K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • compare and contrast the governments of the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Honduras.
  • summarize the similarities and differences of the governments.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

3-5 days


  • maps of North America and Central America
  • globe and/or atlas
  • transparency of the comparison grid
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • computers with internet access
  • LCD projector
  • overhead projector
  • transparency and transparency markers



  1. Discuss with class the location of each of the countries while looking at a map, atlas, or globe. Point out that some of the countries share borders and because of that do influence each other.
  2. Hand out the comparison grid and fill out information on the U.S. as a whole group using an overhead projector. Once students understand how to complete the comparison grid, they may work with a partner in the computer lab or media center to research the information to complete the rest of the comparison grid.
  3. Divide your class into six different groups and assign them two countries each. Using the information on the comparison grid have students make a list of the similarities and differences of the two countries on chart paper. Have them circle the two most important ideas on the list. As an option, you can divide them into twelve smaller groups and have two groups cover the same country — one group completing the similarities and the other group completing the differences.
  4. Post the chart paper throughout the classroom and have the students walk around the room and read the other groups’ lists, looking for similarities and differences.
  5. Have an open discussion about what students noticed or learned by walking around the room and reading the other lists.
  6. Have each student create a flag from the country of his or her choice. Then have them write a short explanation about the background of the flag and what each symbol means, labeling it on the flag.


The students will write a research report comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences of the governments of two countries of their choice. This report will be assessed using a rubric.

Supplemental information

The fifth-grade social studies textbook may be a good resource for this lesson.


  • Choose countries from Central America that your students are from, have family in, or have visited.
  • When completing the comparison grid, ELL students may work with a partner and complete only the first five questions for each country.
  • When the students are walking around the room and reading the lists on chart paper, have them read only the circled items.
  • When the students create the flag, have ELL students illustrate the flag and label it using single-word descriptions. They would not have to write the explanation on the background.
  • Allow ELL students to work with partners, have extended time, or shortened assignments.
  • Ask the ELL teacher to work with the students on language needed to compare and contrast. For example, comparative and superlative.

Alternative assessments

Have ELL students write three simple sentences about how the two countries are alike and three simple sentences about how the two countries are different. Use the research rubric for ESL students. to assess work.

Critical vocabulary

government, capital, alike, different, map, flag, symbol


This lesson plan was developed during the English Language Development Standard Course of Study lesson planning institutes hosted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and LEARN NC, June and July, 2004. It includes specific strategies, instructional modifications, and alternative assessments which make this lesson accessible to limited English proficient students. PThis lesson has been aligned with the goals and objectives of the N.C. English Language Development standards.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.C&G.1 Understand the development of government in modern societies and regions. 7.C&G.1.1 Summarize the ideas that have shaped political thought in various societies and regions (e.g. Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution, democracy, communism...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Development (2005)

  • Objective 0.01: Print legibly with appropriate capitalization (e.g., form letters, space words and sentences).
  • Objective 0.02: Begin to use correct word order, spacing, and punctuation in own writing with assistance.
  • Objective 0.05: Demonstrate comprehension of a story in simple or patterned text through graphic organizers, pictures or responding to simple questions or statements.
  • Objective 0.05: Compose a simple sentence with direct instruction and support materials (e.g., word walls, personal dictionaries, teacher modeling, peer assistance).
  • Social Studies (2003)

    Grade 5

    • Goal 2: The learner will analyze political and social institutions in North America and examine how these institutions respond to human needs, structure society, and influence behavior.
      • Objective 2.04: Compare and contrast the government of the United States with the governments of Canada, Mexico, and selected countries of Central America.