Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12

Lesson 1: James Madison: Madison Was There

A We The People Resource


The Lesson


James Madison.

James Madison.

Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.

Why is James Madison such an important figure? Why is he known as the "Father of the Constitution"? How involved was James Madison in the most important events in America from 1775 to 1817? The answers to these questions provide context for understanding the importance of James Madison's opinions on constitutional issues. They should also help students appreciate Madison's position as a president embroiled in disputes over the meaning of a document that he helped to create.

Guiding Questions

  • In what ways was Madison involved in the creation, interpretation, and application of the Constitution?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • List reasons why Madison is called the "Father of the Constitution."

Preparation Instructions

  • Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
  • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Madison Was There

Provide students with the chart "Events: 1775-1817" (Pages 1-2 of the Master PDF). Using the following biographical material about Madison on the EDSITEment resource U.S. Presidents, or another teacher-approved source, ask students, working individually or in small groups, to find connections between events in the political career of James Madison and the listed events in American history from 1775 to 1817.


Having completed the lesson, students should be able to respond effectively to the following questions:

  • What connections do students find between the historical events listed and James Madison?
  • What other events would they include on the list?
  • What state and national offices, elected or appointed, did Madison hold?
  • What role did Madison play in the creation of the Constitution?
  • What actions did Madison take to secure ratification of the Constitution?
  • In what instances was Madison involved in disputes over the interpretation of the Constitution, both in and out of office?

Ask students to write a short statement (3-4 sentences) explaining why Madison is called the "Father of the Constitution." Then have the students draft outlines (no longer than one page) that they would use to support the ideas presented in their statement. The outline should be organized around the basic ideas and should indicate the specific evidence that would support their ideas if they were writing short essays (five paragraphs, for example).

The Basics

Grade Level


Time Required

1 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Using archival documents
  • Using primary sources
  • MMS (AL)


Activity Worksheets
Student Resources