How to Have a Civil Dialogue


National Constitution Center master teacher Carl Ackerman explains how the way arguments are conducted can make a big difference.

Constitutional Conversations:  How to have a Civil Dialogue

As you read, interpret, and cite the documents in the Interactive Constitution, it is important to think about how the Constitution expands or limits the power of the government. This practice is how Constitutional Scholars read, interpret, and cite the Constitution. But how can you do this? Below you will find a how to guide on how to do this and a practice learning module on how to put this practice into a dialogue in your class. Take a look and test out the practice.

Instructional Materials on this Topic

Civil Dialogue Toolkit

Use this toolkit to help facilitate civil, constructive conversations about the Constitution in the classroom 

Download Toolkit

Video Analysis: Discussions that Make a Difference

Read a video analysis lesson plan about Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's explanation of how his court decides cases.

Download Lesson Plan

Activity Sheets

Here is a tipsheet to follow to understand the six interpretations judges use to evaluate a law.

Download Activity Sheet

Justice Breyer on Listening

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at a special 2015 Constitution Day appearance talks about the basic processes used by the Court to reach decisions in the cases it hears.

The Interactive Constitution

In the Interactive Constitution, scholars from across the legal and philosophical spectrum interact with each other to explore the meaning of each provision of the Constitution.

Scholars are selected with guidance from leaders of the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society—two prominent constitutional law organizations that represent different viewpoints on the Constitution. Leaders of each organization recommend scholars to write about each provision of the Constitution. The pairs of scholars find common ground, writing a joint statement of what they agree upon about that provision’s history and meaning. Then the scholars write individual statements describing their divergent views on that part of the Constitution.

The Preamble

The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution—the document’s famous first fifty-two words— introduces everything that is to follow in the Constitution’s seven articles and twenty-seven amendments.

Read The Debate

The Articles

The original part of the Constitution was its collection of seven Articles, agreed to by the delegates in 1787 and ratified the following year. Read more, and see where debates led to changes.

Read The Debate

The Amendments

The Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments are important components to the Constitution .

Read The Debate

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