In my U.S. history class, we started a unit on the beginnings of the Civil War. To introduce the unit, I had students volunteer information about some of the reasons that prompted states to succeed from the Union. Of course, 8th graders know the broad idea is that the Civil War was fought due to slavery. I extended their thoughts to focusing on the rights of states and power of the states vs. the powers of the federal government.
With this focus I was able to show them how we have a state vs. federal government dispute today as in the Antebellum period. I taught them about the several states that have are reaffirming state soveirgnty given to them by the 10th amendment in response to the federal government's economic legislation. This was a great way to get students to connect to the unit I am teaching since there are some similiarities in the initial phase of Civil War.