10th Amendment: Lesson for Kids

Lesson Transcript
Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Learn about the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, the final amendment found in the Bill of Rights. Discover when it was included in the constitution and what it says. Explore how the 10th Amendment negotiates federal powers vs. state powers. Updated: 12/27/2021

The 10th Amendment

Do you ever get tired of your parents or your teachers telling you what to do? It can be very frustrating when you don't have a chance to make decisions for yourself. Early Americans wanted to make sure states and the American people didn't feel this way, so they passed the 10th Amendment.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, which is the formal name for the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, which protected individuals' and states' rights. The 10th Amendment reads:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The 10th Amendment says that any power or right not specifically listed in the Constitution as belonging to the federal government belongs to individual states or the American people themselves. The federal government of the United States is made up of people from all over the country. It includes the President, Congress, and Supreme Court. State governments are made up of people from only that state. They include the state's governor, courts, and a law-making body.

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  • 0:04 The 10th Amendment
  • 1:16 Federalism & Reserved Powers
  • 2:24 Purpose of the Bill of Rights
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Federalism & Reserved Powers

The 10th Amendment makes sure that our country keeps working through federalism. Federalism in the United States means the country is governed through two different groups: the federal government and individual state governments. In federalism, the federal government is in charge and is given many powers. It has authority over the individual state governments. However, because of the 10th Amendment, there are some powers that still belong to the states.

The powers and rights protected by the 10th Amendment are called reserved powers, because they aren't specifically assigned to the federal government. For example, the Constitution doesn't give the federal government power over driver's licenses. This is a reserved power for each state. The state governments can each determine who gets a license, at what age, and how they can get one.

On the other hand, the Constitution directly states that only the federal government, specifically Congress, can declare war. This means that the state of Minnesota can't declare war on a neighboring state or country. Sorry Minnesota, but you have to take a deep breath and count to 10!

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Additional Activities

Prompts About the 10th Amendment:

Study Prompt:

Make a set of flashcards that provides the definitions of each of the terms that are in bold from the lesson (Bill of Rights, 10th Amendment, federalism, reserved powers).

Example: Federalism means that the federal government and the state governments work together to govern the nation.

Graphic Organizer Prompt:

Create a chart, poster, or some other type of graphic organizer that depicts the federal government and a state government, being sure to list who or what comprises each. Also make sure that your graphic organizer contains the official language of the 10th Amendment, as well as your own summary of what it means.

Example: A governor is part of a state government.

Essay Prompt 1:

Write an essay of one paragraph that describes how the concepts of federalism and reserved powers work together. What kinds of reserved powers do states have? What is an example of something that the federal government can do but states cannot?

Tip: Refer to the lesson for examples about state government powers and federal government powers. Or, try to think of some examples on your own. If you are not sure about whether a state has a certain power that the federal government does not have, ask your teacher or a parent.

Essay Prompt 2:

In one paragraph, write an essay that explains why the Founding Fathers decided that the 10th Amendment was necessary.

Example: Before the American Revolution, each colony had its own way of doing things. When they became states, they still wanted to preserve some of their powers.

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