Author:
ESU Coordinating Council, Nebraska OER
Subject:
History, U.S. History
Material Type:
Unit of Study
Level:
Middle School
Grade:
8
Tags:
  • Constitution
  • IDM
  • NE SS
  • Social Studies
  • US History
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Language:
    English

    Education Standards

    The Articles of Confederation and The US Constitution

    The Articles of Confederation and The US Constitution

    Overview

    This inquiry is designed to be an overview of the governments described in the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution for an 8th-grade social studies class.  Both History and Geography are part of this inquiry.  Students will examine the size and diversity of the 13 original American states.  They will review the text of both documents.  Students will evaluate the structures of government created and will prioritize those structures in relation to the historical period.

     

    Resource created by Jeff Hart, Boyd County Public Schools, as part of the Nebraska ESUCC Social Studies Special Projects 2022 - Inquiry Design Model (IDM).

    Inquiry Question

    The compelling question asks, "What type of government could best serve the large and diverse United States?"

     

    Supporting Questions

    1. How do geography and diversity impact political needs?

    2. What was the political philosophy of the Articles of Confederation?

    3. How does the US Constitution differ from the Articles of Confederation?

    Overview & Description

    Inquiry Description

    This inquiry is designed to be an overview of the governments described in the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution for an 8th-grade social studies class.  Both History and Geography are part of this inquiry.  Students will examine the size and diversity of the 13 original American states.  They will review the text of both documents.  Students will evaluate the structures of government created and will prioritize those structures in relation to the historical period.


    This inquiry unit focuses on the Nebraska Social Studies standard:

    • SS 8.4.1.b Evaluate the impact of historical events in the United States using symbols, maps, documents, and artifacts.

    Note: This inquiry unit is expected to take three to four 50 minute class periods.  The time and days needed is flexible and could expand or contract depending on how the lessons meet teacher and student needs.  Teachers may adapt this inquiry to meet their needs.  The parts of the inquiry could also be spread throughout a larger unit on the topic.

    Staging the Compelling Question

    Purpose of Government Discussion on the question, "What should a government do in support of the people it governs?"

     

    The Lesson

    • Post and propose the question: "What should a government do in support of the people it governs?"

    • Divide students into groups and have them collaborate on listing as many tasks as they can think of that a government should be responsible for doing or providing. Have them list each idea on its own sticky note. 
    • Students then are asked to sort the sticky notes according to whether the task listed should be the responsibility of the state/regional or national government.
    • Next, have students view the following video on government structures.
    • The goal is to lead to the question, "What type of government could best serve the large and diverse United States?"
    • Ask students to complete the “Before Learning” and “What do you already know about this topic?” portions of the Empowered Learner Activity (see attached resource).

    Supporting Question #1

    The first supporting question is, "How do geography and diversity impact political needs?"

     

    This question leads learners to consider a more specific subset of the larger compelling question and is designed to have students examine the locations and structures people practice in religions around the world.  Students will use the following sources to make observations, draw comparisons, and ask questions related to this supporting question.

    Students will review the following sources:

    After reviewing these two sources, students should complete the formative performance task titled, Understanding Colonial Distances (see attached document), which asks them to find distances between cities of the time.  The task will reinforce the size of the colonies relative to period travel. It will also ask them to begin to ask the question, How distance can impact government needs and structure?

    Finally, students will access Featured Source C: The Declaration of Independence (a transcription provided via archives.gov) and identify the various offenses outlined therein as being impositions made by the then King of England. The teacher will need to support learners as they interpret some of these offenses.  Choose a few offenses and discuss how distance and diversity may have played a part in this issue.  For instance the taking of prisoners for trial in far-off places or the lack of protection from natives.  The activity asks learners to explore why distance and diversity can impact what type of government was appealing to the early Americans.

    Supporting Question #2

    The second supporting question is “What was the political philosophy of the Articles of Confederation?”

     

    Students will examine Featured Source A: The Articles of Confederation 1777 (a transcription provided via archives.gov). The students will explore this source and examine its structure along with the broader philosophy it conveys.


    This performance task is a jigsaw activity where students will be divided into groups and provided the slide deck An Exploration of the Articles of Confederation (see attached document). Each group will be assigned one of the even-numbered slides and the odd-numbered slide that follows it. Each even-numbered slide captures multiple articles outlined in Featured Source A. The odd-numbered slide poses a series of questions that the group will need to answer about the specific articles their group has been assigned. Note: It will be necessary to discuss key terms and unfamiliar vocabulary prior to the start of the small group work time. The teacher may have to assist students in this process. The final step is a share out where each group will report their findings to the larger class.

    Supporting Question #3

    The third supporting question is “How did the US Constitution differ from the Articles of Confederation?”

     

     

    Students will explore the structure and philosophy of the US Constitution. They will also be tasked with comparing portions of The US Constitution to similar sections of The Articles of Confederation.

    Start with a general discussion of the preamble to The US Constitution (a transcription provided via archives.gov). Note: The first page of the Formative Task for The US Constitution (see attached document) has some guiding questions.

    Next, use the Formative Task for The US Constitution (again, see attached document) to ask students to analyze parts of the Constitution in another jigsaw-style, small group activity. With the support of that document, students will explore excerpts of the Constitution and discuss the questions provided. After collaborative work time, groups will report their findings to the class.  It will be important for the teacher to support the students as they navigate challenging vocabulary or difficult concepts.

    The follow-up formative performance task, Making Comparisons Between The Constitution and The Articles of the Confederation (see attached document), involves learners comparing and contrasting excerpts of The US Constitution (a transcription provided via archives.gov) and The Articles of Confederation 1777 (a transcription provided via archives.gov).  Students will look for similarities and differences and will also evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each document’s philosophy.


    Here's an example from from this document: The Articles note a one-house legislature. The Constitution calls for two houses. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each model? What might be deemed effective or ineffective of each model depending on the circumstances?

    The sections in this document can be assigned to individuals or groups of students depending on needs and teacher preference. 

    To support students as they make their comparisons, use the Articles and Constitution graphic organizer (see attached document) provided.

    Summative Performance Tasks

    For the summative task, students will answer, "What elements of both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution best suited a large and diverse United States?"

     

    Students will construct their argument for addressing the question by using historical documents and showing evidence in support of their specific claims. This assignment will afford students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning however they deem most effective, whether that's via a poster, an essay, a presentation, etc.
    Educators are encouraged to create their own rubric based on personal and/or district preferences.

     

    Extension

    Students may also explore the question, "How does geography and diversity impact government today?"

     

    Completing the Empowered Learner Activity

    Have students complete the After Learning, “How did you learn the best during this unit”, and “What is one thing, for next time, you would like to do more of?” portion of the Empowered Learner Activity.

     

    Taking Informed Action

    Students will create a video showing their position on the question. This video will be shared with selected students, teachers, and educational community members.