Let’s Keep It A Secret: The Story Of The Writing Of Our Constitution Study Guide

PDF pageEmail pagePrint page

LET’S KEEP IT A SECRET: THE STORY OF THE WRITING OF OUR CONSTITUTION STUDY GUIDE
By Cathy Kaemmerlen

Program Description

Through the eyes of Mary House, great niece of the owner of the Indian Queen Tavern, where many of the delegates stayed, young audiences will hear about the intrigue, the political maneuverings, the personalities, the conflicts, and the behind the scenes gossip from May to September, 1787 in Philadelphia at the State House/Independence Hall.  Mary, helping out her great aunt during this busy and important time, cleans James “Jemmy” Madison’s room and is privy to his diary and to the “gossip” of the delegates in the parlor and dining rooms of the inn/tavern.  Although the Convention was in secret and decisions were made behind closed and sealed doors, audience members will be sworn to secrecy as Mary tells them what she alone knows through her spying and eavesdropping.  Audience members will play the parts of 25 of the delegates, helping make the Convention come to life.

Artist Bio

Cathy Kaemmerlen, professional actress, dancer, and storyteller, is known for her variety of characters, one-woman shows, and for her rapport with audiences.  A performer and “creator of shows” since she can remember, she has toured in schools coast to coast, since receiving a BA in English/elementary education from UNC-Charlotte, and a MFA in dance performance/choreography/theatre at the University of Wisconsin.  She tours through Tattlingtales Productions, the Georgia and South Carolina Touring Arts Rosters, Fulton County Teaching Museums, and has received numerous grants and honors, including Outstanding New Interpreter for her region with the National Association of Interpreters. She is the author of four non-fiction books.

Background on Art Form

Telling stories is an oral tradition, dating back to when mankind first developed a language or form of communication.  Storytelling is a universal way of passing down information to be saved and remembered for generations to come.  It is an interactive art form in which the storytellers’ passion for the story, material, and information, is passed on to the audience, who sorts through, interprets, stores, and synthesizes what is heard.

Prepare:

Teachers, please read this to your students.

Today we are going to have a program by actress storyteller Cathy Kaemmerlen in which she portrays Mary House, who helped her great aunt, who owned the Indian Queen Tavern in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 when delegates to the Second Constitutional Convention were writing the Constitution and staying at their inn.  Mary House spied on the activities as she read James Madison’s notes, found in his room while she was cleaning.  All the delegates were sworn to secrecy that summer, so that no one on the outside knew what they were doing.  But we will find out because Mary House spied on Jemmy Madison and is going to spill the beans to us.  Some of you will be playing parts of the delegates to the Convention, and the rest of you will play other parts to help make the summer of 1787 come to life as we write our young nation’s set of superlaws.

Warm Up Questions to set the stage for engaging students:

–What were some of the  historic events that led up to the Constitutional Convention?
–What were the previous attempts at formulating a Constitution?
–Why do you think it was so important for us to have a Constitution?
–What are  the elements that might make up a good basis for a government?
–What are compromises and why do you think they might be so important at the Constitutional Convention?
–Why do you think it was so important to have the convention behind closed doors and for the delegates to take the oath of secrecy?
–Why was debate so important to our Constitutional Convention?

Vocabulary to look at before and after:

Federation:  a sovereign state formed by a federal union
Confederation: a body of independent states united for joint action
Sovereignty: supreme political power or authority
Constitution: the fundamental, organic law an or principles of government of a people
Compromise: a settlement by arbitration or mutual agreement
Ordinance:  an authoritative decree
Democracy:  government by the people
Republic:  a state in which the sovereign power resides in a body of the people, elected by and responsible to the people
Delegate:  a representative sent to act for others
Executive:  the person or persons charged with the administrative work:  the execution of the laws and the conduct of affairs
Legislative:  the body or branch that makes the laws
Judicial:  the body or branch to the interpretation of laws and the administration of the courts of law
Abolitionist:  one who believes in the destruction or abolition of slavery
Economy: the management of the affairs, production, finances of a system
Venerable:  wise, usually elderly applications
Amendment:  an alteration proposed to make changes to an already establishing constitution
Tranquility:  peace and harmony
Posterity:  for future times and generations

Warm Up Questions for meeting the Georgia Performance Standards for “Listening/Speaking/Viewing”:

–Describe the perfect audience.
–What are some of our class rules for being good listeners?
–How do we show someone we appreciate their visit to our school or classroom?
–How does being part of an audience help make you a good citizen?
–What are some examples of bad audience behavior or attitudes?
–How does a negative audience member effect your enjoyment of a show or performance?
–How would this make the performer feel?
–How do we want the performer to feel when they leave our school or classroom?

Reflect:

–Role play, being colonists from different states discussing what would make for a good government
–Discuss the difference between the less populous states and the more
–Look over some of the key players in the Constitutional Convention. Do some mini biographies. Those in the show include: James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, Luther Martin, William Paterson, Pierce Butler, John Dickinson, Edmund Randolph, Robert Morris, Gouveneur Morris, George Mason, George Washington, Gunning Bedford, Johnathan Dayton, Abraham Baldwin, Roger Sherman, Elbridge Gerry, Rufus King, Oliver Ellsworth, Samuel Hopkins, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Rutledge, Jared Ingersoll.
–Discuss why you as a delegate or a colonist might not want to sign the Constitution
–Discuss why you as a delegate or a colonist would want to sign the Constitution
–Do you think the 3/5 rule was a good compromise? (not always included in the condensed version of the show)
–Do you think our delegates should have included a Bill of Rights in the initial constitution?
–Do you think our delegates should have tackled the issue of slavery more aggressively?
–Keep a journal at a class meeting and discuss the value of someone keeping the notes or minutes
–Why do you think our Constitution is still going strong and is the longest lasting constitution?
–Do you think the Convention should have been held in secret?

Citizenship Test Questions

1.  What are the colors of our flag?
2.  How many stars are there in our flag?
3.  What color are the stars on our flag?
4.  What do the stars on the flag mean?
5.  How many stripes are there in the flag?
6.  What color are the stripes?
7.  What do the stripes on the flag mean?
8. How many states are there in the Union?
9.  What is the 4th of July?
10. What is the date of Independence Day?
11. Independence from whom?
12. What country did we fight during the Revolutionary War?
13. Who was the first President of the United States?
14. Who is the President of the United States today?
15. Who is the vice-president of the United States today?
16. Who elects the President of the United States?
17. Who becomes President of the United States if the President should die?
18. For how long do we elect the President?
19. What is the Constitution?
20. Can the Constitution be changed?
21. What do we call a change to the Constitutions?
22. How many changes or amendments are there to the Constitution?
23. How many branches are there in our government?
24. What are the three branches of our government?
25. What is the legislative branch of our government?
26. Who makes the laws in the United States?
27. What is the Congress?
28. What are the duties of Congress?
29. Who elects the Congress?
30. How many senators are there in Congress?
31. Can you name the two senators from your state?
32. For how long do we elect each senator?
33. How many representatives are there in Congress?
34. For how long do we elect the representatives?
35. What is the executive branch of our government?
36. What is the judiciary branch of our government?
37. What are the duties of the Supreme Court?
38. What is the supreme court law of the United Sates?
39. What is the Bill of Rights?
40. What is the capital of your state?
41. Who is the current governor of your state?
42. Who becomes President of the United States if the President and the vice-president should die?
43. Who is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

Resources:

MIRACLE AT PHILADELPHIA by Catherine Drinker Bowen
A HISTORY OF US:  FROM COLONIES TO COUNTRY, BOOK 3, 1710-1791 by Joy Hakim
A BRILLIANT SOLUTION:  INVENTING THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION by Carol Berkin
SHH!  WE’RE WRITING THE CONSTITTUTION by Jean Fritz
IF YOU WERE THERE WHEN THEY SIGNED THE CONSTITUTION:  by Elizabeth Levy
A MORE PERFECT UNION:  THE CREATION OF THE US CONSTITUTION:http://wae.com/freedom/conhist.html
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OVERVIEW:  http://www.jmu.edu/madison
A WOMAN’SLIFE IN COLONIAL DAYS:  by Carl Holliday
THE AMERICANS:  THE COLONIAL EXPERIENCE by Daniel J. Boorstein
A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by Ray Raphael
FOUNDING FATHER:  Rediscovering George Washington by Richard Brookhiser
www.constitutioncenter.org/foundingfathers

Character development traits exemplified by our forefathers in writing our Constitution are: will power, loyalty, honor, dependability, fairness, determination, perseverance, dedication, courage, initiative, patience, accomplishment, self control, respect, authority, democracy, motivation, accountability, cooperation, justice, acceptance, allegiance, creativity, patriotism, service.

QCC’s:  Grade 4 Social Studies:  1, 2, 24; Language Arts:  2; Character Education:  Citizenship:  1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10: Respect for others:  11, 12; Respect for Self:  13

Grade 5 Social Studies:  1; Language Arts:  2; Character Education:  same as for grade 4