Why Government? (Lesson Plan)

Students take a look at two political thinkers that spent a lot of time trying to answer the question, “Why Government?” – Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. This lesson combines our Influence Library entries on these men and adds activities that ask students to compare and contrast Hobbes and Locke and to think about how these philosophers influenced those that followed in their footsteps. This lesson is one in a series entitled “Foundations of Government.”

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Slavery: No Freedom, No Rights (Lesson Plan)

Examine the history of slavery in the United States. Trace the development and expansion of slavery in the 19th century and learn about the conflicts and compromises that occurred prior to the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.

From the basics about slavery to the attitudes that defended it and the efforts of those who wanted to see it abolished, in this lesson students learn about this dark part of America’s past.

** Please note: The section about the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850 has been moved to a new mini-lesson called Slave States, Free States that explores the debate about the expansion of slavery. We recommend teaching this mini-lesson along with the Slavery lesson. Find it in our Geography Library.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Congress in a Flash! (Lesson Plan)

Need to teach the legislative branch in a hurry? This lesson is designed to cover the basics in a single class period. Students learn what Congress is, what the Constitution says about the legislative branch, and how a bill becomes law. They analyze some actual language from the Constitution, compare the House and the Senate, and simulate the lawmaking process by reconciling two versions of the same fictional bill. This lesson is one in a series entitled “The Legislative Branch.”

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Citizen Me (Lesson Plan)

Students learn that they are citizens at many levels of society: home, school, city, state, and nation! Students create a graphic organizer that diagrams rights and responsibilities at these different levels of citizenship. They also learn the sources of their rights and responsibilities at each level. This lesson stands alone or may be used to reinforce the iCivics game Responsibility Launcher. We also recommend following with the iCivics lesson, “The Global You.”

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Lesson Plan for Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood by Richard Rodriguez

This lesson is designed to be used in a unit on immigrant experiences or integration of peoples, but it can easily be adapted for general discussions on characterization and character changes in a story. The son of Mexican immigrants, Richard Rodriguez grew up in a mixed-race neighborhood in California. In this opening chapter of his autobiography, Hunger of Memory, Rodriguez describes the tensions of navigating the Spanish-speaking world of his home and the English-speaking world of school.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Flag Day Lesson Plan: A Lesson on Texas v. Johnson (1989)

Students will be able to: understand the meaning of one central idea of the First Amendment (symbolic speech); cite textual evidence to analyze a primary source (Supreme Court opinion and dissent); become familiar with reading and comprehending a Supreme Court opinion and dissent; evaluate two Supreme Court Justices’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue; and assess different arguments about the meaning and importance of the American flag as a national symbol.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 11, 12

Redistricting & Gerrymandering Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students will learn how state legislatures and governors can manipulate the redistricting process to gain an advantage for their party in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. Students will learn what constitutes gerrymandering and the typical types of gerrymandering used. Students will role play state legislators and collaborate to draw both gerrymandered and not gerrymandered districts. Students will consider the foundational redistricting case Baker v. Carr (1962) and classify arguments made in the case. In addition, students will evaluate the proper role of the Supreme Court in state redistricting cases. 

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades:

Voting Rights (Lesson Plan)

Explore the evolution of voting rights in the United States through an interactive PowerPoint presentation highlighting landmark changes. Following the presentation and class discussion, students apply the new knowledge of voting legislation to individual scenarios through a class activity. This lesson is one in a series called “Civil Rights.”

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

The Fourth Branch: YOU! (Lesson Plan)

Students learn how citizens can influence the government. They measure the impact of their “citizen power” on each of the three branches and learn how to target the right government official with their concerns. (Note: This lesson will be most effective if students have some background knowledge of the three branches of government.)

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Colonial Influences (Lesson Plan and Powerpoint)

American colonists had some strong ideas about what they wanted in a government. These ideas surface in colonial documents, and eventually became a part of the founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. But where did they come from? This lesson looks at the Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, English Bill of Rights, Cato’s Letters and Common Sense.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8