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Lesson Plans - Write Your Own DBQ on the Articles of Confederation!

NAME OF LESSON:

Write Your Own DBQ on the Articles of Confederation!

GRADE(S) DESIGNED FOR: 11th grade/AP
TIME REQUIRED: 2 class periods (80 minutes each)

NAME OF AUTHOR:

Anna Slobodskoy
PRIMARY SALEM in History CORE THEME ADDRESSED:

American Political Thought: The Constitution and American Democratic Institutions

ADDITIONAL SALEM in History CORE THEME(S) ADDRESSED:

SALEM in History Topic Addressed:

The Constitutional Convention and the Debate over Ratification

Lesson Summary | Frameworks | Essential Question(s) | Lesson Objectives
Historical Background Essay | Materials List and Pre-Arrangements/Preparations Needed
Vocabulary | Lesson Activities | Student Product or Performance
Assessment Criteria | Possible Modifications | Possible Extension Activities
Cross Curricular/Interdisciplinary Links/Activities | Sources and Resources
Additional Resources for Students and Teachers


LESSON SUMMARY:

One of the main components of the Advanced Placement United States History exam is the Document-Based Question or DBQ. This is a writing activity that requires the student to analyze a specific time period, answer a writing prompt, and incorporate primary sources (8-10 short documents) into an analytical, coherent, and historically sophisticated essay.  For many students, this is the most challenging aspect of the test because it commands extensive knowledge of the time period.  Therefore, the goals of this lesson are to assist students in understanding the nature of the DBQ and develop useful techniques for writing an effective and historically accurate essay.  Furthermore, this lesson will increase student knowledge of the Articles of Confederation and the 1780’s.

This is a two-part lesson that falls right after the Revolutionary War Unit.  The first day will be spent reading the Articles of Confederation and discussing the essential question: To what extent did the Articles of Confederation address the problems faced by the young nation and effectively set up a new government? This question will also serve as the DBQ prompt for the second part of the lesson. On day two, students will be using the internet and the library to find their own primary sources that will help them answer the essential question.  Each student must find 8-10 excerpts from primary sources and create their own DBQ on the Articles of Confederation and the 1780’s. For each document chosen, the student will be submitting a questionnaire that describes the significance of the source in relation to the prompt.  Finally, the student will write a DBQ essay that counts as a test grade.

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PRIMARY SOURCES & SOURCE TYPES USED in LESSON:

Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union Between the States of New Hampshire [et.al] printed 1777 Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

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ESSENTIAL QUESTION(S):

To what extent did the Articles of Confederation address the problems faced by the young nation and effectively set up a new government?

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LESSON OBJECTIVES

LEARNING/CONTENT OBJECTIVES:

  • Students will be able to read and understand the Articles of Confederation, highlight the provisions, successes, and weaknesses of the document.
  • Students will learn the problems faced by the United States under the Articles of Confederation in the following categories: foreign policy, western lands, political issues, and economic concerns.
  • Students will analyze the significance of the Articles of Confederation in relation to the time period and be able to explain why a Constitutional Convention was necessary in 1787.

CONCEPT/SKILLS OBJECTIVES:

  • Students will be able to analyze and interpret primary sources.
  • Students will choose historically accurate and significant primary sources as part of the DBQ activity.
  • Students will write a coherent DBQ essay on the Articles of Confederation and the 1780’s.

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CORRELATION WITH HISTORY STANDARDS FROM the 2003 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORY AND SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK

MA FRAMEWORK STRAND: US History 1

MA FRAMEWORK UNIT/THEME ADDRESSED:

The Political and Intellectual Origins of the American Nation: The Revolution and the Constitution, 1763-1789

MA FRAMEWORK LEARNING STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED:

USI.6: Explain the reasons for the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781, including why its drafters created a weak central government; analyze the shortcomings of the national government under the Articles; and describe the crucial events (e.g., Shays’ Rebellion) leading to the Constitutional Convention. (H, C)

USI.7: Explain the roles of various founders at the Constitutional Convention. Describe the major debates that occurred at the Convention and the “Great Compromise” that was reached. (H, C)

            Major Debates:

  • the distribution of political power
  • the rights of individuals
  • the rights of states
  • slavery

Founders:

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • James Madison
  • George Washington

USI.8 Describe the debate over the ratification of the Constitution between Federalists and Anti-Federalists and explain the key ideas contained in the Federalists Papers on federalism, factions, checks and balances, and the importance of an independent judiciary. (H, C)

MA FRAMEWORK CONCEPT AND SKILLS STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED

GRADE AND SUBJECT: United States History 1 - Grade 11

NUMBER(S) AND DESCRIPTION(S): 

7. Show connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and ideas and larger social, economic, and political trends and developments. (H, G, C, E)

8. Interpret the past within its own historical context rather than in terms of present-day norms and values. (H, E, C)

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND/CONTEXT ESSAY: 

           The process for forming a central government in the thirteen colonies began as early as 1754 at the Albany Conference where Benjamin Franklin proposed a “union” of colonies.1 Following the Declaration of Independence, the colonies united against Great Britain under the Continental Congress, which acted as the central authority from 1774 to 1781.  The Congress, however, held relatively little power and did not have the resources to effectively manage and run a government. The Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781 as the first attempt at organizing the new nation.2 The government under the Articles was able to successfully win the war and influence the foundations for the political, social, and economic future of the United States.

            From the establishment of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, there were fundamental problems with the organization of the new government. The Articles proposed a “loose” confederation of states linked together by a unicameral legislature.  The central government was weak, while the states remained strong.  Congress did not have the power to tax or regulate commerce. Furthermore, there was no executive branch or judiciary system. In order to pass major laws, nine out of thirteen states were required to approve a proposal. Lastly, unanimous approval was necessary to make amendments to the Articles.3 The structure of the Articles, therefore, prevented the new nation from effectively addressing the issues of the 1780’s.

            The aftermath of the American Revolution produced foreign policy, political, territorial and economic problems in the new nation. While the British had signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the war, they failed to leave the territory and still maintained forts in the western lands. The Articles were successful in establishing a system for organizing the newly acquired western territory under the Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  However, this system resulted in pressure and conflict with Native Americans in the west. At the same time, the Spanish had regained land in the Mississippi valley and closed the port of New Orleans to American trade.  Even more problematic was the economic depression faced by the United States in the 1780’s.  The growing inflation and inability to pay back debt contributed to discontent, especially amongst the farming class.4  According to historian, Stephen Patterson in “The Federalist Reaction to Shays’ Rebellion,” the poor economic atmosphere of the period and the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation caused Shays’ Rebellion.  Patterson claims, “Shays’ Rebellion, at least to certain leading men, was less a cause of Federalism than it was an opportunity to expand and popularize it.” Therefore, Shays’ Rebellion was the precipitating factor that allowed the Federalists the chance to establish a stronger form of centralized government that would better serve the needs of the people.5

            The problems under the Articles of Confederation created an enormous challenge to the United States, both at federal and local levels. At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Articles were replaced with the United States Constitution, which established a more coherent and strengthened, yet democratic form of government.  The Constitution solved many of the tribulations of the Articles by creating an executive branch and a judicial system, granting the federal government the power to tax, creating a system of checks and balances, and providing for a fairer method of representation.

1Albany Plan of Union, The Avalon Project, (Yale Law School, New Haven, CT); available at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/amerdoc/albany.htm; Internet; accessed 11 May 2006.

2 Bailey, Kennedy, Cohen, The American Pageant, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

3 “Articles of Confederation” Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union Between the States of New Hampshire [et.al] printed 1777 Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

4 Bailey, The American Pageant.

5 “Patterson, Stephen, “Federalist Reaction to Shays’ Rebellion” in Countryman, Edward. Ed. What Did the Constitution Mean to Early Americans? (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 1999)

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MATERIALS LIST AND PRE-ARRANGEMENTS/PREPARATION NEEDED

MATERIALS LIST:

PREPARATION:

  • Teacher must find appropriate/relevant links for students to utilize when searching for primary sources.
  • Prepare/copy worksheets/rubrics

 

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VOCABULARY:

Articles of Confederation            Treaty of Paris
Land Ordinance of 1785            Northwest Ordinance of 1787
Shays’ Rebellion           
unicameral legislature
Judiciary                       
Annapolis Convention
Taxation                     

Inflation           
debt
Constitutional Convention    
state constitutions
John Dickinson           
Republican Motherhood
Foreign relations   
representation
tariffs

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LESSON ACTIVITIES:

DAY 1:

1) Background: Teacher provides historical overview on the development of the Articles of Confederation and the adoption/implementation of state constitutions.

2) Students will read Articles of Confederation and fill out graphic organizer on the main tenets of the Articles.

3) Discussion of Articles of Confederation using guiding questions.

    • What is a “confederation”?
    • Why is the phrase “United States in Congress assembled” used more frequently than “United States of America”?
    • Why were states given equal representation in Congress, regardless of population?
    • How was the national government to be funded? Can you foresee any potential problems with this? What other economic issues might occur under the Articles?
    • Why was there no executive under the Articles? Judiciary?
    • In order to make a new law, how many states were required to approve it?
    • How many states were required to approve any amendments to the Articles?  What are some potential problems with this?
    • How do the Articles represent the needs of the colonists?
    • How were the Articles a reaction to British colonial rule?
    • What did the Articles accomplish?

4) Students will fill out a chart highlighting the successes and weakness of the Articles.

5) Discussion of problems faced by the United States under the Articles. Students fill in chart.

Categories: Western Lands, Foreign Policy, Native Americans, Economics, Soldiers/Demobilization

6) Homework: Read and outline chapter in “The American Pageant” (Bailey) on the 1780’s.

DAY 2:

1) “Write Your Own DBQ” assignment. Go over directions, how to find primary sources, and evaluation rubrics.

2) Students should spend most of their class-time looking for relevant primary sources and shortening them to excerpt form.

3) For each document, students should fill out questionnaire.

4) By the end of class, students should have completed all primary source worksheets and completed the DBQ.

5) Homework: Write the DBQ!

 
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ASSESSMENT/STUDENT PRODUCT or PERFORMANCE:

At the end of the lesson, students will gain an understanding the Articles of Confederation in the context of the 1780’s. They will choose relevant sources that show insight and historically pertinent information. They will have read, interpreted, and analyzed the primary sources that they have chosen. In addition, they will have written a Document-Based Question, which requires a sophisticated level of historical analysis. The attached assignment/rubric outlines the goals of the primary source activity and the DBQ.  Lastly, the students will have thought about and discussed the essential question: To what extent did the Articles of Confederation address the problems faced by the young nation and effectively set up a new government? This lesson will provide detailed information and background for understanding the development of the Constitution in 1787.

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ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:

    • Students will be assessed on their analysis and discussion of the Articles of Confederation.
    • Students will be assessed on their choice of primary sources and their ability to justify their answers. See attached rubric.
    • Students will be graded using the standard AP College Board rubric for the DBQ. See attached rubric.

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POSSIBLE MODIFICATIONS:

    • The second part of this lesson could be completed as a group activity.  Each group member could have a specific topic, such as foreign policy to research.  Collectively, they would create a DBQ.
    • If used as a group activity, it could also be a competition between groups. The DBQ that has the most effective primary sources would be the one used for homework.
    • If students are having difficulty finding documents, the teacher could provide a list of sources that could be used.  The student would then have to find the documents and decide which ones to use.            

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POSSIBLE EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

  • Students could grade their own DBQ/ peer grading using the rubric. This exercise would help them better understand the grading process and what an AP reader/ AP teacher is looking for in the DBQ.
  • Compare the student created DBQ’s with actual DBQ’s written by the College Board. 
  • Compare and contrast the Articles with other systems of government. (also the Constitution)

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CROSS CURRICULAR/INTERDISCIPLINARY LINKS/ACTIVITIES:

  • Many of the problems faced by the United States under the Articles were economic in origin.  It might be interesting/useful to link this to a basic economic lesson and define some key vocabulary such as inflation, depression, panic, supply, demand, etc.
  • Reading literature from the time period to understand the vision of the “founding fathers” in establishing a new government. (such as the Federalist Papers)

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SOURCES AND RESOURCES

PRIMARY SOURCES USED USED IN LESSON:

Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union Between the States of New Hampshire [et.al] printed 1777 Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

The Articles of Confederation were the first attempt to create an independent government in the colonies during the American Revolution. The Articles are a valuable source for understanding the motives, goals, and needs of the colonists in the 1780’s.  However, the Articles also highlight several key weaknesses in the system of government. The Articles of Confederation are important for understanding the problems of the 1780’s and the reasons behind the development of the Constitution in 1787.

Miscellaneous Primary Sources included in the DBQ’s created by students.

SECONDARY (PRINT) SOURCES USED IN LESSON:

Bailey, Cohen, Kennedy. The American Pageant. 13th Ed. Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.

This is the textbook used by many AP classes in United States History.  It provides a coherent overview of historical facts and analysis.

“A More Perfect Union: Shaping American Government.” Choices for the 21st Century Education Program. Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, 2003.

This is a teaching unit on the Constitution. It provides both student and teacher resources on a variety of topics relating to the Constitutional Convention and formation of a new government.

WEB RESOURCES USED IN LESSON:

American Memoryhttp://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html [visited 5/11/2006].

This website is a good search tool for primary sources. You can search under specific categories, such as culture, war, maps, or literature. Specifically, a search for “Articles of Confederation” provides a vast number of sources, including proposals for the Articles of Confederation, notes on the proceedings of the Continental Congress, and letters written by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

“From Revolution to Reconstruction” Department of Humanities Computing, University of Groningen, The Netherlandshttp://www.let.rug.nl/usa/D/index.htm [visited 5/11/2006].

This website includes several important primary sources that would be useful for the DBQ assignment.

Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/index.html [visited 5/11/2006].

This website holds many primary sources. There is a great search engine for the catalogues, and it lets you find a variety of sources.  The Library Catalogues are extremely useful in finding multimedia and print sources. The Library of Congress site provides many sources, such as an online exhibit on Benjamin Franklin and the Continental Congress.  Similarly, there is an online exhibit on James Madison with transcripts of his works.

National Archives and Records Administration. http://www.archives.gov/index.html [visited 5/11/2006].

This site has many useful primary sources that are pertinent to the 1780’s and the Articles of Confederation including Benjamin Franklin’s “Sketch of Articles of Confederation,” an area dedicated to the Articles of Confederation, and the “emerging nation project.”

Salem in History Website. www.saleminhistory.org[visited 5/11/2006].

This website could be a useful tool in helping students find primary sources for their DBQ. The site uses local sources and connects them to larger themes in United States history. There are a wide variety of sources on the site.

 

SECONDARY (PRINT) SOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON:

“Patterson, Stephen, “Federalist Reaction to Shays’ Rebellion” in Countryman, Edward. Ed. What Did the Constitution Mean to Early Americans? Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

This article provides a historical background for the causes of Shays’ Rebellion and highlights the significance of Shays’ Rebellion in the desire to revise the Articles of Confederation.

WEB RESOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON:

“Albany Plan of Union” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/amerdoc/albany.htm [visited 5/11/2006].

This document outlines the Albany Plan of Union in 1756. It is significant because it is one of the first attempts to organize the colonies under one government.

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS AND/OR STUDENTS:

(none suggested)

 
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