Main Curriculum Tie:
Background For Teachers:
Student Prior Knowledge:
Step 2 Review with the class the problems faced under the Articles of Confederation.
Step 3 Tell students they have been invited to the Constitutional Convention. The year is 1787, the place is Philadelphia. They have been assigned the responsibility of creating a government that will work and will last far after they are gone. Encourage students to put themselves in the mindset of 200 years ago; try to forget what they currently know now about the workings of government.
Step 4 Hand out "Creating a Government" worksheet. (see attached) In their state groups, have students go over the questions and discuss the issues/problems the delegates faced. Have students come up with their suggestions at creating a government. (Not all questions have to be answered; if a group spends the whole time on one particular issue, that group will have covered the subject in depth and will be better prepared to contribute to the class discussion following group discussion.)
Step 5 Allow students the rest of class time (based on where discussions are going). Teaches may want to steer group discussions to focus on some of the more important issues of the convention, like representation and slavery. Large groups representing large states should realize that it would be to their advantage to have representation based on population; small states will see that they may be outvoted every-time unless they have an equal number of representatives in Congress. Southern states are going to want to keep their slaves and count them as part of the population; northern states are not going to want slaves to count as population. (Pennsylvania, the Quaker state, wants slavery to be abolished altogether in the new government). As the teacher, is it important that you help students see these issues based on their knowledge of the colony from which they come.
Step 6 Come together as a class–the whole convention–and discuss ideas. Go through and get viewpoints from each group. Encourage debate, poising key questions. Should we have a president? What if the president gets too power-hungry, like the king? Who decides who the president is going to be? Even the uneducated? (You may want to use a simple example like: should the entire student body choose the basketball team? Or should that decision be the responsibility of the coach–someone who knows basketball inside and out?) Who will make the laws? How many representatives will each state get? An equal number? But what if a state has more people? Shouldn't they have more of a say about a law affecting the nation?
Step 7 After students have discussed the issues faced by the delegates, explain what actually happened. Hand out revised worksheets: “Government Created” (see attached)and have students write down what did happen. Go through the questions and answer them with the class. Be sure to explain the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the Great Compromise. Also, be sure to explain the 3/5 Compromise.
Strategies For Diverse Learners:
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