• Identify the documents that shaped US democratic traditions

  • Explain the idea of social contract

  • Summarize the provisions of the Articles of Confederation

Key Concept

  • The government of the United States is built on a foundation of English laws and government.


Tier 2 assembly
Tier 3 charter
representative government
Test Words summarize

Evidence-Based Reading

  • Ask Questions: Tell students that asking questions about a passage before they begin to read will help them better understand what they read. Tell them that answering the questions tests their comprehension. As they read about each document in this lesson, have them answer questions such as these that they formulate beforehand: What was the purpose of the Mayflower Compact? How did this document influence the US Constitution?

Writing Practice

  • To help students organize their thoughts before writing their summaries, have them write an outline. Explain that the details of the passage should be listed as subtopics under a main topic head. When they write their summaries, remind them to include all the main ideas and leave out unimportant details.

Before Lesson

Write the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of social contract on the board: an actual or hypothetical agreement among the members of an organized society or between a community and its ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each. Help students to understand and paraphrase this definition. Ask them whether they think the classroom is an example of a social contract. Ask: What about the relationship between a company and its employees? Tell students that the concept of a social contract was important to the individuals who founded the United States.


Discuss with students what they learned about the writing of the Constitution. Tell them that there were many earlier documents that informed the creation of the US Constitution. Work with students to create on the board a KWL chart about these documents and to fill in the K (know) and W (want to know) columns. Have them copy the chart into their notebooks and fill in the L (learn) column as they read the lesson.

Guided Practice

  • Influential Documents
    • The English Bill of Rights
    • The Mayflower Compact
    • The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
    • Declaration of Independence
    • Articles of Confederation

Core Skill

Analyze Events and Ideas: Provide examples of two or three documents that help people live and work together (classroom rules, workplace code of ethics, gym regulations). Ask students what the main idea or purpose of each document is. After students complete the sidebar activity, encourage them to share information and ideas about the agreement they have identified.

Summarize Ideas: Choose two or three paragraphs from earlier in the lesson and work with students to identify their main ideas. Then have students give an accurate and brief summary of each paragraph. For the sidebar activity, have pairs of students check each other’s summaries. Tell them to make sure that the summaries include only main ideas and that they do not copy the words from the paragraph.


Promote Interactive Learning: When dividing students into groups, make sure each group contains both English language learners and fluent English speakers. Encourage fluent speakers to help English language learners with unfamiliar words and constructions by explaining complex concepts in simpler terms. Be aware that original documents may pose a problem for both types of students, so encourage groups to ask questions about problems they encounter in such texts.

Draw a Conclusion: Have students synthesize what they learned about the several documents that influenced the Constitution. Ask them to determine and write the main idea of the section in the lesson on each document and then draw a conclusion about the Constitution.

Lesson Review