University of Wisconsin–Madison

Pedagogical Suggestions Using the Evolution of the Federal Pillars Page

Click here to visit the Evolution of the Federal Pillars


Looking for Opinions

  • Divide the class into working groups of 3-5 students.
  • Have students take a sheet of paper and number it 1-10. There are ten illustrations that are on the Pillars Page. Students will be looking at all ten illustrations.
  • Have the students look at each of the pillar illustrations and look for expressions of opinion that the illustrator worked into the illustration. The National Archives has a generic worksheet that can be used by students as the look at each of the illustrations. You may want to modify it somewhat for this particular activity.
  • Each group should discuss and note each of the illustrations and the opinions that they might see in them. Some illustrations will have more overt opinion in them than others. Some may have no opinion in them.
  • After going through all of the illustrations, the groups should report their finding to the entire class.
  • Conclude with a discussion possibly centered round the following questions:
  • Is it important to have opinion in these types of illustrations? Why or Why not?
  • If you were to insert your opinion into these illustrations, how would you do that?
  • Why might you think the illustrator utilized the pillar as the symbol for states in these illustrations?
  • Do you think it is the best choice to use the pillar? Why or Why not?
  • Are there any other symbols that could be used in the process of ratifying the Constitution?

Comparing Early National Symbols

  • Begin by having student consider the ways in which symbols are used to represent various nations. Among the examples you might want to have students consider could be the following:
  • France- The Rooster
  • England- The Lion
  • Wales- The Dragon
  • Canada- The Maple Leaf
  • Thailand- The Elephant
  • Divide the class in working groups of 3-5 students.
  • Have groups look at some of the original symbols that were used in our nation’s early history. The Library of Congress has an excellent site that explores the many symbols used in this time period. Have students draw a spectrum line across a piece of paper. It should look something like:

Very Effective_____________Somewhat Effective_____________Not Effective

  • As groups go through the list of illustrations at the Library of Congress site, they should place each symbol along the spectrum. If they think an illustration is an effective portrayal of The United States, they would place it on the left hand side of their spectrum. Illustrations that they think are ineffective portrayals would be on the right side of their spectrum. Note: They should eventually be able to explain their reasons for their choices. This could be at a later point in this lesson if the teacher thought it would be warranted.
  • Groups should now to look through The Evolution of the Federal Pillars on our website. Even though the ten illustrations on our website are in a sense telling a process (the ratification story), have the students think of the illustrations as a one single symbol. After looking at all of the illustrations, have students place the “pillars” on the spectrum.
  • Conclude by having each group sharing their spectrums and explaining their findings with the entire class.

Seating the Banquet Tables – This activity uses the New York Daily Advertiser, 2 August 1788, Description of the New York City Federal Procession illustration (pdf).

  • The class is divided up into working groups of 3-5 students.
  • Show the tables and seating pattern from the illustration highlighted above.
  • Tell them that they must seat guests at the banquet tables for the celebration. They should have photocopies or mockups of the illustration to mark up as they consider their options.
  • One option for a guest list could be the individuals that marched in the New York City Parade that celebrated the ratification of the Constitution. A listing of those groups of individuals can be accessed here. Order of Parade procession. This list has the groups in the actual parade in New York City and the sequence of their appearance.
  • As students consider their seating assignments, they should bear in mind factors such as:
  • Protocols and rank
  • Important officials
  • Ease and logistics – This might be important if you were to want the 10th division seated in the front and they are at the end of the parade.

*An alternative approach to this activity might be having the students invent their own guest lists and seating them accordingly. Listed below are some of types of individuals that students might consider.

  • Local politicians
  • State politicians
  • National Politicians
  • Foreign diplomats
  • Businessmen
  • Tradesmen
  • Military personnel
  • Native Americans
  • Bankers
  • Lawyers
  • Farmers