Introduction to Government

Teacher Guide by Matt Campbell

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Types of Government Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Intro to Government - Social Studies Include:

Governments have taken many forms throughout history. The type of government, along with the people running the government, has had an enormous impact on the way countries and culture develop. There are many types of government around the world even now. It is important for students to understand the differences between governments and how they function. Students will really enjoy these social studies lesson plans.

Intro to Government - Social Studies Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

What is Government

For this activity, students will create a spider map that represents and defines numerous forms of government. Students should represent how power is distributed either symbolically, (e.g. Direct Democracy represented as a pizza where each citizen receives an equal sized slice) or through the representation of governmental figures.

Example Forms of Government

Direct Democracy A direct democracy is a form of government where the citizens determine how the country should function. A direct democracy has no elected leaders and each citizen has an equal level of power.
Representative Democracy A representative democracy, sometimes known as a republic, is a form of government where the people vote on their leaders. Leaders listen to the concerns and problems of the people and create laws to solve them.
Monarchy In a monarchy, a king or queen, "a monarch", rules over the people. Some monarchs have held all of the power, while others have shared their power with other branches of government. A monarch typically comes to power by inheritance. Depending on the monarch, citizens can have numerous rights and privileges, or none at all.
Dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government where the power is in the hands of one individual with full authority to enforce and create any laws they desire. Rights and liberties of the citizens are usually suppressed in order to maintain the power of the government.
Anarchy An anarchy is the state without a government. In an anarchy, there is no law creation or enforcement. An anarchy is typically characterized by violence and disorder.
Oligarchy An oligarchy is a form of government where a small group has the power. Historically, oligarchies have consisted of those with significant wealth or military power. The rights of citizens are determined solely by those in the small group.
Theocracy A theocracy is any form government centered on a god or gods. A theocracy has a ruling religious authority that oversees the creation and enforcement of laws. Power rests with the religious authority who may or may not give their citizens freedoms.

Extended Activity

Students should present their spider map to their peers, with the goal of ranking each government from most favorable to least favorable, in terms of which ones they would want to be a part of. Students can number each government representation storyboard to guide them in their presentation.

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Governments of the World

In this activity, students will create a Frayer Model or a spider map that depicts real-life examples of different types of government. The governments that are chosen can be either current or historic. In the description box below each representation, students should include background information on the government, along with any significant events, laws, or individuals that emerged from the government.

Example Response for Governments of the World

Representative Democracy The government of the United States is a representative democracy. The citizens of the United States are responsible for voting on leaders who will best reflect the interests of the people. Some accomplishments of the government of the United States has been the abolition of slavery, the passage of the Bill of Rights, and the end of segregation in schools.
Oligarchy An example of an oligarchy is the government of South Africa from 1948-1994. This government is known as the apartheid system. Power and rights were given to the white citizens of the country, and the black majority were denied access to numerous educational and political rights.
Dictatorship Nazi Germany under Adolph Hitler was a dictatorship. Hitler lead the government known as the Third Reich where complete control of the law and military was in his power. This lead to both World War II and an attempted annihilation of European Jews.
Theocracy Ancient Egypt was a theocracy. The ruling pharaoh was both the religious and political leader. The pharaohs would claim "divine right". This is the political concept that a ruler is selected from a god rather than the people.

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Federalism in the United States

For this activity, students will create a T-Chart that compares and contrasts the powers of reserved to federal and state governments. Students should either choose or be assigned one of the fifty U.S states and compare the powers delegated to that state with those of the federal government. Students should represent three powers reserved to each of the respective governments. Listed below is a helpful reference to differentiate between some powers reserved to states and the federal government.

Powers Reserved for
the Federal Government

  • Coin Money
  • Declare War
  • Create Foreign Policy
  • Admit New States to the Union
  • Maintain Armed Forces
  • Protect Copyrights and Patents
  • Establish the Postal System
  • Regulate Interstate Commerce

Powers Reserved for
the States

  • Create and Maintain Schools
  • Regulate State Commerce
  • Establish Local Governments
  • 10th Amendment - "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Extended Activity

Students should either create an additional T-Chart, or add to the one from the activity that represents the differing laws between two states. Some of the potential topics for these laws:

  • Driver's License Requirements
  • Gambling Laws
  • Religious Freedom Laws
  • Abortion Laws
  • Hunting Laws
  • Drinking Age
  • Drug Legality
  • Firework Laws
  • Helmet Laws

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Create a Country Storyboard

In this activity, students will apply concepts about government and create their own country. You can tailor this assignment to meet the needs of your class, but are encouraged to offer numerous choices to students. This storyboard can serve as the summative assignment for the unit and can be presented for the rest of the class, either individually, or as part of a class-wide country fair where each country is on display simultaneously.

Possible Create-A-Country Checklist Items:

  1. Name of Country
  2. Flag
  3. Type of Government
  4. Unique Laws
  5. Map

Example Country: Democracia


The flag of Democracia includes a sun and a scale. The sun is the beacon of light that represents the freedom and liberty for the world to see. The scale represents the equal balance of power among all of the Democracian citizens.


The government of Democracia is a direct democracy. All adult citizens are required to vote on each legislative, executive, and judicial issue. Due to the small population of 3,000, the voting system is efficient. Citizens can use the iVote app on their phones to participate.


This is the map of the island country of Democracia. To the left is the Sea of Liberty and to the right is the Bay of Rights. The capital is Jefferson and the Independence Mountain Range is a major land formation.

Unique Laws

The three unique laws of Democracia are intended to maintain a fair level of representation and equality among the citizens. Citizens are required to vote in order to keep their jobs, are prohibited from cruel behavior, and must graduate high school.

Extended Activity

Students should create a storyboard that reflects the day-to-day life of a citizen in their country. Students can elaborate on certain cultural practices, or how the government impacts their lives. Students may present their storyboards to the class, and the class can decide which country sounds most appealing to them.

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Government is an important aspect of any society. Governments are in place to ensure order. There are numerous forms of government and the differences impact the citizens in their own and neighboring societies. Power can be distributed throughout governments in different ways, depending on the type.

The rise and fall of many governments has been because individuals or groups desired a change. By learning about types of governments, students can come to understand how the current American government and foreign governments function, as well as understand various historical periods and events.

Essential Questions for Introduction to Government

  1. What is "government"?
  2. What are the forms of government throughout the world?
  3. What is federalism?
  4. What is the structure of American government?
  5. What forms of government give citizens the most power?

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•   (English) Introduction to Government   •   (Español) Introducción al Gobierno   •   (Français) Introduction au Gouvernement   •   (Deutsch) Einführung in die Regierung   •   (Italiana) Introduzione al Governo   •   (Nederlands) Introduction to Government   •   (Português) Introdução ao Governo   •   (עברית) מבוא לממשל   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مقدمة إلى الحكومة   •   (हिन्दी) सरकार का परिचय   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Введение в Правительство   •   (Dansk) Introduktion til Regeringen   •   (Svenska) Introduktion Till Regeringen   •   (Suomi) Johdatus Hallitukselle   •   (Norsk) Introduksjon til Regjeringen   •   (Türkçe) Hükümete Giriş   •   (Polski) Wprowadzenie do Rządu   •   (Româna) Introducere în Guvern   •   (Ceština) Úvod do Vlády   •   (Slovenský) Úvod do Vlády   •   (Magyar) Bevezetés a Kormány   •   (Hrvatski) Uvod u Vladu   •   (български) Въведение в Правителството   •   (Lietuvos) Įvadas į Vyriausybės   •   (Slovenščina) Uvod v Vladi   •   (Latvijas) Ievads Valdība   •   (eesti) Sissejuhatus Valitsus