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C-SPAN in the Classroom
America Writers Video Lessons

Directions: Use the themes, questions and video clips below to teach and learn with portions of C-SPAN's American Writers program featuring Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence and James Madison and the U.S. Constitution. Link to the complete video clip list to identify clip descriptions and create your own lessons. Each theme contains questions and video clips appropriate for varying grade levels.
Lesson Credit: Curriculum Advisory Team member, Barry Davis.

Choose from three themes:
Living Documents
Level One
Watch   Clip 6
Level Two
Watch   Clip 43
Level Three
Watch   Clip 69

1. What was the drafting process for the Declaration of Independence? What changes were made before it was signed? Why?
2. What was the drafting process for the U.S. Consitution? What changes were made before it was sent to the states for ratification? Why? What changes have been made since?
3. To what degree are the documents the result of compromises? What if no changes had been allowed?
4. How are both documents interpreted differently today than they were at the founding?
5. How do these written documents both help and hinder us as we continuously interpret the meanings of their words? Consider historic examples such as the Gettysburg Address; and specific examples of modern amendments to or attempt to amend the Constitution and Supreme Court cases.

Influences on the Writing
Level One
Watch   Clips 32 & 33
Level Two
Watch   Clip 23
Level Three
Watch   Clip 16

1. What documents preceded and influenced the Declaration of Independence?
2. What documents preceded and influenced the U.S. Constitution?
3. What events and conditions led to the shape, content and timing of the documents?
4. How much was "new" in each document versus a re-shaping of previous writing or philosophy?
5. Describe the role the colonies played in setting "precedents" for both documents. How did this impact the acceptance of the federal documents?

Jefferson and Madison Compared
Level One
Watch   Clip 41
Level Two
Watch  Clip 51
Level Three
Watch  Clip 53

1. In what ways did Jefferson's personal style and beliefs impact his work? How did Madison's personal style impact his ability to lead?
2. What assets did each man bring to the table? What influences-either external or internal-hindered them from achieving even more?
3. How did the other people in their life (i.e. Dolly Madison, George Mason, Alexander Hamilton) work with them-or against them?
4. How did Jefferson and Madison influence one another?
5. Draw connections between the writer and his work. What was it about Jefferson the person that led him to draft the Declaration? What was it about Madison the person that led to his role in shaping the Constitution?


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