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American Government

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Instructional Resources by Unit
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Participating in Government
  • Civic Action Project (Constitutional Rights Foundation) - Free project-based learning program for civics and government
  • Public Opinion and the Media (Government Alive!) - Complete sample lesson on the essential question: To what extent do the media influence your political views?
  • FactCheck.org - Monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases
Foundations of American Government 
  • Constitutional Principles (iCivics) - This lesson lets students look at the Constitution from the perspective of its foundational principles. (Register for a free account)  
  • Federalists vs. Antifederalists (Reading Like a Historian) - Students read Federalist and Anti-Federalist positions from the New York State Convention to explore the different sides of the debate and to understand who stood on each side.
  • The Federalist Debate (iCivics) - This lesson looks at the debate, and eventual compromise, between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists that occurred around the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
Primary Sources
Popular Sovereignty  
  • Federalist 39 - Madison argued that in order for a republic to exist, the power to govern must be derived from the consent of the people. 
  • 14th Amendment, Section 1, Clause 1 - All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
  • Reynolds v. Sims - Supreme Court formulated the "one-man, one-vote" standard for legislative districting, holding that each individual had to be weighted equally in legislative apportionment.
Limited Government 
  • First Amendment - The first amendment limits the power of the federal government by prohibiting the government from making laws that deny the right to freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition.
  • Eleventh Amendment - The eleventh amendment recognizes that states have a certain degree of sovereign immunity.
  • Kelo v. New London - Supreme Court ruled that the "public use" provision of the "takings clause" of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution permits the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes that provide a public benefit.
Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances
  • Federalist No. 47 - Madison addressed criticisms that the Constitution did not create a sufficient separation of powers among the executive, judiciary, and legislature. 
  • Myers v. United States – Supreme Court ruled that the President has the exclusive power to remove executive branch officials, and does not need the approval of the Senate or any other legislative body.
  • Federalist No. 51 - addresses means by which appropriate checks and balances can be created in government and also advocates a separation of powers within the national government.
  • War Powers Act of 1973 - federal law intended to check the President's power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of Congress.
  • Federalist No. 45 - Madison argues that the strength of the federal government under the proposed United States Constitution does not pose a danger to the individual states. 
  • Tenth Amendment - The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution's principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the States by the Constitution are reserved to the States or the people.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland – the Supreme Court declared that Congress had the power to create a national bank based on the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. (See Supreme Court Case Study 2 in the textbook ancillary)
  • Gibbons v. Ogden – The Supreme Court declared that the power to regulate interstate commerce was granted to Congress by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (See Supreme Court Case Study 4 in the textbook ancillary) 
Secondary Sources
Structure and Functions of American Government
  • Policymaking in the Three Branches of Government (CAP Constitutional Rights Foundation) - This lesson introduces students to executive, legislative, and judicial policymaking and to policy evaluation. First, students discuss how policy can be made by each of the branches. 
  • Congress in a Flash (iCivics) - This lesson is designed to cover the basics in a single class period. Students learn what Congress is, what the Constitution says about the legislative branch, and how a bill becomes law.
  • For the President, All in a Day's Work (iCivics) - Students learn the primary responsibilities of the president and how those duties connect to the powers the Constitution grants to the Executive Branch.
  • Judicial Branch in a Flash (iCivics)  - In this lesson, students learn the basics of our judicial system, including the functions of the trial court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. 
Primary Sources
 Secondary Sources
Changing Constitutional Government
  • Our Rights (Annenberg Classroom) -  This book uses historical case studies to explore the rights in the Constitution. Supreme Court cases are used to demonstrate how a right received its modern interpretation, how the right applies today, and how courts and other interpreters seek to balance this right with important societal concerns such as public safety.
  • Bill of Rights in Action Archives (Constitutional Rights Foundation) - Analyze the evolution of the constitution through amendments and Supreme Court decisions. Each lesson includes a background reading and student activities.
  • Democracy in America: Civil Liberties (Annenberg Learner) - This unit explores the concept of civil liberties in American life, distinguishing civil liberties from civil rights and illuminating some of the problems encountered in protecting civil liberties.
 Primary Sources
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