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Explore the various issues of the 3 Branches of Government with a critical lens, everything from the U.S. Constitution’s original text and checks and balances, to Congressional and Executive Cabinet leadership and the humble town hall meeting in this creative, collaborative and primary source-based PBL unit that asks, “Does America truly practice the democracy it loves so dearly?”
By the end of this unit, your students will be able to:
- Annotate and analyze news media sources including articles, data graphs, tweets, and videos
- Paraphrase and evaluate the Constitution Preamble and Articles 1-3
- Utilize publishing tools to peer-teach complex topics
- Work collaboratively to understand representative and demographic issues
- Write concise analytical persuasive and informative writing samples utilizing evidence and evaluating sources
Culminate learning with:
- Document-Based Essay, by supporting your students with a wide variety of real-world sources, review activity, outline template, sentence stems, and rubrics, that requires them to encapsulate their understanding of the entire unit by arguing their answer to the not-so-simple question, “How democratic is America’s government?”
- Interview Narrative Essay, by initiating a sit-down conversation your students have with a respected adult in their lives about their views on American politics and what democracy means to them, also fully supported with guides, handouts, and rubrics.
- Letter to An Elected Official, by transforming your students' targeted research and developed passion regarding a chosen topic into a platform for being heard, which can be done in place of the interview, in addition, or saved for use later!
Check out the Preview for a detailed look at this compelling unit or download the FREE Unit-At-A-Glance.
Or, try out this FREE Democracy Intro Lesson that works as a great unit hook activity for this unit!
Note: there are two mini unit version of this unit if you are short on time!
Greatness is honoring and desiring to be a contributing member of one’s representative democracy.
Only about 25% of Millennials can name one (just one!) Senator in his or her home state, it lowers to 18% for those under 24 and even less for those of color. You don’t want to know the number for naming one's Representative.
It’s only slightly better for older adults: 33% of all Americans cannot name a single branch of government and another 33% can name only one or two.
Don’t let your students be on the wrong side of either of these abysmal statistics that stain our remarkable system of representative democracy, by making your teaching stick beyond the unit test with these visceral and relevant activities and project.
This year, let's leave the way-out-of-date government textbook behind and take students straight to the real world with primary sources, news articles, data graphs, web-based research, and student-created teaching tools to make their learning memorable.
The beauty of a thematic unit like this is your freedom to mix-and-match, add-and-subtract: each activity is self-contained with multiple compliment parts, allowing for complete customization to meet local standards, time restraints, and interests.
Everything you need for this unit is included: project samples and step-by-step directions, rubrics and answer keys, bell ringers and exit tickets, handouts and links to online resources, and detailed daily lesson plans. Even better, you'll always be able to download annually updated resources for free!
This unit can be done well in anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks, based on the combination of activities you select!
Included in this complete unit:
- Unit At-A-Glance sheet and 7 pages of detailed daily lesson plans from the unit hook to the final assessment for you
- Graphic organizer and concept definition sheet for unit-long note taking for your students
6 Main Activities 1- to 3-class period long lessons, depending on customizations
- Unit Hook: examine the most effective ways to speak up to your representatives from political insiders
- The Constitution: analyze the basic structure, powers, and requirements of the 3 Branches of Government by examining the Constitution Preamble and Articles 1-3 in an annotating, interactive gallery walk
- Checks and Balances: create a learning display and peer-teach the ingenious system using a Rock-Paper-Scissor analogy and a little creativity, plus research and discuss current issues with the system
- Your Federal Officials: research and peer-teach the current Congressional, Cabinet, and Supreme Court leadership office holders
- 115th Congress & America: research, calculate, and compare demographic statistics of the current Congress and America as a whole, with the option of an extension creative peer-teach activity
- Town Hall Project: utilize an online activist tool and class discussion on Congress's obligation to host this cornerstone of democracy, plus a research and peer-teach extension using recent news articles
3 Summative Assessments
- “How democratic is America’s government?" DBQ essay with review activity, detailed outline form, writing sheets, and rubric sheets (CCSS and generic)
- Interview Narrative Project with step-by-step, overview, sample, edit, and rubric sheets for both conducting an interview and creating a meaninful follow-up thank you card (CCSS and generic)
- Letter to an Elected Official optional, additional project also with step-by-step, overview, sample, edit, and rubric sheets (CCSS and generic)
- Supplemental editable PowerPoint file with 34 slides of images, student directions, and links
- Answer Keys and Rubrics for activities
- 5 Skill Sheet Handouts: Annotating a Text, Analyzing News Media Sources, Finding Appropriate Sources, Creating a Works Cited, Annotating a Citation
Note to Homeschoolers
Though the included teacher lesson plans and PPT slides are written to fully support a traditional classroom teacher, this resource is also a great fit for your teenage homeschooler:
- the inquiry, thematic structure of this unit is driven more by critical thinking, reading, and writing skills and a central high-interest question than any one set of state-specific, grade-specific content standards
- a wide age and ability range can easily access the rich variety of sources utilized in this unit, making it perfect for a multi-grade group
- your student’s voice is central to each activity, through talking out their learning, maximizing the one-on-one
- activities can be completed independently and aren’t solely reliant on group or whole-class work
- all utilized sources are free and easily obtainable; either included or accessible online (links provided)
- this unit is independent of a textbook, though one could be used for greater background knowledge
- any activity can easily be left out to customize for your student’s skill level or personal interest
Want to try the mini-unit version of this?
Want just the projects?
Want more American Government / Civics resources?
Judicial Branch & Bill of Rights Unit determine exactly how our rights translates into daily American life
Voting & Mock Election Unit explore a variety of voting issues; universal for any upcoming election
Citizenship Test & Op-Ed Project make citizens out of your students with this semester-long project
Political Service Project make community members out of your students with this semester-long project
Constitutional Issues Research Paper Project end with a highly-scaffolded, college-ready research paper
Want the whole semester AND save big?
American Government / Civics MEGA Bundle get the whole course at once!