Explore the various issues of the 3 Branches of Government with a critical lens, everything from the U.S. Constitution’s original text, checks and balances, Congressional and Executive Cabinet leadership, to the humble town hall meeting in this creative, collaborative & primary source-based PBL unit that asks, “Does America truly practice the democracy it loves so dearly?”
Featured Critical Thinking Skills
- Annotate and analyze news media sources including articles, data graphs, tweets, and videos
- Paraphrase and evaluate the Constitution Preamble and Articles 1-3
- Work collaboratively in small groups to understand representative and demographic issues
- Write concise analytical persuasive and informative writing samples utilizing evidence and evaluating sources
2 Culminating, Summative Assessments
- Document-Based Essay,
supported by a wide variety of real world sources, 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,
born from a sit-down conversation your students have with respected adult in their lives about their views on American politics and what democracy means to them
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.
Leave the way-out-of-date government textbook behind and take your students straight to the real world with primary sources, news articles, data graphs, web-based research, and student-created teaching tools.
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, from project samples and step-by-step directions, rubrics and answer keys, bell ringers and exit tickets, handouts and links for online resources, to detailed daily lesson plans. Even better, you'll be able to download annual updated resources year-after-year 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 Overview and 7 pages of detailed daily lesson plans from the unit hook to the final assessment
- Graphic organizer and concept definition sheet for unit-long student note taking
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
- Going to the Source:
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 leadership line-up for each of the 3 Branches
- 115th Congress & America:
research, calculate, and compare demographic statistics of the current Congress and America as a whole, plus a creative peer-teach extension
- Town Hall Project:
explore the ongoing issue of the humble town hall utilizing an online activist tool and class discussion, plus a research and peer-teach extension using recent news articles
3 Summative Assessments
- “How democratic is America’s government?" DBQ essay
with outline, writing sheets, and rubric sheets (CCSS and generic)
- Interview Narrative Project
with step-by-step, overview, sample, edit, and rubric sheets (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 images, student directions, and links
- Answer Keys and Rubrics for activities
- 2 Skill Sheets: Annotating a Text, TASTED News Media Analysis
- BONUS Skill Sheets: Thank You Note for crafting a thoughtful note of appreciation to interviewees
Want to try the mini-unit version of this?
Civics PBL Mini-Unit: 3 Branches of Government, Checks and Balances Unit
Want just the projects?
Writing PBL Project: Interview Narrative Essay
Writing PBL Project: Letter to an Elected Official
Want more American Government / Civics units?
American Government / Civics MEGA Bundle
save big on this and all my other government products
Citizenship Test & Op-Ed Project
semester-long project to make citizens out of your students
Political Service Project
semester-long project to make community members out of your students
Voting & Mock Election Unit
explore all variety of voting issues, including the current election
Constitutional Issues Research Paper Project
highly-scaffolded, college-ready research paper