Grade: Senior

#2177. The Constitutional Convention and Federalist Papers

Social Studies, level: Senior
Posted Wed Mar 14 20:23:24 PST 2001 by Adam King (
Student, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo (yes it exists), MI
Materials Required: Chalk/marker board/overhead for note taking and activities, a copy of the Articles of Confederation
Activity Time: 1 to 3 class periods
Concepts Taught: See Below

This lesson was designed to capture the causes and effects of the Constitutional Convention. The entire lesson makes reference to the Articles of Confederation. I have the full text of the Articles on file, so if you'd like them I can email it to you. The main goal of the lesson is to illustrate why the Articles had to be changed in order to maintain unity as a country.

Review (5 minutes)
Have the class explain the issues from the Articles of Confederation such as lack of federal control, no national army, in ability to tax or coin money, minority rule, geographical division, dismal financial state of government.

Overview the lesson: (5 minutes)
After reviewing the standing issues of the Articles, state to the class that the Articles had to be revised to create national unity in the country. In 1787, a plan was set in place to hold a "Committee of States" to revise those Articles. The result is the government that sits in Washington, DC today.

This can be presented two ways, and I have done it both.

First is a straight 35 minute lecture, which I've found makes more students fall asleep than stay awake (and that was presented to college students).
The other is to break off into about 6-10 groups of 2 or 3 and have them go on a fact finding mission. These groups would have to cover a topic apiece (one on the Convention, the other on the Federalist Papers):
Topics include: Any of the Comprimises made, the goal of the Federalist Papers, any one Federalist Paper and its significance (I found a very good book for this that I will list at the end of the lesson). 2 of the 3 groups should discuss the opposition to the Federalist papers.

After the fact finding quest... have the students discussing the convention present their findings to the class. This will be the basis for the discussion on whether or not to create a federal government. After those presentations are complete have the students who were looking at the rationale for the Federalist Papers discuss the theme of the Papers and their intent.

The remaining students who have been divided into "Federalists" and "anti-federalists" by nature of their fact finding discussion would conduct their findings as if they were a group of politicians on "Meet the Press", the instructor will serve as the moderator.

End this unit by stating that any new Constitution would not solve all of the problems of the nation, but by creating a new government, we are still a nation today. After this lesson begin the task of understanding the government the new Consitution created.

The resource I recommend for this lesson is a book called "The Federalist Papers in Modern Language: Indexed for Today's Political Issues" edited by Mary E. Webster and published by Merril Press. It is paperback and available at most bookstores or at