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Please refer to the Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System website: (http://www.pdesas.org/module/sas/curriculumframework/SocialStudiesCF.aspx)

for information on the Pennsylvania Curriculum Framework for Social Studies. You will find much of the information about PA Academic Standards, essential questions, vocabulary, assessments, etc. by navigating through the various components of the Curriculum Framework.

LESSON / UNIT TITLE: The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution

Teacher Name(s): Craig Dawsey, Laurie Kapson and Lyle Wesneski

School District: Towanda Area and Troy Area School Districts

Building: Towanda Area and Troy Area Junior/Senior High School

Grade Level: 7th and 8th

Subject: American History I

Time Required: 6-8 class periods

Lesson/Unit Summary (2-3 sentence synopsis): Students will understand the importance of how the United States created a republic. We will explore how these 13 colonies created a nation under our first plan of government called the Articles of Confederation. We will then discuss and explore how our nation abandoned the Articles of Confederation to create the United States Constitution.

Essential Questions for Lesson/Unit

1. How did the Articles of Confederation create a weak central government and a loose alliance of independent states?

2. Why did the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 have to compromise on key issues in order to complete a new constitution?

3. What ancient traditions, enlightenment ideas and experiences did the founding fathers draw from in order to create the U.S. Constitution?

4. How was the Constitution ratified and the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution?

Pennsylvania Academic Standards / Common Core Standards Addressed in Lesson/Unit

(Include standards numbers and standards statements.)
8.1.6. A. Explain continuity and change over time using sequential order and context of events.
8.1.8. A. Compare and contrast events over time and how continuity and change influenced those events.
8.3.8. A. Examine the role groups and individuals played in the social, political, cultural and economic development of the United States.
8.3.8. B. Evaluate the importance of historical documents, artifacts and places critical to United States history.
8.3.8. C. Summarize how continuity and change have impacted U.S. history.
5.1.7 C Explain how the principals and ideas shape local, state, and national government.

  • Liberty/Freedom

  • Democracy

  • Justice

  • Equality

5.2.7 B Compare the methods citizens use to resolve conflicts in society and government.
Lesson/Unit Objectives
At the conclusion of this lesson/unit, students will be able to:

  • Discuss why the founding fathers created a loose alliance of 13 states.

  • Compare and contrast the two rival plans of government introduced in the Constitutional Convention (The Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan).

  • Explore what American leaders learned from studying ancient Rome, freedoms from Great Britain and ideas of the enlightenment period shaped the U.S. Constitution.

  • Analyze the key issues in the debate between the Federalists and Antifederalists in order for the Bill of Rights to be added and the Constitution to be ratified.

Vocabulary/Key Terms for Lesson/Unit

  • Constitution

  • Articles of Confederation

  • Shay’s Rebellion

  • Great Compromise

  • 3/5 Compromise

  • Virginia Plan

  • New Jersey Plan

  • 3 Branches of Government

  • Magna Carta

  • English Bill of Rights

  • Habeas Corpus

  • Separation of Powers

  • John Locke

  • Baron de Montesquieu

  • Federalist

  • Antifederalist

Historical Background for Teachers / Research Narrative

(Insert a 2-3 page abstract in this section that details your research on the lesson/unit topic. This is where you get to share your scholarship with your peers! You should provide enough information that a teacher could potentially teach the lesson/unit and answer general questions based on studying your narrative.

The Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution

In 1787 the ratification of the Unites States Constitution opened up a new system of government for our young nation. This new document provides the fundamental laws that will provide a framework for the U.S. to govern its citizenry and the principles under how it will operate. This document was written to allow it to be changed with the thought of future generations in mind. The Founding Fathers intended this document to be the supreme law of the land.

Our first form of government known as the Articles of Confederation dealt with these three issues: representation, taxes and control of western territories. This first plan of government gave power to the states more than a centralized form of government. This lack of unity created problems in international relations and defense of the nation.

Leaders such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison believed the Articles of Confederation were a complete failure. These leaders believed that a strong central government should be at the core of this new-found democracy to ensure the nation’s prosperity. There were many more reasons for the need of a strong central government to protect citizens from Native Americans, British and Spaniards bent on imperialistic conquests. Certain groups like merchants wanted a strong centralized government to protect them from tariff wars. Under the Articles of Confederation this nation had difficulty protecting certain aspects of its national interests.

The United States is a relatively young nation. However, our constitution is among the oldest written constitutions of any major nation in the world. After the Revolutionary War, many of the three million citizens became disenchanted with the Articles of Confederation for lack of power over issues occurring at home such as a recession. This document seemed too weak to control the people at home or make the United States respected around the world.

The breaking point for the Articles of Confederation came when Massachusetts farmer, Daniel Shays, and a band of farmers revolted against their respective state government in Boston. Shays’ Rebellion (1787) creates a need for the Founding Fathers to go back to Philadelphia and create a new document now known as the United States Constitution. So, on the day they were to amend the Articles of Confederation they end up over throwing the government and supplant a new government that will be guided by the United States Constitution.


Cicero: History beyond the Textbook (www.cicerohistory.com), Unit 5, American Government, 1781-1801


Instructional Prodedures and Activities

(Note: Number of days for the Unit can be adjusted, depending on the grade level and the composition of individual classes.)

Days 1 and 2

1. Introduce Articles of Confederation topic.

2. Have students take Articles of Confederation Pretest (short answer).

3. Create a Frayer Model graphic organizer using the Articles of Confederation vocabulary with learning partner, then review as a class. Students will complete a webquest research activity to gather information to be used in developing their graphic organizers and other diagrams related to the Articles of Confederation;

Days 3 and 4

4. Have students work in triads; each triad group will be assigned to create a cause/effect diagram on one of the following topics: how each state created its own constitution, how the Articles of Confederation created a weak central government, how Virginia gave up its western land, and how the Northwest Ordinance set up a plan for adding new states to the Union.

5. 5. Divide classes into two groups – one group supports the Virginia plan of government the other will support the New Jersey Plan of government. Students should research and represent the views of particular delegates to the convention.

Day 5

6. Create a press conference atmosphere where the students will brief the press on where the ideas have come from to form the new plan of government known as the Constitution. Students should describe the Constitution and then take questions from the reporters (students) about this new plan of government.

Days 6-7

7. Again, put students into two groups and have each group come up with a list of similarities and differences between political parties in the 18th century and today. One group would compare and contrast Federalists and Democrats while the other would evaluate the relationship between Anti-Federalists and Republicans. Students will write informational essays with the research they gathered.

Day 8

8. Students will write a two-paragraph summarization on Dr. William Allen’s perspective on “Slavery in the Constitution: Three Fifths Clause”.

9. Have students take Articles of Confederation Posttest (matching and fill in the blank).

Suggested Strategies for Differentiating Instruction


  • Read orally to students

  • Work with learning partner

  • Adapt tests to learner

  • Study guides

  • Modify and/or reduce assignments to match students’ abilities and IEP provisions

Assessment_of_Student_Learning_(Include_both_Formative_and_Summative_Assessments)__Formative'>Assessment of Student Learning (Include both Formative and Summative Assessments)


  • Pre-Test on Articles of confederation

  • Assessment of Frayer Model graphic organizer

  • Assessment of webquest project on the Articles of Confederation

  • Observation of student cooperative learning groups and responses to discussion questions

  • Assessment of compare/contrast informational essays on Federalists/Democrats and Anti-Federalists/Republicans


  • Two-paragraph summarization of Article on “Slavery in the Constitution: Three Fifths Clause”

  • Post-test

Materials and Resources*

  • Textbook: The American Nation, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston

  • Primary Source documents (Library of Congress):

  • Articles of Confederation (http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/articles.html)

  • Constitution of the United States:


  • Student notebooks

  • Graphic organizers (Frayer model, compare-contrast diagram)

  • Video Citation: Narr. Dr. William Allen. Cicero: History Beyond the Textbook, 2010. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.

  • Pre and Post tests (*See samples at end of Unit Plan.)

Author(s) of Unit/Lesson Plan

Craig Dawsey and Laurie Kapson, Towanda Area School District, Towanda PA

Lyle Wesneski, Troy Area School District, Troy, PA

The Articles of Confederation

Web Quest


The Articles of Confederation was the United States’ first form of government. This plan of government dealt with three issues: representation, taxes, and control of the western territories. This system also gave more control to the states than the centralized government. This separation created problems with national and international interactions.


The task of this web quest is for students to research The Articles of Confederation and create a visual representation or graphic organizer on the subject matter researched.


  1. Students should use the resources provided and information already given in class to compile data on the Articles of Confederation.

  2. Upon finding data, students will use the relevant information to create a visual representation on the Articles of Confederation.

Topics to research when creating the visual representation:

  • What does the term confederation mean?

  • What powers were given to the states under the Articles of Confederation (taxation, powers not delegated to the national government, judicial system, and enforcement of laws created by congress)?

  • What powers were given to the national (federal) government under the Articles of Confederation (limited powers, petition states for money, embassies, ambassadors, war, treaties, maritime courts, settle disputes between states)?

  • What was the mindset of the states when the Articles were created?

  • What did the small states fear?

  • How did the first plan of government lead to the Constitution?

  1. When creating the visual representation, students must use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

  2. When constructing the project, students should incorporate color, eye catching details, and originality.

  3. Students should include a works-cited page of where they acquired their information.





http://www2.cicerohistory.com/Cicero/c/4/Activities/Guided Reading/Secondary/FirstConstitution/TheFirstConstitution.pdf


For assessment purposes, go to CICERO/Unit 3/Professional Development/ Rubrics/WebQuest.


  • What have you learned from this web quest?

  • How much of this information had you previously known?

  • When researching the Articles of Confederation, was there any new information that was a WOW?

  • How important do you think The Articles of Confederation were to the development of the United States?

  • What did you like about this project? What did you dislike?

  • How would you improve this assignment?

Assessment of Student Learning (Formative): Short Answer Pretest

Name: ____________ Class Period: ______

Articles of Confederation

  1. What writer expressed the idea that the relationship between government and the people it governs is a social contract?

  2. The value of public service was taught by:

  3. Who wanted the Articles of Confederation revised after Shay’s Rebellion?

  4. Which plan had a one house legislature?

  5. Which plan was preferred by small states?

  6. Which plan awarded seats in the House of Representatives by population?

  7. Which plan called for a two house legislature?

  8. What helped shape the government system in the U.S.A.?

  9. Why were the Articles of Confederation weak?

  10. Which group argued that the Constitution must spell out ways to protect people’s basic rights?

Assessment of Student Learning (Summative): Post-test

Part I: Matching

  1. Articles of Confederation ____ A. to give up something

  2. Constitution ____ B. needed this in order to become a state in the U.S.

  3. Bill of Rights ____ C. enlightenment writer who stressed separation of powers

  4. Northwest Ordinance ____ D. allowed slaves to be counted in the South’s population

  5. Magna Carta ____ E. to delegate to Continental Congress

  6. Compromise ____ F. to change something

  7. Amend ____ G. people not in favor of a strong central government

  8. Separation of Powers ____ H. father of U.S. Constitution

  9. Cede ____ I. brought the Virginia and New Jersey plans together to create a two house legislature

  10. Execute ____ J. people in favor of a strong central government

  11. John Locke ____ K. list of freedoms the government must protect

  12. 60,000 Settlers ____ L. amount needed to have Constitution ratified

  13. George Washington ____ M. first American constitution; loose alliance

  14. Federalists ____ N. monarchs must obey laws; citizens’ basic right

  15. Baron de Montesquieu ____ O. powers of government are separated between branches of government

  16. Anti-Federalists ____ P. government set up to protect rights of settlers; outlawed slavery

  17. 3/5 Compromise ____ Q. English writer; believed agreement between ruler and ruled should be met by both parties

  18. Great Compromise ____ R. to carry out; to do it (like the Nike commercial)

  19. Nine of Thirteen ____ S. both sides give up something in order to reach an agreement

  20. James Madison ____ T. a list of laws to be followed by states or countries

Part II: Fill in the Blank

Virginia Plan  Articles of Confederation  Shay’s  Northwest Ordinance  Roman Republic  New Jersey Plan  3  Ben Franklin  Countries  Bill of Rights  Executive  Constitutions  2  Magna Carta  House of Representatives

  1. A weakness of the __________ was that Congress lacked the power to coin money.

  2. The __________ taught our Founding Fathers the value of public service.

  3. People wanted the Articles of Confederation revised after __________ Rebellion.

  4. Under the __________, people had certain guaranteed rights.

  5. Seats in the __________ would be awarded according to population under the Great Compromise.

  6. Peoples’ rights were spelled out in all state __________.

  7. Since there was no __________ to carry out laws, the Articles of Confederation were weak.

  8. According to the Great Compromise, each state would have __________ seats in the Senate.

  9. James Madison, George Washington, and __________ were delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

  10. The __________ allowed for a territory to ask Congress to be admitted to the U.S. as a state.

  11. The __________ became a part of the Constitution when it was added thought the amendment process.

  12. Today in the U.S.A., we have __________ branches of government.

  13. Small states favored the __________ because it looked out for their interests.

  14. The __________ proposed a two house legislature.

  15. At one time our united states were more like 13 little __________ under the Articles of Confederation

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