  • Three-fifths compromise
  • Great Compromise


  • Ease students into the Constitutional Convention lesson by reviewing some basic concepts: the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation. Discuss the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and why a new document was needed.
  • Show the video The Constitutional Convention: The Great Compromise, and instruct students to take notes on the key vocabulary during the lesson:
  • Pause the video at the following points for discussion:
    • 2:22--Why do you think the states were so hesitant to rewrite the agreement that held them together? Do you think the selection of George Washington as a presiding officer helped calm those fears?
    • 4:27--Who benefited from the New Jersey Plan? What about the Virginia Plan? How do we see this in our legislature today? What about the three-fifths compromise--does this seem to be a good idea or just a way to prevent an argument until a later time?


  • Break your class into groups and have each group write a new Constitution. Tell students that the groups must have the consent of all present, just like the Constitution ultimately had to be approved by every state.
  • Afterward, have students present their new Constitutions and discuss the difficulties faced in writing a new Constitution.


  • Encourage students to research the way that we view the Constitution today. Is it too weak or too controlling? What changes would help improve it?
  • Some countries have formal constitutions, while others (like the United Kingdom) don't have written constitutions. Ask students to look at how government forms in a country other than the United States.

Related Lessons

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