Skip to Main Content

What is a Federal Republic?

80 min


  • Students will identify powers belonging to the national government, state government, and shared by both.
  • Students will understand Article I, Section 8 and the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Students will understand Federalist and Anti-Federalist views of the power-sharing relationship between the national government and the states.
  • Students will analyze current events in the context of federalism.ƒƒ Evaluate issues and determine if they would be best dealt with at the national level, state level, or neither.

  1. Divide students into groups of four and have them read Handout C: Article I, Sections 8, 9, 10 of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment.
  2. Have students complete Handout B: Federalism Venn Diagram individually.
  3. While in groups, students should identify any similarities or differences between what they wrote on Handout B and the powers listed in the Constitution on Handout C.
  4. Have students continue to work in their groups using Handout C to identify additional ways in which the people’s rights are protected by limits on the powers of the national government.
  5. As a class, briefly discuss their results and observations about the similarities and differences between their Venn diagrams and the Constitution.
    • How did the Founders view the size of the federal government and its relationship with the state governments?
    • How did the Founders dictate limits on government power to protect the rights of the people?

  1. As a large group, ask students to share their responses to the final critical thinking question from Handout A: To what extent should the national government make laws concerning the controversial topics listed below? Use the Constitution to frame your response:
    • Health insurance
    • Education standards
    • Marriage and family law
    • Medical marijuana
    • Assisted suicide
  2. As you think about the history of the United States and the state of these current issues, is the principle of federalism still strong in the United States? Why or why not?

  1. Using the local newspaper, television coverage, or an online news source, have students identify a current federalism issue and write an abstract for one of the reports they find. The abstract should address the “reporter questions”: who, what, why, when, where, results, and analysis. In the “analysis” section, have students explain why the issue is an example of federalism, and how they think it should be resolved.
  2. Have students identify a portion(s) of Article I, Sections 8, 9, and the Tenth Amendment that they would like to revise to clearly specify the duties of Congress, powers denied to Congress, and/or the powers of the states. After revising the relevant portions, answer the following questions:
    • Why did you make the changes?
    • How would the proposed changes affect the country today?
    • How do your revisions reflect the principles of federalism and limited government?
  3. Have students research current issues of federalism such as same-sex marriages, health care, or national standards in education. Are these issues best left to individual states, or should the national government be involved? Ask students to take a position on whether the federal government or state governments would best handle their topic and prepare to defend the chosen position in a debate.
  4. Have students complete Handout D: State Power – Criticisms and Responses as a bridge between this lesson and lesson two of this unit.

Student Handouts

Next Lesson

What is the Commerce Clause?