capitol

Lesson 4: How Does Our Government Work?

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will identify the three branches of the federal government.
  • Students will identify the officials who lead the three branches.
  • Students will describe how the Constitution was written.
  • Students will understand the purpose of the Constitution.

Vocabulary and Definitions:

constitution: the document that sets up a system of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, corporation, etc., is governed.

Founding Fathers: the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787

Think Deeply:

Research the three branches of your local and state government.

Lesson Plan:

All Grades:

  1. Ask the students if they know what the U.S. Constitution is. If they do, have one of them explain what it is. If not, explain what it is briefly.
  2. Show students the image of the Constitutional Convention. Then, pose the question:
    1. What do you notice in this picture? (Answers may vary. Possibilities include: all men, old-fashioned clothes, white wigs, George Washington holding papers, etc.)
  3. Explain that after the Revolutionary War, the new United States didn’t have a strong government. The government during and after the revolution was based on “The Articles of Confederation.” This was a government with powerful state governments but no strong central leader.
  4. Review the importance of leaders in our country with the students.
  5. Explain to the students that there was a group of men called the Founding Fathers who were the leaders of the colonies. These men met to organize a new U.S. government. They wrote down all of the rules and requirements to establish the government, and they called it the Constitution of the United States.
  6. Using the graphic organizer, invite students to read the articles “Government,” “Local Government,” “Three Branches of Government,” “State Government,” and “Structure of Government.”

First and Second Grade:

  1. Give each student a piece of brown construction paper.
  2. Instruct the students to draw a tree with three separate branches.
  3. Give each student a piece of green construction paper. Ask them to cut out three leaves from the paper and label them “executive branch: president,” “legislative branch: Congress (Senate and House of Representatives),” and “judicial branch: Supreme Court.”
  4. Instruct the students to glue the three leaves on the branches of their trees.
  5. Review what each branch is and who is elected or appointed to each branch.

Third Grade:

  1. Show students the image of the three branches of government with photos and boxes.
  2. Using the image, have the students complete the 3 Branches of Government graphic organizer by cutting out the leaves and gluing them in the appropriate boxes.

Weekly Assessment:

First and Second Grade:

Look at the following sentences. Write “Yes” if the sentence is correct, and write “No” if the sentence is incorrect.

  1. There are three branches of government. (Yes)
  2. The rules for the government are outlined in the Constitution. (Yes)
  3. The president is part of the judicial branch. (No)

Third Grade:

List the three branches of government and the leader of each branch.

Related Media:

Three Branches of Government (Tree):

Three Branches of Government (Buildings):

Constitutional Convention:

Graphic Organizer:

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