Lesson Plan: US Government


Objectives: The students will

I. Identify the characteristics of a nation-state;

II. identify a variety of governmental forms;

III. compare how authority is divided in various governments around the world.

Warm Up Activity (Anticipatory Set): Introduction to the Three Levels of Government

  A) Post the following examples of governments on the board or overhead. Have students identify them as national, state, or local government.

1) Hagerstown
2) Maryland
3) Great Britain
4) Washington County
5) The United States
B) Discuss why each of those examples should be labeled as such.

Main Activity (Instructional Input): Vocabulary on Foundations of American Government (from Chapter One, Government In America, Richard Hardy, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994

A) Display, define, and discuss the following terms:

Vocabulary: Principles of Government

    Section 1

       1. Nation-state
       2. Sovereignty
       6.Public policy
       7. Legitimacy
       8. Sovereignty
       9. Divine right
      10. Social Contract

    Section 3

       11. Authoritarian
       12. Democracy
       15. Unitary Government
       16. Federal System
       17. Monarchy
       18. Constitutional Monarchy
       19. Dictatorship
       20. Junta
       21. Totalitarian
       22. Propaganda
       23. Direct Democracy
       24. Republic

    Section 4

       25. Civil Liberties
       26. Civil Rights
       27. Rule of Law
       28. Limited Government
       29. Majority Rule

B) Display pictures of the following items (links lead to on-line photos). Have students use their understanding of the above terms to verbally classify each visual element (more than one may apply). Students should use the terms from the list to describe and label the image. Ask students to justify why they used a specific term to describe the image.

1) Adolph Hitler

2) The Confederate States of America

3) Ellis Island

4) The Communist Party

5) Louis XIV

6) Saddam Hussein

7) Bill Clinton

8) The American Flag

9) The Capitol Building

Examples (Modeling): Use the textbook to reinforce the examples above. Any US Government text will have photographs or illustrations to clarify each of the concepts. Some additional images to illustrate these concepts might include: Tiananmen Square (authoritarianism), the Bombing of Pearl Harbor (Sovereignty), and a map of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Confederation).

Check For Understanding: Have students locate one or more of the concepts in their textbook independently. Students might also be allowed to use the newspaper or magazines such as Time, USA Today, US News and World Report, CNN or National Geographic. Students might also be allowed to search for images that are related to the concepts above on-line using the web sites of those publications..

Homework (Independent Practice): Thinking About Federalism

Have students list five activities the federal government is responsible for. Have them list 3 state responsibilities and three responsibilities of local government. Ask them if there are any responsibilities that any of the levels share.

Wrap-Up Activity (Closure): What Does It All Mean?

A) Display the Pledge of Allegiance on the overhead or in print. Share the History of the Pledge of Allegiance with the students.

B) Have students discuss its meaning in writing or verbally.

C) Have them write their own pledge to America. have them stress how America is different or similar than other nations and their governmental systems.

Evaluation: The lesson will be evaluated by:

I. the accuracy of student's written responses;

II. student's scores on future tests and quizzes.

Image Index:

Adolph Hitler







The Confederate States of America

Ellis Island


Louis XIV

Saddam Hussein


Bill Clinton

American Flag

US Capitol


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