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
Why is the federal government organized to give and to limit power?
Articles of Confederation
Bill of Rights
consent of the governed
Federalists and Anti-Federalists
Stage Two - Assessment Evidence
Stage Three - Learning Plan