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Lesson Plans Library 5-8 > Social Studies
Separation of Powers
Separation of Powers
Grade level: 5-8 Subject: Social Studies Duration: 2-3 class periods
 



lesson plan support
Student Objectives
  • Define the concept of federalism.
  • Describe how federalism works at government and school levels.
  • Create a written proposal outlining the powers a school-wide government should hold and the powers individual classrooms should hold.
Materials
  • Separation of Powersvideo
  • Writing paper
  • Pencils and erasers
Procedures
  1. Discuss federalism. What is it? How does it work? Why are certain powers given to the federal government and certain powers given to the states? Talk about the powers and responsibilities of federal and state governments.
    • What federal government powers and responsibilities were presented in the video? Are there other federal powers and responsibilities that you know of? Do you think the federal government should have these powers and responsibilities? Why?
    • What are the powers and responsibilities of state governments? Are there other state powers and responsibilities that you know of? Do you think the state governments should have these powers and responsibilities? Why?
  2. Discuss the similarities between how federalism works at the government level and at your school. What are the powers and responsibilities of the student government? What are the powers and responsibilities of individual classrooms? Make a list on the board of the student government and classroom responsibilities.
  3. Divide the class into groups of 45 students and tell them to imagine that they are part of a committee in charge of redistributing powers between the student government and the classrooms. Ask each group to consider what powers and responsibilities the student government should have, and why. Then think about what powers and responsibilities the classrooms should have, and why.
    Tell the groups that they will prepare a written proposal outlining their plan for division of powers and responsibilities. The proposals must include at least five powers or responsibilities of the student government and at least five powers or responsibilities of the classrooms, as well as an explanation for each.
  4. Allow time in class for the groups to work on their proposals. Monitor them to assess whether all students are involved in the discussions and proposal work.
  5. Once the proposals are finished, have each group present to the class. Discuss the division of powers and responsibilities presented in each proposal. Then have the class vote on the proposal they prefer and ask volunteers to provide reasons why they favor this proposal.
  6. As a homework assignment have each student write a paragraph outlining what they learned about federalism from this lesson, how they contributed to their group proposal, and what student government and classroom powers and responsibilities they think are important.

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Assessment
Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • 3 points: Students correctly defined the concept of federalism; accurately described how federalism works at the government and school levels; and wrote unique, thoughtful proposals that clearly identified at least five powers or responsibilities of the student government and at least five powers or responsibilities of the, and provided clear explanations why they proposed this division of powers or responsibilities.
  • 2 points: Students somewhat defined the concept of federalism; generally described how federalism works at the government and school levels; and wrote somewhat unique, thoughtful proposals that identified at least three powers or responsibilities of the student government and at least three powers or responsibilities of the classrooms, and provided adequate explanations why they proposed this division of powers or responsibilities.
  • 1 point: Students were unable to define the concept of federalism; incorrectly or vaguely described how federalism works at the government and school levels; and wrote incomplete or incoherent proposals that identified two or less powers or responsibilities of the student government and two or less powers or responsibilities of the classrooms, and did not provide explanations for this division of powers or responsibilities.

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Vocabulary
authority
Definition:The right to give commands; the power to influence the behavior of others
Context:The power and authority of the three branches of government are interrelated and shared.

federalism
Definition:A system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units
Context:Our founding fathers devised a system known as federalism, in which power is divided between national and state governments.

government
Definition:The office, function, or authority of a governing individual or body
Context:The men who wrote the Constitution wanted to create a government strong enough to ensure national interests but limited enough to protect personal liberties.

power
Definition:A specific capacity, faculty, or aptitude; the ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority
Context:The national government has powers that are specifically delegated to it by the Constitution.

responsibility
Definition:Something for which one is responsible; a duty, obligation, or burden
Context:One responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration is the inspection of every meat plant in the country.

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Academic Standards
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visithttp://www.mcrel.org/compendium/browse.asp.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Historical Understanding ? Understands the historical perspective.
  • Civics ? Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government; Understands the importance of political leadership, public service, and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy.
  • United States History: Era 3 ? Understands the institutes and practices of government created during the Revolution and how these elements were revised between 1787 and 1815 to create the foundation of the American political system based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
  • United States: Era 10 ? Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States.
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go towww.socialstudies.org/standards/strands/.
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:
  • Culture
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Power, Authority, and Governance

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