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


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • identify the three branches of government and explain how they function.
  • compare similarities and differences between local, state, and federal government.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

3-5 days


  • index cards, markers
  • chart paper
  • overhead projector
  • transparencies, markers for transparencies
  • photocopies and a transparency of the flowchart
  • How the Government Works by Syl Sobel
  • books on local, state, and national governments.
  • computer lab with internet connections
  • LCD projector
  • TV and DVD player (optional)


  • Review and build on background knowledge of the branches of government. Review and discuss name of local (city), state, and national government.
  • Reserve the computer lab for class research.


  1. Read the book, How the Government Works by Syl Sobel. As a whole class, complete the first level of the flowchart on an overhead projector to review the branches of government.
  2. Go to the computer lab to research the functions of the different branches of the government using Ben’s Guide to the US Government for Kids or any of the other websites listed below. The students may take notes and complete the flow chart.
  3. Have students watch a video on the three branches of government. One video you may choose is “America Rock” from the School House Rock company.
  4. As a whole group, on chart paper or on an overhead projector, create a Venn diagram with three circles to compare the similarities and differences between the local, state, and national governments.
  5. Have students create and play a concentration game to review names and functions of each branch and official titles at each level. (Ex: One card would say “Legislative Branch” and the matching card would be “The branch that makes the laws.” Or one card would say “mayor” and the matching card would say “leader of the local government.”)


The students will take a quiz based on the information on the concentration cards.

Supplemental information


Alternative assessments

  • Have students create their own personal picture dictionary using the vocabulary words.
  • Have ESL students will work with partners to complete the flowchart.
  • When students take the quiz, let them use the concentration cards that they have practiced with.

Critical vocabulary

legislative, executive, judicial, local, state, national, mayor, governor, president


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. This 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 4

        • 4.C&G.1 Understand the development, structure and function of North Carolina's government. 4.C&G.1.1 Summarize the key principles and revisions of the North Carolina Constitution. 4.C&G.1.2 Compare the roles and responsibilities of state elected...
      • Grade 5

        • 5.C&G.1 Understand the development, structure and function of government in the United States. 5.C&G.1.1 Explain how ideas of various governments influenced the development of the United States government (Roman, Greek, Iroquois, European and British)....

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Development (2005)

  • Objective 0.02: Understand and follow one-step and two-step directions and instructions with modeling and prompting when spoken slowly and distinctly.
  • Objective 0.05: Demonstrate comprehension of a story in simple or patterned text through graphic organizers, pictures or responding to simple questions or statements.
  • 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 2.02: Describe the similarities and differences among the local, state, and national levels of government in the United States and explain their legislative, executive, and judicial functions.