The "Federal" in Federalism


Students learn where the federal government gets its power and that government power in the United States is split between states and the federal government. They learn about express and implied powers, distinguish between federal powers and those reserved to the states (as well as shared powers), and contrast the federalist system of government with other choices the Founders might have made.

We suggest teaching our lesson "State Power: Got a Reservation? right after this lesson.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Define federalism and explain the division of power between states and the federal government.
  • Identify expressed, implied, reserved, and concurrent powers.
  • Explain the significance of the Supremacy Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.
  • Describe the ongoing tension between federal and state power.
  • Compare and contrast federal, confederal, and unitary forms of government.
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of federalism.

Teacher Files