Making Government Come Alive

I blogged over at iTeach Third how I created a Classroom Congress to really take our learning of the United States Government to the next level. To see the process of one of our most fun activities of this year so far, head over there after this post to see what we did!

But before we got there, we had to really lay sound ground work as most of this learning is brand new to them! So in this post, I'll share what we did to lead up to our own Classroom Congress.

Step 1: What is Government and why do we have it?

We used our trusty text book for this first day. It was not super engaging, but it helped us practice our skill of main idea and detail as we read paragraph by paragraph to learn what government is and why we have it. We learned some basic vocabulary and learned the basics that government creates rules and laws to keep everyone safe. I took the next sections in our text books and compared it to our standards and made up my own resources to cover the necessary concepts, but to make it more engaging and at my students level as the reading level of the text was way above most of my students.

Step 2: What is the Constitution and why do we have it?

We watched this Brain Pop Jr., but just the first minute to learn the basics of the Constitution. I was going to skip this part all together, but it turned out to be essential for our Classroom Congress, so it was important that we didn't skip this part.

After we watched the first minute, we did a little flip flap activity to record our learning.

We finished the rest of the Brain Pop Jr. Video then to prepare for our next focus: The Branches of Government.

Step 3: What are the 3 Branches of Government and what do they do?

We watched the Brain Pop Jr. the previous day and it was time to discuss each branch a bit more in depth. We created a triarama over the next 3 class periods that would help us think about the different branches. You can get the pieces to this project here in my TpT store. I wondered if I should do such a project with students as it would take a while to assemble, but I'm really glad I did as it proved to be beneficial when I was discussing each branch during our Classroom Congress. Here's how I broke it down to make these with students:

Day 1: Assemble the triangles and make the triarama base
Each student needed 5 pieces of paper: 3 blue, 1 color of their choices, and 1 green. The blues were for each branch of the government. The other color was for their check and balance section. The green was cut up to make grass for the branch portions.

I used this awesome picture and video tutorial to teach myself how to create the basic triarama structure.

Day 2: Color, cut, and glue the people and buildings
Students then colored the separate pieces for the triarama. Before they glued them down, they had to sort them and show me.

Day 3: Add facts (clouds)
We talked more in depth about each branch and wrote down facts such as the power of the president to veto, how many senators and reps there were, how many justices are there and how long they serve, etc.

In my example above, I used card stock for everything which I would suggest to use. However, my students used construction paper for theirs and it worked okay. My students did use card stock for the people and buildings in their triaramas.

I also just emptied some glue bottles onto plates and used clothespins and pom poms to make glue dobbers to make it easier for glue control. Overall, these displays were not hard to make at all... yes they take a bit of time, but they were easy for my third grade students to assemble on their own.

After we discussed the roles of each branch, it was time to learn how they work together to make our government run. This is where we learned how bills become laws and we created our own Classroom Congress. Head over to ITeach Third to see that fun process!

If you want these resources to try in your own classroom, check them out in my store by clicking the button below!


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