During this unit students

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This unit bundles student expectations that address the Articles of Confederation, the need for a new constitution, the Constitutional Convention (issues and compromises that evolved), the debate over ratification and the creation of the Bill of Rights.
Prior to this unit, students learned about the colonists’ resistance against the tyranny of King George III and their declaring independence.
During this unit students:

  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and understand the need for a new government

  • learn about the issues and compromises that were addressed at the Constitutional Convention

  • The establishment of the U. S. Constitution is examined through the compromises and influences from past documents (Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, English Bill of Rights)

  • after learning about the convention, students utilize their critical thinking skills to evaluate Federalist and Anti-Federalist writings to summarize the debates surrounding the ratification of the Constitution

  • lastly, students learn about the individual rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and how these amendments appeased the Anti-Federalists.


  • Many students have the misconception that the Bill of Rights was part of the original writing of the Constitution, as opposed to being the first amendments to the document.

  • Students often believe that all Americans agreed and wanted the new Constitution.

Performance Indicators


Key Understandings For Learners

Grade 08 Social Studies Unit 04 PI 01

Write a letter to the delegates meeting to discuss changing the Articles of Confederation. In the letter, summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and explain the issues that are evidence of the weak confederation.

Standard(s): 8.15B , 8.29B





Conflict often influences the development of and changes in government.

Grade 08 Social Studies Unit 04 PI 02

Develop an annotated timeline that includes the following historical documents and events (Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights, Mayflower Compact, Great Compromise and Three-Fifths Compromise). For each document, include a text-box that provides at least one way the document influenced the U.S. Constitution.

Standard(s): 8.4D , 8.15A , 8.29C



Significant historical events and philosophies contribute to the origins and foundations of government.

Grade 08 Social Studies Unit 04 PI 03

From the perspective of a federalist or anti-federalist, develop a brochure that analyzes at least 3 arguments for or against ratification of the Constitution. In the brochure, include information from the federalist or anti-federalist papers. Cite the sources used in the brochure.

Standard(s): 8.4E , 8.17A , 8.19B , 8.25C , 8.29E

Individual Rights

Individuals play a role in creating a nation, which involves both compromise and conflict.

Grade 08 Social Studies Unit 04 PI 04

As a delegate to the First U.S. Congress, create a chart to share with your state leaders that explains how the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence have been addressed in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights

Standard(s): 8.15C , 8.19B , 8.25C , 8.30C

Individual Rights


Limited governments guarantee specific rights to their citizens.


Key Academic Vocabulary Supporting Conceptual Development

  • Confederation a union of states in which each member state retains some independent control over internal and external affairs.

  • Constitution the fundamental law, written or unwritten, that establishes the character of a government by defining the basic principles to which a society must conform; by describing the organization of the government and regulation, distribution, and limitations on the functions of different government departments; and by prescribing the extent and manner of the exercise of its sovereign powers.

  • Ratification process of approving the Constitution

  • Compromise an agreement between opposing parties to settle a dispute or reach a settlement in which each gives some ground, rather than continue the dispute

8.1A Identify the major eras and events in U.S. history through 1877, including creation and ratification of the Constitution and describe their causes and effects

Constitutional Era

  • Philadelphia Convention 1787

  • Great Compromise

  • Three-fifths Compromise

  • AntiFederalist vs. Federalist

  • Federalist Papers

  • Bill of Rights

8.1B apply absolute and relative chronology through the sequencing of significant individuals, events, and time periods

8.4C Explain the issues surrounding important events of the writing the Articles of Confederation.
Writing the Articles of Confederation – occurred at the Second Continental Congress (1776), created a new form of government for the independent colonies, included one branch, a Congress including one representative from each of the former colonies

Articles created a “firm league of friendship” where “each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence”

8.15B Summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.

  • Strengths of Articles

    • States’ Rights (result of strong fear of a tyrannical leader)

    • Confederation of states with equal voice in Congress

    • Congress had power to:

=make war and peace,

=sign treaties

=raise an army and navy

=print money, and

=set up a postal system

  • Weaknesses of Articles

    • No national taxes (no ability to gain national revenue to pay for army, navy, or other national interests; had to ask the states for money which they often ignored)

    • No federal court system (no ability to settle disputes between states)

    • Lack of strong federal government (reduced ability to settle disputes over state boundaries)

    • No power to regulate commerce (quarrels about taxes on goods that crossed state borders)

    • No federal leader (no “Executive” to lead the country)

    • Limited military = No protection

Shay’s Rebellion: Massachusetts farmers rebelled against courts foreclosing on their farms

    • Showed weakness of the Articles of Confederation

    • Showed that the government could not keep order and a stronger form of national government was needed

8.1C explain the significance of the following dates: 1787, writing of the U.S. Constitution

  • 1787 – writing of the U.S. Constitution (1788 – Ratification of Constitution)

8.4D Analyze issues of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, including the Great Compromise and Three-Fifths Compromise

8.21C Summarize a historical event in which compromise resulted in a peaceful resolution.
Convention called to address the problems with the Articles of Confederation; Madison introduces a new plan.

  • Issue: representation in the legislature

    • Virginia Plan – Large state plan that proposed representation based on population size

    • New Jersey Plan – Small state plan that proposed equal representation among all states

    • Compromise: Great Compromise – Constitution resulted in a two-house legislature with House of Representatives based on population and the Senate maintaining equal representation from all states

  • Issue: How slaves should be counted regarding population and taxation

  • Compromise: Three-Fifths Compromise – Three-Fifths of the slave population would be counted when setting direct taxes on the states and three-fifths ratio would also be used to determine representation in the legislature

8.17A Analyze the arguments of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, including those of Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry, James Madison, and George Mason.

8.4E Analyze the arguments for and against ratification.


  • Federalists – argued for a stronger national government because under the Articles of Confederation, the weak national government set the United States up for failure

    • Alexander Hamilton – wanted to go beyond the stated powers of the Constitution; used the “necessary and proper” clause to justify forming a National Bank that was necessary and proper for the United States economy to develop; served as a delegate from New York at the Constitutional Convention

    • James Madison – known as the “Father of the Constitution”; helped to write the Federalist Papers with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton; authored the first 10 Amendments (the Bill of Rights) to compromise with the Anti-Federalists

  • Anti-Federalists – argued that states’ rights should remain powerful over key issues; remained of the opinion that we fought the Revolution to get away from strong central government—had great desire for individual liberties; believed that the Constitution should protect individual rights

    • Patrick Henry – was so opposed to the idea of a stronger national government that he refused to attend the Philadelphia Convention because he “smelled a rat” (influential leader from the Colonists’ protest against England with his speech “Give me Liberty or Give me Death”)

    • George Mason – leader of the Anti-Federalists; believed in the need to restrict governmental power and supported protection of individual rights; served as a delegate from Virginia at the Constitutional Convention

  • Compromise

    • The U.S. Constitution is ratified and the Bill of Rights is added


8.19B Summarize rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

  • 1st Amendment – freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly

  • 2nd Amendment – bear arms

  • 3rd Amendment – no quartering troops during times of peace

  • 4th Amendment – search and seizure

  • 5th Amendment – right to due process, not to be tried for the same crime twice (double jeopardy) & not to testify against yourself

  • 6th Amendment – right to speedy public trial

  • 7th Amendment – right to trial by jury in civil trials

  • 8th Amendment – right not to have excessive bail and/or punishment

  • 9th Amendment – rights of the people

  • 10th Amendment – rights to the states

8.15A Identify the influence of ideas from historic documents, including the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, the Federalist Papers, and selected Anti-Federalist writings, on the U.S. system of government.

Historic Documents =>

Influence on U.S. System of Government

MAGNA CARTA – limited the power of the King

Constitution limits the power of the central government

ENGLISH BILL OF RIGHTS – listed individual rights

Model for the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments to Constitution)

MAYFLOWER COMPACT – agreement written by Pilgrims in 1620

established the idea of self-government and majority rule

FEDERALIST PAPERS – supported ratification of the Constitution with a focus on the need for a strong central gov’t with restricted powers

Constitution provides for a strong central gov’t with separated powers and a system of checks and balances.

ANTI-FEDERALIST WRITINGS – opposed the Constitution because it lacked protection of individual rights.

When the Constitution was ratified, the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) were immediately added to protect those rights.

8.15C Identify colonial grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence and explain how those grievances were addressed in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Grievance in Declaration of Independence

Addressed in Constitution

Taxation without representation

All states have representation in Congress, which sets taxes

King has absolute power

Congress has the power to override Presidential veto

Colonists not allowed to speak out against the King

1st Amendment – freedom of Speech

Quartering Act forced colonists to house troops

3rd Amendment – no quartering of Troops

Allowed homes to be searched without warrants

4th Amendment – no unwarranted search and seizure

No trial by jury of peers

6th amendment –right to speedy public trial
7th Amendment – trial by jury

8.25A Trace the development of religious freedom in the United States.

  • 1620-1691 – Plymouth Colony – self-governing church with each congregation independent and electing its own pastor and officers

  • 17th century – Massachusetts Bay Colony – churches also fairly democratic in that they elected ministers and other officials, but church closely tied with state government

  • February 1631– Roger Williams founded Rhode Island. In 1636 separated church and state

  • 1681-1776 – Penn’s Frames of Government guaranteed religious freedom to all settlers in Pennsylvania

  • 1689 – Toleration Acts

  • Maryland founded as haven for Catholics

  • 1791 – Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom from government interference

8.25C Analyze the impact of the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom on the American way of life.

  • Americans have the right to worship however they choose.

  • The government does not have the right to interfere with religious beliefs.

  • Sets up for official separation of church and state

8.21B Describe the importance of free speech and press in a constitutional republic.


Freedom of speech and press allow for the protection of individual rights. Freedom to express information, ideas, and opinions that are free of government restrictions based on content.

8.26B Identify examples of American art, music, and literature that reflect society in different eras.

Writing the Constitution

  • Art – "Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States", by artist Howard Chandler Christy

  • Literature-- U.S. Constitution, Washington's papers, pamphlets

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