How can the idea of “We the people” help us understand the history of the early United States?
First edition. May 2018.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the U.S. History Series that summarize key events, people, and terms, as well as underrepresented histories and skill development are available, along with a timeline, on this MIRO BOARD.
Teachers: Are you still using A More Perfect Union: American Independence and the Constitution OR The Challenge to the New Republic: The War of 1812? We retired those units and recommend that you no longer use them. This unit serves an updated and improved replacement for those units. Please contact our office at if you have any questions.

The story of the founding years of the United States is often told from the perspective of the elite political leaders who crafted the country’s founding documents. While these individuals played major roles in the early history of the United States, the contributions and experiences of other important groups and individuals are often overlooked. A New Nation engages students with this range of experiences, asking students to consider the opportunities, hardships, aspirations, and questions facing people across society in the early years of the new nation. We the People: A New Nation covers events and experiences in the early decades of the United States, spanning from 1783 to 1830. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I teach 7th and 8th grade and have used Choices in public, charter, and independent schools with students with a wide variety of reading levels. I love how well organized the readings are and that you pull different lenses through many of the units (We the People: A New Nation does this especially well). I have found Choices units to be some of the best framing of subjects that for me are boring or difficult to teach. Even if I don’t use them directly with students, they give me a better sense of how I can organize material so that it will make sense and be engaging.” – Erin, Digital Editions User

Part I: The New Nation

Part I traces the founding years of the nation, from the end of the American Revolution to the end of the eighteenth century. There are three lessons aligned with Part I: 1) The Geography of Expansion and Dispossession, 2) Slavery and the Constitution, and 3) Ideals in U.S. Founding Documents.

Part II: An Expanding Nation

Part II examines political, social, and economic transformations that took place as the United States expanded during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: The Expansion of Slavery and the Cotton Economy.

Part III: A Changing Nation

Part III continues to chart changes that shaped the nation through 1830, from industrialization to controversies over slavery and westward expansion. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: “Invisible” Churches.


The Geography of Expansion and Dispossession

Students identify geographical landmarks in the eastern third of the United States and examine U.S. government documents as well as statements by Native people about land treaties from the 1780s.

Slavery and the Constitution

Students analyze historical documents from the 1787 Constitutional Convention and trace the debate that took place at the convention over the international slave trade.

Students collaborate to identify key principles in the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and U.S. Bill of Rights and consider the importance of founding documents to a nation’s history.

The Expansion of Slavery and the Cotton Economy

Students analyze and map demographic and economic data to explore the relationship between the expansion of slavery and the cotton boom in the early United States.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in this unit, and it asks students to examine two distinct options in the debate taking place at the turn of the nineteenth century over the relationship between religion and government in the United States in order to gain a deeper understanding of the range of values and beliefs that were contested.

“Invisible” Churches

Using excerpts from first person slave narratives, students learn about “invisible” churches and understand their role in enslaved people’s resistance to slavery.

Demands for Rights

Synthesis Lesson: Using primary sources, students analyze how marginalized groups have used the ideals found in U.S. founding documents in order to demand rights.

Synthesis Lesson: Students identify the value and limitations of using different types of sources to draw conclusions about the significance of the Haitian Revolution to the U.S. and integrate their findings into a coherent written response.

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