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Drafting the Nation

As the Framers drafted different versions of our founding documents, their ideas of what it meant to be a republic also changed. In this unit, four lessons based on the drafts of the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, held at the collection at HSP, allow students to explore the language and ideas behind these pivotal documents. Starting with the Declaration of Independence, students will discover how language and words can represent larger ideas while trying to figure out how Jefferson wanted this masterpiece to be heard aloud. Moving into the Articles of Confederation, students will compare and contrast a draft with the final version to identify not only the strengths and weakness of this document but also the evolving perception the Framers had of themselves and the Republic’s identity during the Age of Revolution. Finally, the students will encounter two lessons concerning the United States Constitution. The first lesson will introduce them to the overarching ideas of the Seven Principles, and the second will build upon some of those principles by examining the Preamble in both a draft form and its final version.


18th century

Colonial period

Government and civics

American Revolution




Big Ideas

US History

Essential Questions

What document or artifact best summarizes the United States and why?

What role does analysis have in historical construction?

Background Material for Teacher

End of Unit Assessment

Each Lesson has its own Assessment:

Declaration of Independence

Part A - To wrap-up this section of the activity, students  “Give the Declaration of Independence a Tweet":

  • no more than 140 characters

  • tweet @someone (maybe the King of England)

  • Use one #hashtag for the whole document

  • Create a twitter ‘handle’ the Founders would have

Part B - Wrap-up this activity by having the students write a paragraph reflecting on why they think the Declaration of Independence has endured this long and is one of the most influential documents in modern world history.

Articles of Confederation

Have students use materials created during the lesson,  to write an essay, using examples from the text, explaining the weakness of the Articles of Confederation, how this document distributes power between the state and national governments, and why they think the framers distributed power in this way instead of centralizing it in a big Federal government.

Seven Principles

As an Exit Ticket, students will write down their favorite principle), what that principle means, and why it is their favorite.


As an Exit Tickets, students will write answers to these prompts:

  • What is the single most important change the Founders made to the Preamble and why?

  • What is the purpose of the Preamble to the United States Constitution?


Preserving American Freedom


Plans in this Unit

Declaration of Independence

Articles of Confederation

The Seven Principles of the Constitution

Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

Grade Level

High School

Standards/Eligible Content





PA Core Standards




About the Author

This lesson was created by Brendon Floyd, Education Intern at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

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