Compare Founding Documents in American History
Grades 3-7 Lesson Plan Using the “Radical Equality Online Exhibit
In this lesson, students examine the rights and responsibilities in America’s founding documents in light of the compelling story of dedicated abolitionists and the students own efforts to develop classroom rules.
Students/class will examine the founding constitution of the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry, an abolitionist utopian communityThe attempt to create a utopian (perfect) community. Reformers in the 1840s experimented with utopian communities as a method for supporting the reforms of the time. of the 1840s. They will also examine a letter from James Stetson seeking to convince his wife that the family should join the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry. Students will compare the purpose, and rights and responsibilities between the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry constitution and the major founding documents of the nation.
Previous Knowledge Recommended
Students should know basic information about American slavery, sectional differences between North and South before the Civil War, and that abolitionists sought to end slavery. Students should have a basic background on the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry). (This could come simply from going to The Story room off the main exhibit page for the Struggling for Freedom online exhibit.) Students should know that the United States is organized under the U.S. Constitution. Students should know that English colonists, known as the Pilgrims due to their religious beliefs, began Plymouth Plantation in the early 1600s. Specific knowledge of the Mayflower Compact, Massachusetts Constitution, and U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights will allow a deeper discussion.
45 minutes to study and discuss the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry constitution. 45 minutes for a basic comparison of the founding documents. Linking this lesson to writing a class constitution (as fully described in the Teacher Room for this exhibit) could take an additional two or more hours.
By the end of the lesson, students will:
- The purposes of the America’s founding documents, including the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
- The major rights and responsibilities outlined in America’s founding documents.
- The purposes and principles of the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry.
- Different founding documents have different purposes and so establish different rules for citizens.
- American government gets its authority from its citizens.
And Be Able to Do
- Compare and contrast different founding documents of the United States.
- Discuss the purposes of government.
- Present reasons for and against the founding of an organization or nation.
- Students will read and/or hear a letter from the early 1800s.
- Students will read and discuss key American founding documents.
- Students will compare and contrast and write notes about different founding documents.
- What are the core goals and principles on which the United States is founded?
- What are some of the major benefits of self-government?
- How have different groups of Americans in different times approach self-government?
All of the handouts and worksheets needed for this lesson are on the Downloads page. You can either download Word versions of the items or link to pdf files in Google Docs/Google Drive.
Part 1: Introduction
- Ask students what it means to be self-governed. Ask for examples of self-government. Ask students to identify key differences between the examples.
Part 2: Read a Primary Source: Room 103
- Remind students of the definition of a primary source.
- Class/students study the letter from James Stetson to Dolly Stetson.
- Ask the first set of questions listed in Room 103. List James’es reasons for joining the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry.
- Explain that in order to understand this rich source of evidence about the past it is essential also to look at secondary sources. Remind students of the definition of secondary sources.
- Enter and read The Story on the background of the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry from the main page of the exhibit, “Struggle for Freedom.”
- Continue in Room 103 with “For Further Investigation.” Read the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry constitution and answer the second set of questions in Room 103.
- List the rights and responsibilities of the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry constitution.
Part 3: Compare Documents
How you handle this part of the lesson depends on how much experience the students have with the founding documents. If they are new to the documents, let them explore each document on their own, but then guide them through the activity. They will need basic background on the circumstances in which each document came about. This lesson (and perhaps the one on writing a class constitution) would prove an excellent way to introduce the founding documents. If students have studied the founding documents, assign groups of students to compare each document to the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry constitution.
- Read each founding document and answer the questions that go with each one.
- List rights and responsibilities under each document.
- Write a list comparing and contrasting the rights and responsibilities of each document.
- Discuss the similarities and differences. Discuss why.
Part 4: Conclusion
- Assign students to write an essay explaining the similarities and differences between two of the documents and to explain why they are different. They should cite specific passages from the documents to support their argument.
Link to Massachusetts Graduation Standards
This lesson uses an unfamiliar document, the NAEINorthampton Association of Education and Industry constitution–and perhaps their class constitution–to engage students in thinking about the core purposes and features of some of America’s founding documents.
- U.S. History I Graduation Standards
- USI.31 Describe the formation of the abolitionist movementMovement to abolish/end slavery in the United States that increasingly gained support in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s., the roles of various abolitionists, and the response of southerners and northerners to abolitionismMovement to abolish/end slavery in the United States that increasingly gained support in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s.. (H)
- A. Frederick DouglassOne of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movementMovement to abolish/end slavery in the United States that increasingly gained support in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s., which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America's first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he began publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star.
- B. William Lloyd GarrisonInspired by the religious revivals of the Second Great AwakeningA series of religious revivals that swept through the United States in the early decades of the 19th century. Religious revivalismA movement to reawaken religious faith and participation through large meetings led by evangelical ministers who encouraged attendees to repent to God publicly. led to many reform movements across the north., Garrison became a ardent abolitionist. Through his speeches and writings in the LiberatorThe Liberator was an abolitionist newspaper founded by William Lloyd Garrison in 1831. The Liberator was a weekly publication published in Boston for 35 years. Although it had a small readership, the Liberator gained nationwide notoriety for its demand for the immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves in the United States., Garrison argued for the immediate abolitionThe theory that slavery should be ended immediately without excuse or exception. William Lloyd Garrison and his followers advocated for immediate abolition. of slavery based on moral wrongs. He also advocated for the participation of women in the movement.
- C. Sojourner TruthSojourner Truth was born as Isabella Baumfree. She was a slave who was sold several times until she was freed under New York state law. She became an abolitionist and women's rights advocate through her religious activism. Her narrative is the autobiography of her life and experiences.
- D. Harriet TubmanHarriet Tubman was a runaway slave from Maryland. She led hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. She later became a leader in the abolitionist movementMovement to abolish/end slavery in the United States that increasingly gained support in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s..
- E. Theodore Weld