Constitutional History

Constitutional History

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  • Yeah! Why was the Declaration of Independence written?
  • Since we are in Washington D.C., let me tell you about our country's history!
  • The Declaration of Independence was written to formally declare independence from Britain, and the Articles of Confederation was the first Constitution they wrote to keep themselves independent and start forming a government by outlining laws and powers of the states and the country.
  • But we don't have the Articles of Confederation anymore, just the Constitution. Right?
  • That's right! They realized the AoC had too many issues so a Constitutional Convention was held where each state sent representatives to debate issues and write a new Constitution. One of the debated issues was whether each state would have equal representation in the government or if the representation depended on the size of the state.
  • Oh yeah! The New Jersey Plan wanted equal representation and the Virginia Plan wanted representation based on population!
  • Yes, and they came up with the Great Compromise stating that one house will be represented by population and the other will be represented equally by each state. Another important compromise was called the Three-Fifths Compromise, which allowed 3/5 of each slave to be counted towards the population.
  • How did they organize the government?
  • The government is set up in 3 branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch makes laws, the executive branch enforces laws, and the judicial branch interprets laws. Separation of powers and checks and balances spread out the responsibilities and prevent any branch from having too much power. 
  • Then, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists began arguing about ratifying, or approving, the Constitution. The Federalists liked the Constitution the way it was and thought it did not need any changes and that state powers were implied. The Anti-Federalists believed the Bill of Rights should be written down and added to ensure protection of the people and state rights.
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