Our Government Today…What A System!

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Lesson At A Glance

This lesson (which will take place over several class periods) is the first in a series of three in the unit.  It is designed to give students an in-depth view and understanding of the principles of which our Constitution is based and the current structure of three branches of government.


  • Students will gain an understanding of our democratic government system.
  • Students will research the roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government.
  • Students will teach others about one of the principles of government through technology.

Standards Addressed: 

History Social Science

5.7   Students describe the people and events associated with the development of the U.S. constitution and analyze the Constitution’s significance as the foundation of the American Republic.

5.7.3.  Understand the fundamental principles of American constitutional democracy including how the government derives its power from people and the primacy of individual liberty.
5.7.4  Understand how the Constitution is designed to secure our liberty by both empowering and limiting central government and compare the powers granted to citizens, Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court with those reserved to the states.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

Reading Standards for Informational Text K–5


Key Ideas and Details

1.  Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Craft and Structure

1. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.

Big Ideas: 

• The strength of a democracy is equal to the strength of its citizens.

• E Pluribus Unum: Out of many, one. (From a variety of sources and experiences, we have developed a successful government and legal system)

Essential Questions/Issues

• Does social capital strengthen a republic?


Students will be evaluated through a rubric/scoring guide on the PowerPoint presentation. Formal Assessment:  Student understanding is assessed based on levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy on individual notes, via a scoring rubric. Formal Assessment: Writing – Students will respond to questions posed. Responses will be evaluated using a scoring rubric.

Click here to download assessment tools

Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

 Purpose   Teacher   Learner
 Into (hook) Display pictures of the White House, Capitol Building, President Obama, George Washington, Poster of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Follow up with photos of people demonstrating outside government buildings… select from different countries that relate to current events.

Explain that the citizens from the Baffin Islands, in Northern Canada, have decided to succeed from Canada.  The Canadian government has taken away their rights and is dictating how the citizens must live their lives.  They need your help to understand the components of a democratic government.

 Observe and Discuss
*Who are these people? What are these documents? Are these people of any importance?

*Discuss at table groups … then list on board  each groups ideas as a whole class

Discuss whole class what do they think the people are doing? Why are they demonstrating? Why DO people demonstrate? What are the benefits or repercussions from demonstrating?

Record responses on the board.


Discuss options available for research to begin collecting information on the different principles and PowerPoint project.

Identify as a whole class possible, meaningful strategies using the internet to research information.

Have students gather information necessary for their presentation.

Students sketch out how they will create each slide.

Students prepare PowerPoint and show to class.

Class takes notes on each presentation.

Have Students study notes and write a response to two of the prompts listed under Assessment 3.

Students choose teams/partners and specific principals of democracy and components of the Constitution to research and begin research process

Students review their progress with teacher before beginning PowerPoint process.

Each student has note outline.

Students will respond to 2 of the 3 questions in assessment 3 to measure their understanding.


Instruct students to select 4 key slides that sum up the principle component they were assigned in each presentation.

Taking key ideas from each topic, group creates one accumulative PowerPoint presentation to give to the residents of the Baffin Islands. 

Teams prioritize the key information on each slide and select 4 slides which best translates main idea/concept

Each team narrate their particular slides within the presentation to the Baffin Islanders.

Special needs of students are considered in this lesson: 

Partnering of students is recommended taking into account any special needs regarding use of technology, research skills, reading and writing abilities as well as physical adaptations.  Provide assistance from Learning Resource aides.

Extension Ideas:

This lesson is designed to be a precursor for Lessons 2 and 3.

Visual and Performing Arts:
     1.  Create posters that demonstrates the meaning of each of the Bill of Rights and components of a democracy through the eyes of the students.
     2.  VAPA Standard 5.4:  Create a dance that expresses the students’ interpretation of the different components that represent the Bill of Rights. 

Digital Media:

     1.  Students create a Public Service Announcement depicting how people’s lives are better with the Bill of Rights.
     2.  Create a digital Poster.



California State Standards:

Basis Principals of Democracy:  www.stanford.edu/~ldiamond/iraq/DemocracyEducation0204.htm

Bill of Rights: www.historyforkids.org/learn/northamerica/after1500/government/billofrights.htm

Bill of Rights: www.ratical.org/co-globalize/BillOfRights.html

Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Reflections, United States History: Making a New Nation, Harcourt School Publishers, 2007


This lesson is a part of the From the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution Unit.