CDV, CDV, What's a CDV?

6, 7, 8

The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the Core Values of American Democracy or Core Democratic Values.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo or Three Sixty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define and give examples of Core Democratic Values.
  • identify and describe the two categories of Core Democratic Values (Fundamental Beliefs and Constitutional Principles).
  • Core Values of American Constitutional Democracy (Handout) Spanish version (Handout)
  • Descriptors (Handout) Spanish version (Handout)
  • Scoring Guide for Songs and Definitions (Handout) Spanish version (Handout)

The Center for Civic Education Web-site Civitas: A Framework for Civic Education. 


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    • Begin the lesson by playing the song "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by the Hollies or "Bridge over Troubled Waters" by Simon and Garfunkel. Another song may be substituted, but the lyrics should be about doing something for others or for the good of all. Discuss the lyrics and the meaning of common good.
  2. Introduce the term Core Democratic Values. As a class, brainstorm possible meanings of the term. Give students the following definition to use: Core democratic values are the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles of American Society which unite all Americans. Direct the students to the two categories of Core Democratic Values: fundamental beliefs and Constitutional principles as listed in Core Values of American Constitutional Democracy (handout). Discuss possible reasons for the division. Ask students if they can find a common thread between the values listed in each category.

  3. While students may learn about core democratic values in school, most often they already have a sense about these values from home values and family expectations of behavior. Ask students to identify which of these values are often stressed at home (truth, freedom of religion, patriotism, equality).

  4. With students in cooperative groups, assign two to three terms to each group and ask students to locate the definitions using a dictionary, computer, or textbook. As a teacher aid, use Descriptors (handout) for Core Democratic class discussion ideas.

  5. Have students share their information in the form of a song to be sung in class. The students will select a tune to adapt to instruct the rest of the class on the definitions they found. (Teachers: Be prepared to do a sample yourself. Your students will be more willing to do participate if they see you are willing to take risks.)

  6. At the conclusion of the songs, compile a list with the students of all the definitions. This will become the study list for a matching exercise to be administered as an assessment tool.


Students will be graded on the accuracy of the definition in their song. Scoring Guide for Songs and Definitions (Handout Three) may be used to evaluate the learning. A matching test may also be administered.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify how families contribute to the socialization of children.