Foundations of Democracy: Lesson Plans & Resources

Teach the Foundations of Democracy

This Share My Lesson collection provides teachers with free lesson plans and resources on the foundational principles of democracies, including rule of law, limited government, and checks and balances. It can be used to build background knowledge to analyze the health of our democracy over time and in today’s environment.

Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

First Amendment: Speech

When does the First Amendment allow the government to limit speech? Many Americans struggle with understanding the language and subsequent interpretation of the Constitution, especially when it comes to the rights encapsulated in the First Amendment. While many Americans can agree that speech should be protected, there are disagreements over when, where, and how speech should be limited or restricted. This lesson encourages students to examine their own assumptions and to deepen their understanding of current accepted interpretation of speech rights under the First Amendment, including when and where speech is protected and/or limited. It should reinforce the robustness of the First Amendment protections of speech.

Grades 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Judicial Independence: Essential, Limited, Controversial

In a constitutional system of government, the role of the judiciary is essential for maintaining the balance of power, protecting individual rights, upholding the rule of law, interpreting the Constitution, and ensuring equal justice for all. In this lesson, students learn about the role of an independent judiciary in the United States.

Checks and Balances

This lesson explore the principle of checks and balances by providing video clips with examples and explanations. As they view these real-world examples, students will complete a graphic organizer and use it to evaluate how effective our system of checks and balances is at limiting government.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Media

Congress and the Creation of the Bill of Rights

Students will explore the protections and limitations on authority contained in the Bill of Rights and the process by which the First Congress created it. They will do this by compiling a list of their rights as students, analyzing the Bill of Rights, and studying primary source documents to trace the origin and development of the first ten amendments. Students will then consider how the Bill of Rights might be updated to reflect 21st century circumstances. (Duration: 30–90-minute segments, up to 5 hours.)

Dangerous Freedoms: Debating the USA PATRIOT Act

You are a U.S. Senator facing an upcoming vote on whether or not to renew provisions of a law that gives the government wide-reaching powers to investigate possible terrorists and terrorism organizations. … Before voting for or against the provisions, you need to decide: To what extent should the government limit individuals’ ability to freely access and share information a decade or more after a catastrophic attack on the nation?

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Students will create visual metaphors to explain the seven principles of the Constitution. Students will practice their speaking skills as they explain their visual analogies to the rest of the class. Students will reflect on the big ideas and make personal connections to the material by recording their learning in a Learning Log during and after the presentations.

Grades 6-12
Federal Government
Lesson Plans

Madison and Human Nature

A major obstacle teaching sophomore AP Government for semester duration is the implementation of outside reading and the comprehension of primary sources. Namely, the incorporation of the Federalist Papers, which are both relevant and necessary, pose a challenge for students not yet exposed to AP United States History or have limited reading comprehension.