Covers forms and systems of government and the formation of the U.S. government, with emphasis on the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution
Foundations of American Government unit contains 14 learning experiences.
Learning Experiences (Lessons) in Foundations of American Government Each learning experience takes about 45 minutes to teach in the device-enabled classroom.
Why Civics Matters
Students learn what civics is and why they are studying it. First, students define the word citizen. Then, they learn about the importance of studying civics. Next, they watch a video highlighting an example of civic behavior. Finally, they create an infographic explaining civics to a younger audience.
Forms of Government
Students consider why countries form governments. Then they compare different forms of government. Finally, they consider the advantages of democratic governments compared to authoritarian governments.
Systems of Government
Students compare different systems of government: parliamentary, federal, confederal, and unitary. They explore some of the strengths and weaknesses of each system and identify real life examples of each system. Then they draw a diagram representing one of the systems.
The Declaration of Independence
Students identify how English policies and responses to colonial concerns led to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. They examine John Locke’s idea of natural rights and analyze the ideas and complaints set forth in the Declaration of Independence through a close reading of each section of the document.
The Articles of Confederation
Students learn about the Articles of Confederation. They discover when and why they were written and the structure and powers of the government they established. Then they explain the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles. Finally, they examine the impact the Articles of the Confederation had on the writing of the U.S. Constitution.
Ideas that Shaped the Constitution
Students explore people, ideas, and documents that shaped the U.S. Constitution, including: the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, Charles de Montesquieu, John Locke, and the Mayflower Compact. Then they explain the main idea of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.
Debate and Ratification of the Constitution
Students learn about the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. They collaborate in small groups to explore the two main factions in this debate, the Federalists and the Antifederalists. Then they explain how the inclusion of the Bill of Rights cleared the way for ratification.
Preamble to the Constitution
Students discover how the U.S. Constitution is organized into the Preamble, the Articles, and the Amendments. Next, they explore the meaning of the Preamble by reviewing important vocabulary and the main “goals” it lays out for the Constitution. Then they work in small groups to illustrate one goal of the Constitution. Finally, they reflect on and illustrate the meaning of “We the people” in 1787 and today.
Principles of American Government
Students analyze seven basic principles reflected in the U.S. Constitution: limited government, republicanism, checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, popular sovereignty, and individual rights. They also discover how these principles are reflected in the framework of the U.S. government, as established by the Constitution. Finally, they explain how selected excerpts from the Constitution reflect one or more of these principles.
The Amendment Process
Students learn the process for amending the Constitution. Then they explain an amendment that was explicitly not allowed by the U.S. Constitution. Finally, they draw conclusions about why the Founding Fathers made it so difficult to amend the Constitution.
The Bill of Rights
Students review the history and significance of the Bill of Rights. Then they identify and describe the rights and freedoms protected by these ten Constitutional Amendments. Finally, they read about a landmark Supreme Court decision and explain how it helped to define a particular right or freedom in the Bill of Rights.
The Freedoms in the First Amendment
Students are introduced to the First Amendment by considering the rules that apply to their own online expression. Then they explore the five freedoms stated in the First Amendment. Next, students work in small groups to research and report on one of the five freedoms. Finally, students return to the issue of online expression and consider if and when freedom of speech can go too far.
Guaranteeing Other Civil Rights
Students learn about amendments to the Constitution that provide equal rights for minorities and special groups. First students define civil rights, and then focus on the Reconstruction Amendments. Then they learn about the women’s suffrage movement and draw a political cartoon related to the 19th Amendment. Next, they learn that the 24th and 26th Amendments helped more people gain voting rights. Finally, students draft their own amendment related to civil rights.