Students should be instructed to get into pairs. Once done, one student in each pair needs to play the part of Patrick Henry and the other James Madison. Choose the roles in a manner appropriate for your classroom, and consider how to make the selection exciting. You can have students flip a coin (perhaps a James Madison presidential dollar?), have one student from each group raise his/her hand and have them play the role of the Federalist as they were advocating the plan of government, or even have them compare heights with the shorter playing the role of James Madison (he was around 5’4 and our shortest American president).
Then, provide the Silent Debate Prep to the students and have them research their role. After research is complete (homework or in class lab assignment), have them push their desks facing each other. Inform them they are about to debate the Constitution as Patrick Henry and James Madison in Silent Debate style, which involves absolutely NO talking. From the moment they are told to start, they are to be silent, sharing a piece of paper between each other. Explain they are to write a response, then pass the paper to their partner, who will in turn write their response and return the paper. Instruct them they are to continue until time is called, trying to convince the other person and defend or attack the new plan of government. Provide them with an opening question, “Is the Constitution an effective plan of government?” then tell the Federalist to begin. Give students around ten minutes, tapering off the activity once the exchanges begin to show down as they exhaust their arguments. Have students (all or a few) report out their results, then take a vote on the class’ stance on ratification.