Debate Over States' Rights Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

This lesson plan explores the debates between the West, North, and South over states' rights. Students will watch a lesson video, step into the conflict in a debate, and take a quiz to show understanding.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the reason for conflict between the West, North, and South
  • define 'nullification' and its role in the debate over states' rights
  • identify key people and their stance in the states' rights debate
  • explain how the conflict of states' rights was resolved


1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.1

Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.


Key Vocabulary

  • States' rights
  • Nullification

Warm-Up and Preparation

  • Ask students to think of some rights they have as a student, such as the right to be safe or the right to have recess. Define the term 'right' if necessary.
  • Now ask students to think of what rights they have as a whole class. Are these the same as individual rights? Do class rights trump individual rights? How do these two ideas balance?
  • After leading a brief discussion on this topic, explain to students that they will be learning how early Americans tried to balance these same ideas.

Direct Instruction

  • Start the lesson video Regional Conflict in America: Debate Over States' Rights and pause at 1:35.
  • Ask:
    • What were the central issues creating tension in the United States at this time?
    • How were the wants of the North, South and West different? Why?
    • Why didn't President Jackson want to get involved in this conflict?
  • Resume the video lesson and pause at 3:11.
  • Formally define 'states' rights' and 'nullification' and discuss how these two terms created conflict between Jackson and Calhoun and the country.
  • Ask students to decide how they stand on the topic and give them a few minutes to jot down ideas in their notebooks to support their opinion.

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