Wayne RESA
Unit Abstract

In this unit students explore the historical circumstances leading to the adoption of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Beginning with a review of the colonists’ ideas about government and their experiences with Great Britain, students hypothesize about what kind of government the colonists would create. In doing so, they consider natural rights philosophy, state power, and regional differences. Students then learn about the Articles of Confederation with a focus on the distribution of power between national and state governments. After exploring the passage of the Northwest Ordinance, students examine some of the problems the country faced under the Articles, including Shays’ Rebellion. In considering possible changes to the Articles, students explore the Constitutional Convention and the Framers’ decision to construct a new constitution. Using primary and secondary sources, students examine how the Framers sought to resolve differences among the states through a series of compromises. As students examine the Constitution, they are introduced to the concept of federalism and analyze how it limits the power of government. They review the reasons why the Framers wanted to build a strong national government, yet limit the power of that government and compare the positions of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the debates over ratification. Students describe the concern that some people had about individual rights and why the inclusion of a Bill of Rights was necessary. Particular attention is paid to the rights found in the first four amendments as they have their roots in the revolutionary experience. The unit concludes with students composing a persuasive essay on a public issue related to the Constitution.


Stage One - Desired Results

Compelling Question

Why is the federal government organized to give and to limit power?

Supporting Questions
  1. How effectively did the Framers of the Constitution resolve the problems the nation encountered under the Articles of Confederation?
  2. What role did compromise play in constructing the Constitution?
  3. How did the Framers address the issues of governmental power and individual rights?
Content (Key Concepts)


Articles of Confederation

Bill of Rights


consent of the governed

Constitutional Convention


Federalists and Anti-Federalists


limited government

public issue

U.S. Constitution


Skills (Intellectual Processes)

Stage Two - Assessment Evidence

Unit Assessment Tasks

Stage Three - Learning Plan

Lesson Plan Sequence
MI: Social Studies (2007)
5th Grade
Discourse, Decisions, Ctzn Inv
P3.1 Identifying and Analyzing Public Issues
Clearly state a problem as a public policy issue, analyze various perspectives, and generate and evaluate possible alternative resolutions.
5 – P3.1.1 Identify contemporary public issues related to the United States Constitution and their related factual, definitional, and ethical questions.
5 – P3.1.2 Use graphic data and other sources to analyze information about a contemporary public issue related to the United States Constitution and evaluate alternative resolutions.
5 – P3.1.3 Give examples of how conflicts over core democratic values lead people to differ on contemporary constitutional issues in the United States.
P3.3 Persuasive Communication About a Public Issue
Communicate a reasoned position on a public issue.
5 – P3.3.1 Compose a short essay expressing a position on a contemporary public policy issue related to the Constitution and justify the position with a reasoned argument.
US History & Geography
U3.3 Creating New Government(s) and a New Constitution
Explain some of the challenges faced by the new nation under the Articles of Confederation, and analyze the development of the Constitution as a new plan for governing.
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Grades 5 & 8
5 – U3.3.1 Describe the powers of the national government and state governments under the Articles of Confederation.
5 – U3.3.2 Give examples of problems the country faced under the Articles of Confederation (e.g., lack of national army, competing currencies, reliance on state governments for money). (National Geography Standard 13, p. 169, C)
5 – U3.3.3 Explain why the Constitutional Convention was convened and why the Constitution was written.
5 – U3.3.4 Describe the issues over representation and slavery the Framers faced at the Constitutional Convention and how they were addressed in the Constitution (Great Compromise, Three- Fifths Compromise). (National Geography Standard 9, p. 160, C)
5 – U3.3.5 Give reasons why the Framers wanted to limit the power of government (e.g., fear of a strong executive, representative government, importance of individual rights).
5 – U3.3.6 Describe the principle of federalism and how it is expressed through the sharing and distribution of power as stated in the Constitution (e.g., enumerated and reserved powers).
5 – U3.3.7 Describe the concern that some people had about individual rights and why the inclusion of a Bill of Rights was needed for ratification.
5 – U3.3.8 Describe the rights found in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
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Wayne RESA