Defining Civic Duty and Participation

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Context of the lesson:

This lesson is the first in a series of three in a unit. It is designed to help students understand that personal habits and attitudes conducive to social harmony lead to a civically virtuous society. Students will create a class definition of civic duty and responsibility.

See how this lesson fits into the context of a full unit, and prior knowledge students should have before doing this lesson.


Students will:

  • Understand and be able to explain what is involved in a citizen's civic responsibility and why participation is important.
  • Create a working definition for civic duty and responsibility.
  • Use, as a resource, a selection on the Roman Republic in order to understand key features in the ancient government, specifically civic duty and citizen responsibility.
  • Create an illustration using graphite drawing pencils, colored pencils and art paper to show what civic duty and participation "looks like" to them. Illustrations will include various tints, shades and intensities.

Standards Addressed: 

Grade 6 History/Social Studies Standards:

6.7.2 Describe the government of the Roman Republic and its significance (e.g., written constitution and tripartite government, checks and balances, civic duty).

Language Art Standards:

2.1 Identify the structural features of popular media (e.g., newspapers,    magazines, online information) and use features to obtain information.

2.3 Discern main ideas and concepts presented in texts, identifying and assessing evidence that supports those ideas.

Visual/Performing Art Standards:

2.1 Use various observational drawing skills to depict a variety of subject matter.

2.3 Create a drawing, using varying tints, shades and intensities.

2.7 Communicate values, opinions or personal insights through an original work of art.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Grades 5th Students   Reading Standards for Informational Text K–5

Key Ideas and Details

1. Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

Essential Questions/Issues:

What does civic duty and responsibility mean to a group of young citizens?


Lesson Plan:

Click here to download activity steps  

Hook: Engage Students

10 minutes

Bring in two loaves of bread one made with yeast, and the other without.

Ask students which loaf they would choose to eat and why.

Discussion on what went wrong. Why do the two loaves of bread look different?

Missing ingredients? (Key) 

Small group discussions of personal stories, where key ingredients may have been missing in order to complete a task or event. (Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but out of jelly. Or, going fishing, but no bait….)
Set: Four Corners

20  minutes

Explain to students that each corner of the room stands for either “Strongly Agree”, “Agree”, “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree” – label if necessary.

Have students stand and wait for a statement and an action word before they choose a corner to represent their position regarding the statement.

• Everyone should have to pick up one bag of litter per day to keep our community looking nice.
• All K – 12 students should have to participate in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or some other after school organization.
• Upon turning 18 years of age, one must serve a minimum of 2 years in the armed forces.

Students will actively participate when given statements and action word.


After choosing their position, volunteers will share a reason behind their choice.


Time for student discussion given.


30 minutes 

Review of Roman Republic through the power point – paying attention to Key Features. (Handout will be given).


Review art elements using power point.

Teach how tints, shades and intensities effect illustrations.

Give the GRASPS to students – set up their mission as freelance illustrators.

Students will briefly look at and discuss the Roman Republic and its key features within the power point – noting the “civic duty” key feature.

Students review art elements – using a scratch piece of paper to practice techniques.

Students practice with scratch paper.

Independently, students will begin to draw, using graphite pencils, colored pencils and drawing paper, what civic duty and participation may look like to them for the purpose of being chosen by ad agency and to help create a working definition.

Share out illustrations, and thoughts with panel. Create a working definition as to what civic duty and participation means.

Students watch video for further impact of civic duty/participation. Clarify definition if needed.


30 minutes

Show video of community involvement and participation created with movie maker of local area.


End lesson with the rhetorical question, “In your life, have you ever been the missing “key ingredient” that hasn’t allowed some event to have a successful outcome?” (Bring back to opening “hook” and story).

Students think about this individually and may share with teacher at the appropriate time if they so desire. (Recess, independent work time, etc...)

Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson: Students are put into flexible grouping scenarios that will address all learning modalities including special need students within our full inclusion program, as well as EL Learners. This is a hands-on learning environment with plenty of opportunities for movement, verbal and non-verbal communication.

Extension Ideas: This lesson is designed to get students thinking beyond the classroom, into the community, but could easily be taken beyond the community and into a bigger audience base within the U.S. by putting PSAs on or other media forms.

Materials and Resources Needed:

Four Corners (Agree, Disagree, Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree) signs. Handouts of the Roman Republic information/lesson. Graphite pencils, colored pencils and drawing paper. Video of community doing “civic duty” activities.


Civic podcasts –

Movie Maker – already loaded on PC. Mac computers have a similar version.

Drawing for the Absolute Beginner: A Clear & Easy Guide to Successful Drawing

Drawing and Sketching Pencil Set in Zippered Carrying Case – available at (very reasonable - $7.70)

Unit Title: Will You All Please Rise?

I. Lesson One: Defining Civic Duty and Participation.
Analogies, inquiries and reading about the Roman Republic to create a foundation in the understanding of society participation in government.

A. Activities designed to help understand students’ backgrounds regarding service and civic responsibility.
     1. Bread analogy to show that key ingredients are essential for a successful project.
     2. Four Corners activity to represent students’ opinions regarding issues of community participation.
     3. Roman Republic information regarding the key features in making the Republic.

B. Draw what civic duty and participation looks like to individual students.

C. Creating a definition of civic duty and responsibility.
     1. Share out ideas and thoughts from activities listed above in order to generate a definition of civic duty and responsibility.

II.  Lesson Two: Where Do We Fit In?
Our role as citizens as it relates to the judicial system.

A.  Guest Speaker.
      1. Person from the community to share stories of youth roles in civic virtue.
 B.  Watch “A Conversation on the Constitution: Judicial Independence”.
      (Start of video to 6:18) Sunnylands Seminars
C.   Draw an interpretation of judicial system and where “we” fit in, after watching video segment.

 III. Lesson Three: Public Service Announcements.
Creating an authentic PSA to share with peers and community members.

A. Examples from various media forms.
     1.  Show PSAs from TV, magazines and Internet.
 B.   PSA on self.
     1.  1. To raise awareness on the purpose of PSAs.
 C.   Authentic assessment guidelines.
     1. Create a PSA showing civic participation and/or education with chosen media. 
     2.  Share your PSA with the class and members of the community.