School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic A. The Foundations and Function of Government

Indicator 1. Investigate the evolution of the U.S. political system as expressed in the United States Constitution

Objective b. Explain and summarize the principles of federalism, popular sovereignty, rule of law, consent of the governed, separation of powers, checks and balances, majority rule, limited government and how they protect individual rights and impact the functioning of government

To be sure that students understand the definitions of the principles of American government and understand how they are applied, have them create a "Dictionary of United States Government." Each page of the dictionary should focus on one of the principles. For each principle, students should work in pairs to write a definition of the principle in their own words. Next, they should find at least one passage of the Constitution that illustrates the principle. Students should copy this passage verbatim into their dictionary and then provide a brief explanation of what the passage means and how it illustrates the principle.

Focus Question: How do the principles of federalism, popular sovereignty, rule of law, consent of the governed, separation of powers, checks and balances, majority rule, and limited government protect individual rights and impact the functioning of government?

  1. Students can be divided into cooperative groups of four or five each. Each group is given the task of designing their own form of government, in their new country, based on the principles detailed in the focus question. They should divide up the work of defining the eight principles. Then all definitions are shared and copied down on individual worksheets.
  2. The group now takes each principle and decides how they are going to put it into practice in their government. An example of a worksheet for the group would be:
    Name of your new country:
    Principles of Government Definition Where it applies in your new government
    federalism
    Popular sovereignty
    Rule of law
    Consent of the governed
    Separation of powers
    Checks and balances
    Majority rule
    Limited government
  3. Students apply their group work and the information in their chart toward answering the Focus Question:
    How do the principles of federalism, popular sovereignty, rule of law, consent of the governed, separation of powers, checks and balances, majority rule, and limited government protect individual rights and impact the functioning of government?

Possible Answer:
Our new country has a central government and 6 states. The principle of federalism applies to the sharing of power with the central government and the governments of the 6 states. It protects interests of the states and common good of the entire country. Popular sovereignty is not extended to all of the people of our country because we feel that the only people who are educated enough to vote for our leaders are women. So, the women in our country (consent of the governed) have delegated their authority to govern to the state and federal governments but only as a limited government. They are limited by the rule of law. This means that our Constitution, which details all of our laws, is the supreme law and everyone, including our leaders, must obey the laws. We protect individual rights, even the men who can't vote, by protecting their rights with laws. We further limit the power of the government by a series of checks and balances. We have four branches of government whose powers are clearly set down in our Constitution with very specific ways of stopping the other branches from overstepping their power (checks and balances) as set down in our Constitution. We had to make sure that our elections were fair because we had problems with special interest groups stuffing the ballot boxes. This made it difficult for the wishes of the majority of our women to be realized in the voting process (rule by the majority.) All in all, we think that we have a very successful government system in our new country.

/toolkit/vsc/lessons/social_studies/grade8/1A1b.xml
Resources for Objective 1.A.1.b:
Clarifications | LESSON SEEDS |