Teacher's Side


Grade Level(s):  Grade 8

Age Level(s):  Ages 12-14

Subject Area:  United States History


 Unit & Lesson Goals:

1.)  To address the Voices Rising Year One Theme:  Underrepresented Groups and the Founding of Americain a lesson that considers the plight of the Jewish community of Newport Rhode Island in the early days of the American Republic.

2.)  To address the Overarching Focus:  How and why do people seek empowerment?  through a consideration of an exchange of letters between the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island and President George Washington, in which the underrepresented voices of Jewish Americans appeal for and are extended empowerment and equal protection and rights under the new Constitution of the United States.

3.)  To challenge students to address the Essential Question:  How does the protection of vital interests either unite or further split disparate groups? through an examination of an exchange of letters between the Jewish Congregation of Newport Rhode Island and President George Washington.

4.)  To introduce students to primary source documents and to document based questions.

5.)  To assist students in developing competency in the skills required to analyze primary source documents.

6.)  To assist students in developing competency in answering document based questions (DBQ's).

Curriculum Standards:

Medford District Standards Addressed:

1.  To promote success for all students

2.  To ensure that high standards are established and maintained

3.  To understand the nature of our increasingly diverse student population   and to construct teaching and learning strategies that meet the needs of all learners regardless of a student's special circumstances

5.  To promote teaching and learning that is standards based and reflective of the skills and content contained in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and district curriculum

6.  To help students attain maximum levels of performance on the MCAS exam

7.  To contribute to the ongoing development and refinement of classroom and district curriculum

8.  To utilize pedagogy that research shows improves effective student learning

9.  To develop and utilize forms of assessment that align with MCAS, and promote authentic assessments

10.  To use technology as a teaching tool to enhance student learning

MA History and Social Studies Curriculum Framework Learning Standards Addressed:

The Formation and Framework of American Democracy, pg. 67

USI.11  Describe the purpose and functions of government. (H,C)

USI.13  Explain why the United States government is classified as a democratic government. (H,C)

USI.14  Explain the characteristics of American democracy, including the concepts of popular sovereignty and constitutional goverrnment, which includes representative institutions, federalism, separation of powers, shared powers, checks and balances, and individual rights. (H,C)

USI.19   Explain the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship and describe how a democracy provides opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process through elections, political parties, and interest groups. (H,C)

The Political and Intellectual Origins of the American Nation:  The Revolution and the Constitution, 1763-1789,  pg. 65

USI.1  Explain the political and economic factors that contributed to the American Revolution. (H,C)

B.  How freedom from European feudalism and aristocracy and the widespread ownership of property fostered individualism and contributed to the Revolution. (H,C)

USI.2  Explain the historical and intellectual influences on the American Revolution and the formation and framework of the American government. (H,C)

A.  The legacy of ancient Greece and Rome.

B.   The political theories of such European philosophers as Locke and Montesquieu.

USI.3  Explain the influence and ideas of the Declaration of Independence and the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. (H,C)

USI.9  Explain the reasons for the passage of the Bill of Rights.  (H,C)

A.  The influence of the British concept of limited government.

B.   The particular ways in which the Bill of Rights protects basic freedoms, restricts government power, and ensures rights to persons accused of crimes.

Political Democratization, Westward Expansion, and Diplomatic Developments, 1790-1860,  p. 68

USI.22  Summarize the major policies and political developments that took place during the presidency of George Washington (1789-1797).  (H,C)



Primary Sources:

1.)  "Address to the President From the Hebrew Congregation in Newport," signed by Moses Seixas, Warden of the Touro Synagogue, Newport Rhode Island, 17 August 1790.

2.)  "To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island,"  George Washington's response to Moses Seixas and the Jewish congregation of Newport, 18 August 1790.

Website & Timeline:

1.)  Touro Synagogue website and its interactive historical timeline of the history of the Touro Synagogue and the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island.


1.)  Scaffolding questions for document #1.

2.)  Scaffolding questions for document #2.



Student Foundational Skills:

1.  Students will complete this lesson as part of their study of the American Revolution and the creation of the new government under the Constitution of the United States.

2.  Students should be familiar with the term primary source document.

3.  Students should be familiar with Article 6 of the Constitution and with the First Amendment of the Constitution.

4.  Students should have competency in navigating websites, using computers and the internet.