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 B. Individual and Group Participation in the Political System

Indicator 2. Defend the importance of civic participation as a citizen of the United States

Objective b. Analyze the concept of citizenship and explain how the concept has changed from colonial times through Reconstruction

Prior to having the students begin to analyze the concept of citizenship, be sure they can explain the meaning of the term citizen. As needed, emphasize that citizenship entails both rights and responsibilities. Also, consider engaging the students in a brief discussion/debate about which they consider to be more important in a democratic society: the classical republicans’ emphasis on the responsibilities of citizenship, or Locke’s emphasis on the individual rights?

In completing their analysis of citizenship, have students consider the following aspects of the concept: the basis for citizens’ self-identify (state or nation); who determines the meaning of citizenship (states or the Constitution); and which Americans enjoy/do not enjoy the rights of citizens. To do so, distribute packets of primary sources that shed insight as to how these components of citizenship evolved between 1763 and 1877, including at least a “before” source and an “after” source for each category (some sources, such as the 14th Amendment, might be useful for multiple questions). Then, on graphic organizers, direct the students’ investigation of the primary sources by posing three focus questions: “How did Americans’ ideas about their own citizenship change between the colonial period and Reconstruction?”; “How did the government’s authority to define citizenship change between the colonial period and Reconstruction?”; and “In what ways did America’s citizenship pool expand between the colonial period and Reconstruction?” After the students complete this investigation, conduct a class debate around the question: “Of the three changes in the concept of American citizenship that you investigated, which was most significant?”

Suggested primary sources include:

  • Text of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which implies the right of states to determine their own citizenship criteria
  • Text of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which limits states’ rights to determine their own citizenship criteria and expands the citizenship pool to include African American men and all natural born persons.
  • Text of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dred Scott v. Sanford (, which states that African Americans cannot be considered citizens of the United States with legal standing in the court system
  • Robert E. Lee's testimony before Congress, in which Lee explains his loyalty to Virginia during the secession crisis before the Civil War
    Also consider Lee’s letter of resignation from the U.S. Army (
  • Chapter 1 of Confederate solider Sam Watkins’s retelling of his experiences in the Civil War, entitled “We are One and Undivided.” ( text illustrates the impact of the Civil War on nationalizing Americans’ notions of citizenship.
Resources for Objective 1.B.2.b:
Clarifications | LESSON SEEDS | Sample Assessments | Resource Links