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 2. Analyze the impact of historic documents and practices that became the foundations of the American political system during the early national period

Objective d. Describe the significance of principles in the development of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Preamble, U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Be sure students can define and explain each of the following principles of American democracy: federalism, representative democracy, popular sovereignty, consent of the governed, separation of powers, checks and balances, rule of law, limited government, and majority rule. If necessary, engage the class in concept attainment activities to help clarify the meaning of principles the students appear to be struggling with. Assess students’ understanding of the principles by having them categorize news headlines as examples or non-examples of the principles. (A video of a sample concept attainment activity can be found on Teacher Tube at

Conduct a lesson similar to an historical investigation in which students are provided with key excerpts from each of the founding documents. Tell the students they will be conducting an investigation to discover evidence of the guiding principles the Founders adhered to when writing the U.S.’s charter documents. Provide students with blank tables listing each of the principles on one axis and document names on the other. As the students conduct the investigation, they will record words from the documents that are evidence of the various principles.

For a final product, the students could create “Principles Scrap Books,” in which each page might be assigned a principle and excerpts from the documents that illustrate those principles can be pasted on the appropriate pages.

Resources for Objective 1.A.2.d:
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