Lesson 2: “The Constitution vs. the Articles of Confederation” (Grades 3-5)

Background: While the Articles of Confederation were an important first attempt at creating the guiding principles for our nascent government, it became clear very quickly that such a decentralized government would be ineffective in allowing anything to get done; however, the road to a federal constitution was neither fast nor easy.

There were many, and remain many still today that preferred to have the bulk of governmental power reside in the states and not within a federal government; they worried it would become tyrannical and abusive, much like the monarchy of England had.  Federalism, however, won out in the end, and this lesson will allow students to examine both documents, explore the beliefs of Federalists and Anti-Federalists, and form a general understanding of and opinion about the documents themselves and the issues surrounding them.

Objective: To ensure and enhance student understanding of concepts related to the Constitution and Articles of Confederation, specifically students will be able to:

  • Explain the larger ideas of federalism vs. anti-federalism or states’ rights, and how those ideas feed into people’s overall political beliefs.
  • Identify and explain the various branches of the federal government, the obstacles that had been faced under the Articles of Confederation, and how this new federalist/republican model of government grew out of those difficulties.
  • Identify and explain the various powers delegated to the states versus federal government in both documents, what changed, and why.

Activities: Compare and contrast the two documents using this CHART and the linked resources below.  Similarities?  Differences?

  • Think about the beliefs of our political parties today.  Who would be more likely to support the Articles vs. the Constitution and why?
  • Pick one of the documents and pretend you are either a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist and write a 1-2 paragraph speech to give in support of your position.
  • Assign half the class to the Constitution and the other half to the Articles and have them debate the following issues: taxes, interstate commerce, role of the executive (should there even be one?), judiciary (should there be federal courts?), and representation at the federal level
  • A comparative analysis between our Constitution and system of government and another industrialized country.  How does, for instance, a parliamentary democracy compare to our republican system?  Should we scrap our system and adopt theirs?  This could be a writing assignment, a teacher-led discussion, a class debate with more student-to-student interaction, or some combination thereof.

Articles of Confederation and the Constitution

Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists

Differences between Federalists and Antifederalists

DCPS Social Studies Standards and National U.S. History Content Standards covered:

  • 4.10.1, 4.10.3
  • 8.3.2, 8.3.4, 8.3.6, 8.3.9
  • 11.4.4, 11.4.5, 11.4.6, 11.4.7
  • 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3
  • Era 3, Standard 3

Virginia History and Social Science Standards of Learning covered:

  • USI.1, USI.7, CE.1, CE.2, CE.6

Maryland State Social Studies Curriculum Standards covered:

  • Grade 5, Standard 1.0, Topic A, Indicator 2, Objectives b-d
  • Grade 5, Standard 1.0, Topic B, Indicator 1, Objective b
  • Grade 5, Standard 1.0, Topic C, Indicator 2, Objective a

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