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Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers

Constitutional Convention Workshop Session

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Key Constructivist Methodology:

  • Simulation

Teacher: Matt Johnson

School: Benjamin Banneker Senior High School, Washington, D.C.

Grade Level: 12th Grade

Course: AP Comparative Government

Lesson Objectives:

  • to review the political and constitutional organization of five countries that were previously studied and apply what was learned to a new situation.


The Lesson
This program concentrates on Matt Johnson’s use of a simulation in which students create a constitution for the hypothetical country of Permistan. The lesson—which Mr. Johnson uses to help students review prior to taking their final exam and the AP exam—was videotaped over a three-day period near the end of the semester. Students work in cooperative learning groups to discuss and debate issues relating to the executive and legislative branches of Permistan and then come together as a whole class to participate in a constitutional convention.

Support Materials
The support materials found under Sections will lead you through the viewing of the workshop video and the related activities and discussions for “Constitutional Convention.” These materials can be used by individuals and by facilitators of workshop sessions.

The support materials identify key concepts, provide discussion ideas for each video segment, and recommend follow-up activities for after the workshop session.

Additional Materials
The following materials—Lesson Plan, Teacher Perspectives, Student Perspectives, Essential Readings and Other Lessons—provide background and context for the lesson seen in the workshop video. They also supply the tools you need to adapt this lesson and its teaching strategies for your classroom.

Lesson Plan

Information on Matt Johnson’s method of teaching the lesson on the constitutional convention, the national standards this lesson addresses, additional resources, and his teaching materials, including:


  • Constitutional Convention Rubric

Lesson Materials

  • Basic Data Sheet: Permistan
  • Executive Branch Worksheet
  • Legislative Branch Worksheet
  • Judiciary Branch Worksheet


See Lesson Plan

Teacher Perspectives

Matt Johnson’s reflections on the following topics:

  • Using simulations
  • Combining methodologies
  • Constructivism and civics
  • Creating groups
  • Guiding the process
  • Debate rules
  • Gauging success
  • Teaching challenges
  • Lessons learned
  • Advice to other teachers
  • His background


See Teacher Perspectives

Student Perspectives

Matt Johnson’s 12th-grade students’ reflections on the following topics:

  • Group work
  • The issues
  • Matt Johnson’s teaching methods
  • Constructivist learning
  • Civics education


See Student Perspectives

Essential Readings

Honoring the Learning Process
By Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Martin G. Brooks

In this chapter from In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms by Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Martin G. Brooks (Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1999), the Grennons introduce one of the most basic ideas about constructivist teaching—how children learn. Jacqueline Books is Associate Professor in the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Martin G. Brooks is Superintendent of the Valley Stream Central High School District in Valley Stream, New York.


See Essential Readings

Other Lessons

Student Exercise in Democracy
Excerpted from Constitution Translated for Kids by Cathy Travis. Dayton, Ohio: Oakwood Publishing, 2001. Pages 69-72, 75-77.

In this article, Cathy Travis, a long-term Congressional staff person for Congressman Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex.), presents a lesson on how to amend the U.S. Constitution and engages students in consideration of the pros and cons of potential new amendments. She focuses particularly on current topics and those of particular interest to students, e.g., the voting age, smoking, campaign finance. The lesson is written in a manner that can be shared directly with students.


See Other Lessons

Series Directory

Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers


Produced by State of the Art, Inc., in collaboration with the National Council for the Social Studies and the Center for Civic Education. 2003.