Teaching the Constitution, the Fault Lines Way

In a blog post on Some Other Books About the Constitution, we described books that present the Constitution in a more traditional way than we do. As we explained there, most books, especially for young readers, proceed through the document from beginning to end, explaining its meaning. On the other hand, Fault Lines

  • focuses on how the Constitution structures our government while many books highlight rights (such as freedom of speech);
  • deals only with, well, the fault lines rather than with the entire document;
  • shows how these fault lines connect to events today;
  • compares the US Constitution to the constitutions of the fifty states and those of other countries; and
  • grades our Constitution.
Students discussing Fault Lines at the Library of Congress

As a result, teachers, librarians, and parents have the opportunity to teach the Constitution differently—and, we think, more engagingly—than in the past. In particular, young people can see how many issues that affect them today are rooted in what the framers debated and decided in 1789. Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Shout and Speak as well as other wonderful works for young readers, says that Fault Lines is “especially enlightening for those who don’t yet understand how our government is supposed to work. And Robert Cohen, who is Professor of Social Studies at New York University says it is “by far the best book I have ever encountered on the Constitution for teachers.”

Here are some of many ideas and sources for making the Constitution come to life for kids.

ConGamesPlay Games!

Use the Fault Lines Discussion Guide and other Sources of Instructional Ideas

Prepared by Ed Sullivan, the Discussion Guide includes questions,  activities, and recommendations for events. For instance,

  • To what extent do you think it was a good idea for the framers to keep their deliberations secret? What is the downside of secrecy in government?
  • Create your own country with its own constitution.
  • Find and write a blog or debate a Fault Line the co-authors missed.

School Library Journal developed terrific teaching ideas—including using “Schoolhouse Rock!”

NYU is developing a series of curriculum materials, beginning with the Electoral College.

Check Out Informative and Interactive Websites

Activities and resources are available, for instance, at

Review the Fault Lines Blog

Constitution16VotersWe have been blogging about the relationship between the Constitution and current events since June 2017. Among many other topics, we’ve written about

Listen to and Watch Interviews with the Co-authors


Above all, keep exploring, debating, and improving our Constitution

Cynthia and Sanford Levinson debating the Constitution at the Library of Congress

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