Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress 1789-1791


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Overview of the Teachers Guide

This teachers guide is divided into an introductory lesson and four different approaches to the exhibit that may be used in the classroom. Each approach includes suggested applications and lesson plans. Read this overview section to decide which approach is most appropriate for your classes' needs.

Suggested introductory lesson for all approaches: Use the first topic, The First Federal Congress, to explore the functions of the First Federal Congress. (same as III, "Whole site" approach, Unit one lesson)

  1. Issue based single lessons: This approach is based on suggestions for several specific lessons using a small selection of documents which focus on a particular issue. This approach uses specific documents to raise issues often covered in US history but is designed for supplementary use, to "plug into" the regular curriculum.
  2. Topic lessons based on selected documents across the site: The unit topics fit nicely into a general study of the Early Republic for a US survey class. This approach groups the fourteen unit topics into 7 sections which pull readings from several units. These sections are appropriate for the commonly used "expert" (jigsaw) technique for student group study with a final demonstration of learning for the entire class.
  3. Whole site by unit: After doing the Unit one lesson as a whole class, divide the class into thirteen groups using the table of contents. Each student group reads the material in the assigned unit and answers the questions for that unit and/or produces a demonstration of their learning. Students are brought together for sharing and making conclusions about what they discovered.
  4. Concept based student application: The FFC exhibit contains documents which can be studied from many angles. Primary sources reveal surprising insights into history. This aspect is best illustrated to students through the approach which starts with a concept and asks students to apply that concept to a variety of sources. This series of concepts could be inserted individually or collectively for deeper study of the issues the documents raise. This approach is more appropriate for upper level or Advanced Placement where analyzing documents is an objective of the course of study.


Instructional Objectives

Content objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Understand the role of the First Federal Congress (FFC ) as the most important and productive Congress in United States history
  • Develop an appreciation for the important and complex role the FFC played in putting the Constitution into practice
  • See how Congress completed the work of the federal constitutional convention by "fleshing out" the bare bones Constitutional structure
  • Deepen understanding of how our government works by exploring the precedent-setting issues and procedures
  • Analyze how "conflict and compromise" are an integral part of our political system
  • Appreciate the role of setting precedents that framed the American identity
  • Compare issues facing the First Federal Congress and the present-day Congress
  • Understand the dynamic nature of such issues as the definition of federalism, sectionalism, and the balance of powers

Skill objectives

Students will learn to:

  • Use documents; experience how using such documents makes them more "active" learners and put history into the hands and minds of students
  • Interpret primary source documents and historical context
  • Practice coming to their own conclusions based on primary, not secondary, sources
  • Read for comprehension
  • Pull together evidence under a conceptual framework
  • Compare and contrast government activity in the Early Republic and in the present
  • Prepare demonstrations of learning based on their own analysis of the documents

Back to teacher's guide table of contents

Lesson Plans
Introductory Lesson
Four Approaches with Lessons
  1. Issue-based Single Lessons
  2. Topic Lessons Based on Selected Documents
  3. Whole Site by Unit
  4. Concept-based Student Application

Vocabulary List

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