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Lay a strong foundation for your American Government and Civics students with an exploration into the founding documents and principles of American democracy and the nation's quest to fulfill those ideals this inquiry-driven, primary source-based PBL unit that asks, “How is our American democracy defined?”
This unit covers:
- 7 Principles of American Democracy
- Declaration of Independence
- Preamble to the U.S. Constitution
- Excerpts from the Federalist & Anti-Federalist Papers
- Make-You-Own Mission Statement Project
- End-of-Unit Essay
Check out the Preview for a detailed look at this compelling unit or download the FREE Unit-At-A-Glance.
This unit comes in two formats: print PDF and Google Slides
Greatness is having a clear vision that reflects one’s core values.
At the crux of American democracy is the balance of liberty and equality. While it is not foolish to strive for both, it has been easier in our history to declare these paired values than to actively hold them up in unison.
The Constitution is said to be a living document, but what if American democracy itself is too? That as everyday Americans hold this nation accountable to the theoretical words of our founders allowing "We the people..." to now mean so much more two centuries later.
This year, let’s leave the way-out-of-date government textbook behind and take students straight to the basis for all political debate and discourse: our founding documents. The words of geniuses, but also enslavers and oppressors. The lofty ideals that have become the beacon for the world's modern era, but one's Americans struggle to uphold even today.
The strength of an inquiry, thematic unit like this is your ability to immediately make abstract concepts into intriguing and relevant lessons: each engaging activity builds towards the unit's driving question with its own focused question and has students exploring real campaign materials and current issues.
This unit can be done well in anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks and has been crafted to meet thestandards of various states, including Texas, Florida, New York, and California.
Included in this complete unit:
- Teacher Unit Overview with general notes, links, standards, and a pacing guide
- Daily Lesson Plans with step-by-step details, planning, and lesson takeaway notes
- Detailed Answer Keys for each activity
- Student Unit Review and Skills handouts with self-checking questions and "I Can..." statements
- Student Unit Notes sheet for building deep and nuanced mastery of concepts over the course of the unit using powerful graphic organizers
- Student Skill Handouts that include Analyzing News Media Sources, Analyzing Political Cartoons, Deciding a Precise Position, Creating a Thesis Statement, and Including Evidence
- America's Mission hook students in with this overview of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution through the lens of the qualities of a strong mission statement
- 7 Principles of Democracy brainstorm, discuss, research current issues, and display using gummy bears the main aspects of American democracy (popular sovereignty, individual rights, limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and rule of law)
- Declaration of Independence Podcast Notes get the backstory of this equally complicated yet well-organized document using an engaging Civics 101 episode
- Declaration of Independence Analysis closely read the words that shook the world and tie them to the 7 principles
- Preamble Analysis revisit the nation's mission statement with an eye for its inclusion of the 7 principles
- Preamble in Political Cartoons / News Media connect to how issues today continually call back to these famous words
- Federalists & Anti-Federalists Podcast Notes get the overview of the debate that democracy made possible by using an engaging Civics 101 episode
- The Federalist & Anti-Federalist Papers Analysis closely read key excerpts from arguments supporting and expressing reservations about the proposed Constitution and tie them to the 7 principles
- Print PDF & Digital Google Slides version of all student sheets included!
2 Summative Assessments
- End-if-Unit Essay support your students with a collaborative brainstorm review activity, detailed instructions, outline template, sentence stems, step-by-step PPT slides, and rubrics, that encapsulates their complete understanding by arguing their answer to the not-so-simple question, “How is our American democracy defined?”
- Mission Statement Project after brainstorming one's core values, students carefully develop their mission statement for the year, using the Preamble and other modern exemplar statements as their guide
Note to Homeschoolers
Though the included teacher lesson plans are written to fully support a traditional classroom teacher, this resource is also a great fit for your teenage homeschooler:
- the inquiry, thematic structure of this unit is driven by critical thinking, reading, and writing skills and a central high-interest question
- a wide ability range can easily access the rich variety of sources utilized in this unit,
- your student’s voice is central to each activity, through talking out their learning, maximizing the one-on-one
- most activities can be completed independently and aren’t solely reliant on group or whole-class work
- all utilized sources are free and easily obtainable; either included or accessible online (links provided)
- this unit is independent of a textbook, though one could be used for greater background knowledge
- any one activity can easily be left out to customize for your student’s skill level or personal interest
Looking for more Civics & Government PBL units?
Voting & Elections Unit explore a variety of voting issues; universal for any upcoming election
Three Branches Unit contrast how the federal government works in theory and in practice
Constitutional Rights Unit determine exactly how our rights translate into daily American life
Want to browse the full curriculum?
Civics to Empower Whole Course Bundle teach this inquiry-driven and project-based semester course with confidence!