The Responsibilities of Local Government

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Lesson At A Glance

This is the last lesson in the unit designed to teach the significance of the U.S. Constitution and the shared powers of government and the United States Constitution.  Focus on this lesson is on the differences among federal, state, and local governments.


  • Students distinguish the responsibility of local government and state and federal government. 
  • Students will create a constitutionally accurate document for a local government issue and present it to their peers.


Standards Addressed: 

Fourth Grade History/Social Science:

4.5.3 Describe the similarities differences (e.g., scope of jurisdiction, limits on government powers, use of the military) among federal, state and local governments.

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

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.

Essential Questions/Issues: 

  • What is the importance of local and state government?
  • What constitutes a fair rule?

Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

 Purpose   Teacher   Learner
Into (Hook) Ask students to talk to their partner about the job of the principal and the job of the teacher. How is each one different? 
Responses will vary.
Through Ask students to talk to their partner about the job of the principal and the job of the teacher.  How is each one different? 


Explain that the mayor and principal are similar to the classroom teacher and school principal.  Explain that the mayor, state governor, and the President all serve you. But they each serve at different levels of government.  Explain that the 10th amendment of the Constitution says that any powers not given to the federal government in the Constitution are left to the states or the people.

Show students the “Who Has Jurisdiction?” worksheet and foldable.

Responses will vary.

Listen to the teacher explain the jurisdiction of each part of government.

Students create a three column foldable and head it with “Local, State, Federal.”

In partners, students will cut out each service and place them in the correct column.


Explain to students that each box contains a “service” that our government provides for us.  In predetermined partners, students must determine if the service is provided by local, state, or federal government.  Provide time to conduct this activity.


Bring students back in to discuss local governments provide services to cities, towns, and communities, including local parks.

Explain that the city council passes local laws.  They cannot pass laws that go against state or federal laws.

Explain project:  In partners, students will create a constitution that includes rules AND rights for Laurel Wood neighborhood park.

Key Points:
-This document has to be constitutional and not interfere with the right of the Bill of Rights.
-You will present this document in a city council meeting that will have council members, the mayor, and other community members.
-You will have to explain and defend your constitution to members.  They may ask questions
-City Council Members will vote on fairness and if it best represents the community. 

Students discuss with partners important local services (police, fire, keeping city records).


Students will create the document in partners.


Students will present and read their “Park Constitution” to the panel of students. Other students each take a turn acting as either mayor/city council member.

Council members are encouraged to ask questions. 


Ask students to explain if the presenting student’s constitution was fair.

Journal Response question:  Were there some rules that some people thought were constitutional and others did not?  What were they?  Do you think they are or not?

Group/class discussion question:  Why do you think it is important that community members are creating this document and not the mayor?

Students write 2-3 sentences per presenter explaining whether the law was fair or not.

Students will respond to the question in a well-written paragraph justifying their response.

Responses may vary.

Special needs of students are considered in this lesson:

Have students team with pre-assigned partners so as to help struggling learners, and, partner EL students with native speakers.  Students must come up with 5 well written constitutional rules/rights.

Extension Ideas:

Have students write letters to their council members about local issues.  

Materials and Resources Needed: 

  • Pencils, lined writing paper (1 sheet per student). 
  • Supporting documents:  Bill of Rights comic strip (from previous lesson), “Who Has Jurisdiction?”  Worksheet and Chart Paper.
  • White, William E. History-social Science for California: Our California. Glenview, IL: Pearson Scott Foresman, 2006. Print.
  • "City Council - City Government - City of Salinas, California."  Welcome to the City of Salinas, California. Web. 24 Sept. 2011. <>.

Outline of Unit Plan:

The Importance of the United States Constitution and the Shared Powers of the Federal, State, and Local Governments.