Introduction to Democracy

Teacher Guide by Matt Campbell

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our US History Category.

Introduction to Democracy Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Democracy Include:

Throughout the history of mankind, few inventions have shaped and impacted the world as the concept of a democracy. What does democracy mean? The word itself dates to its Greek roots of "popular government", from demos, "common people", and kratos, "rule". These activities will allow students to reflect on the significance of a democracy and appreciate the role that they can play in it for the rest of their lives.

Democracy Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Democracy in the Classroom

For this activity, students will take part in a classroom democracy that allows each student an opportunity to voice their opinions on the world that they live in. This activity can serve as an introduction to the unit as it allows them to participate in a democratic process without necessarily using the complex topics and vocabulary that will be introduced further on. By starting the unit with this activity, teachers will be able to create a foundation of understanding that they can refer back to throughout the unit. Students in this activity will be required to create a spider map that includes four issues, topics, or problems in our society and their proposed ideas or solutions to the issue, topic, or problem.

This activity will allow students to simulate being an active citizen in a democracy. With the guidance of their teacher, students will choose four issues, topics, or problems in our society today and visualize their perspective. Below are a list of topics or questions that teachers can either allow students to choose from or specifically assign certain questions to the class, groups, or individual students. Teachers could also allow students to choose their own topic or idea that they wish to change in the classroom, school, town, city, state, or even country!

Example Guiding Questions For Activity


  • How should the desks be arranged in the classroom?
  • What should the homework policy look like?
  • What should testing procedures be?


  • What classes would you like to add to the schedule?
  • What should the cell phone policy look like?
  • What classes should we have to take?


  • What should the driving age of the state be?
  • Who should be able to own a gun in the state?
  • Should our state allow...(gambling, fireworks, marijuana...)?


  • Should the death penalty be legal?
  • What should the voting age be?
  • How should the government spend the taxes of the citizens?

Extension Activity:

Following this activity, students will be able to share their spider maps with the rest of their class. Teachers can formulate an activity that creates stations around their room where students can interact with the creators of each spider map and cast a vote or opinion on each issue. This activity will allow students to not only take part in a democratic process, but also be able to voice their opinions with their peers. Teachers can facilitate this activity by tallying the votes for each station and closing the activity with a summary of how the class voted. For a more advanced course, students can take this voting process to the next level by analyzing the demographics of each voter and describe the voting trends of each demographic.

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The Evolution of Democracy

In this activity, students will represent their understanding of how democracy has evolved throughout history. Students will research major events and documents that have influenced and shaped the institution of democratic thought. Students will create a timeline of events from the list provided below or choose from a class list provided by the teacher. Students should include a description of the event along with the significance the event has had on individual democracies or democratic beliefs. Students should choose five of the events listed below for their timeline.

  • The US Bill of Rights
  • Magna Carta
  • Women's Suffrage Movement
  • Civil Rights Act
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • United States Constitution
  • The American Revolution
  • The French Revolution
  • The Fall of The Berlin Wall
  • The English Bill of Rights
  • The Declaration of The Rights of Man
  • Athenian Democracy
  • Works of Aristotle
  • The Glorious Revolution
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • The Emancipation Proclamation
  • The Federalist Papers
  • The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

Extension Activity:

For this extension activity, students will create a spider map that represents events that have been detrimental to the spread of global democracy. Although democratic principles are seen by many as a universal right, there have been numerous instances where governments have acted in ways that have eroded or partially weakened the rights and liberties of citizens in a democracy.

Students can focus on specific events that seemingly eroded democratic liberties (e.g. McCarthyism, censorship, removal of habeas corpus) throughout history. For each event, students should create a title for the event, create a visual representation of the event, and a description that summarizes what the event or action was and what aspect of democracy was weakened or perhaps destroyed.

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Vocabulary of Democracy

In this activity, students will research, define, the terms that help us define and understand what makes a democracy function. Students will choose terms from the words provided below in order to complete their a spider map. For this activity, students are required to define the terms and provide a visual representation of the vocabulary terms that they chose. In order to facilitate conversations in class, it is essential for students to use a common language.

Democracy Vocabulary Examples

  • Constitution
  • Democracy
  • Republic
  • Amend
  • Checks and Balances
  • Natural Rights
  • Popular Sovereignty
  • Representation
  • Due Process
  • Independence
  • Election
  • Legislature
  • President
  • Congress
  • Citizen
  • Rights
  • Natural Rights
  • Precedent
  • Equality

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I Can Make A Difference!

In this activity, students will display what they have learned from their democracy unit and represent how they can impact and have a voice in their society. Following the class overview of the democratic vocabulary, students will visualize how citizens in their community can change and improve the government and society that they live in. Depending on the town, city, state, or country they live in students will have to do some research on their rights in relation to their area. Students will be able to apply their research to a spider map that represents specific examples of how they can be an active participant in their own government. Teachers can use the list provided to guide their students to choose an example for their representation. Students should choose four examples of how they can become involved in a democracy.

10 Possible Examples of How Citizens Can Make a Difference

  1. Voting
  2. Contacting their local representative
  3. Attending school, town, or city council meetings
  4. Staying informed of the news
  5. Running for office
  6. Promoting social issues
  7. Serving on a jury
  8. Signing a petition
  9. Discussing and debating issues with peers
  10. Respecting the differences and cultures in our community

Extension Activity:

For this extension activity, students will participate in a classroom activity similar to the "I Can Make a Difference" activity shown above. Instead of having students research possible ways that they can make a difference, students will be working in groups to create an actual plan of ways that they will improve their own community. Students can help tutor students, participate in a local community group such as a soup kitchen, or volunteer with classmates to help clean their local environment. For every action students participate in, they should describe their action and create a visualization of the activity they chose. This activity can be a great use of the storyboard feature of uploading pictures to their storyboards. Students should take pictures of themselves in action and upload the pictures to their spider map storyboard to display to their class. Teachers or advisory groups should share their storyboards with other classes in order to "Pay it Forward" and see what ripple effect this could have on their community.

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Democratic thought and implementation into our modern world has resulted in a process of debate, collaboration, compromise, but most of all, freedom. Democracies allow each citizen to voice their viewpoints and opinions to society, a freedom that does come with some consequences. In a democracy, debates and political disagreements can lead to conflict and without the proper safeguards in place, societies can implode from within.

Essential Questions for Democracy

  1. What is the role of government in a democracy?
  2. What are the basic principles of a democratic government?
  3. What is the role of a citizen in a democratic government?
  4. How can I improve the community that I live in?

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•   (English) Introduction to Democratic Principles   •   (Español) Introducción a los Principios Democráticos   •   (Français) Introduction aux Principes Démocratiques   •   (Deutsch) Einführung in die Demokratischen Grundsätze   •   (Italiana) Introduzione ai Principi Democratici   •   (Nederlands) Inleiding tot de Democratische Beginselen   •   (Português) Introdução aos Princípios Democráticos   •   (עברית) מבוא עקרונות דמוקרטיים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مقدمة لمبادئ الديمقراطية   •   (हिन्दी) लोकतांत्रिक सिद्धांतों का परिचय   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Введение в Демократические Принципы   •   (Dansk) Introduktion til Demokratiske Principper   •   (Svenska) Introduktion Till Demokratiska Principer   •   (Suomi) Johdatus Demokratian Periaatteiden   •   (Norsk) Introduksjon til Demokratiske Prinsipper   •   (Türkçe) Demokratik İlkelere Giriş   •   (Polski) Wprowadzenie do Zasad Demokratycznych   •   (Româna) Introducere la Principiile Democratice   •   (Ceština) Úvod do Demokratických Principů   •   (Slovenský) Úvod do Demokratických Princípov   •   (Magyar) Bevezetés a Demokratikus Elvek   •   (Hrvatski) Uvod u Demokratska Načela   •   (български) Въведение в Демократичните Принципи   •   (Lietuvos) Įvadas į Demokratinių Principų   •   (Slovenščina) Uvod v Demokratičnih Načel   •   (Latvijas) Ievads Demokrātijas Principiem   •   (eesti) Sissejuhatus Demokraatlike Põhimõtete