With these U.S. history lesson plans for sixth grade that introduce the different types of government, you can meet the curricular requirements for social studies whether your state’s focus is world cultures or the history of the United States.
Learning About Government -- Following Up
For world geography and world cultures classes, you can explore how the geography of a nation might have influenced the type of government that developed there. In U.S. history classes, include lessons about the specifics of the nation’s government, including the bicameral nature of the legislature and the election process.
Where Do Different Types of Government Come From?
Discuss with students the idea that the basis of government may be one of three types:
Economics: This foundation determines who controls the manufacture and distribution of goods and services. While most governments combine the systems in different degrees, economic governments include capitalism, socialism and communism.
- Capitalism: Private individuals and corporations own capital, land and other resources necessary for the manufacture and distribution of goods and services.
- Socialism: The community as a whole owns capital, land and other resources necessary for the manufacture and distribution of goods and services.
- Communism: Capital, land and other resources necessary for the manufacture and distribution of goods and services are owned by the state, usually in the form of a totalitarian political system.
Politics: This refers largely to the selection means for government leaders and what determines the right to rule. These government types include dictatorship, monarchy, theocracy, parliamentary and republican forms.
- Dictatorship: In this system, a single individual has absolute power, but that power is not hereditary. Power is typically taken, rather than being given by those being governed.
- Monarchy: While the monarch may have absolute or limited authority, government leadership is inherited.
- Theocracy: Power is vested in church or religious leadership.
- Parliamentary and Republican: Power is vested in leaders elected by the governed.
Authority: This element of government involves the importance of the consent of the governed and the leadership’s adherence to rule of law. It includes revolutionary, totalitarian, oligarchic/plutocratic and democratic authorities.
- Revolutionary: Seen primarily during attempts to overthrow one government in favor of another, this authority is often in the hands of a few “rebel" leaders. Frequently, rule of law is set aside during the struggle, although it may or may not be recognized when the conflict ends.
- Totalitarian: All power rests in the hands of the ruling authority. The consent of the governed is neither important nor sought and rule of law is ignored entirely.
- Oligarchy/Plutocracy: In an oligarchy, a small class or “clique" holds power, while the wealthy rule in a plutocracy. The consent of the governed is of minimal importance, although it may not be completely ignored. Rule of law may or may not be valued, depending on the principles of those in power.
- Democracy: All power rests in the hands of the people, making the consent of the governed the rules. All leaders and citizens are subject to the rule of law.
What Types of Government Exist?
Discuss briefly the characteristics of anarchy, democracy, dictatorship, monarchy, republic and theocracy. You don't need to go into great detail, as the students will be doing that as a part of their project.
What Types of Government Do Different Countries Have?
Group students into pairs or triads. Assign each group one of the following styles of government: democracy, dictatorship, monarchy, theocracy, parliamentary republic, presidential republic, oligarchy.
Give the groups the following prompt:
Your group is to make a presentation to a United Nations committee that will decide what type of government to recommend for new or emerging governments. You will need to explain the characteristics of that government system, provide examples and give arguments as to why that style of government is best.
Each group should find the following information:
- What characteristics does this style of government have?
- Who has the authority in the country?
- How are the leaders chosen?
- Is there a peaceful way to replace the leaders?
- Do the leaders have to follow the same laws as everyone else?
- What are some examples of this type of government? (This may be nations, but it could also be parts of a country, like the New England town meetings for democracy.)
- What does this government look like in each country? How is it the same or different between the examples?
- How does the government style in each country affect its economic system? Is it a capitalist, socialist or communist style of the assigned government?
- What are some of the advantages of this type of government? What are some of the disadvantages?
- What other interesting things did you discover about this type of government?
When they have completed their research, groups should prepare a presentation in which they will teach the rest of the class the details of the assigned topic. Projects should include:
- A multimedia slide show or movie with the key points explained
- A handout summarizing the key points
- A practice activity to reinforce the concepts -- a worksheet, a game, a hands-on project, etc.
- Five to ten multiple-choice or true/false quiz questions
- A short-answer essay question
Make sure that students know the grading criteria before they start on their presentation planning and preparation. Grade projects on:
- Thoroughness: Did the group explain the key characteristics of the government type completely?
- Accuracy: Was the information factually accurate?
- Completeness: Are all the required components present? Did the group provide additional elements, such as extra handouts, additional visual aids, etc.?
- Participation: Did every group member have a share in the oral presentation? Was every group member responsible for some part of the research, planning and preparation of the materials?
- Creativity: Did the group attempt to “think outside the box" with the presentation, including the practice activity? Did they resort to a worksheet with minimal effort evident? Is the slide show/movie visually appealing?
- Correctness: Are the written materials free from grammar and spelling errors? Are the materials written legibly or typed without errors? Are the fonts and colors easy to read?
Allow the rest of the class to ask questions of the presenters, in the form of queries the U.N. committee might have. Follow up with an oral or a silent debate, as time permits, and then allow the “committee" to vote on the best government.
Extend the lesson with a simulation of the process of working out a compromise, if you have the time. Regroup students, putting one person from each original study pair or triad as an expert in the new groups. Point out that each type of government has both advantages and disadvantages and ask the new groups to combine the best of each system to create an even better one.
Sixth grade students will enjoy the opportunity to convince their classmates of their points when you use these U.S. history activities for sixth grade to engage them in learning about government.
Newsround: Types of Government, http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/find_out/guides/world/united_nations/types_of_government/newsid_2151000/2151570.stm
Descriptions of Governments, http://stutzfamily.com/mrstutz/WorldAffairs/typesofgovt.html
Webquest -- Forms of Goverment, http://www.stjoanofarc.org/school/grade7/government/govquest.htm
Types of Goverment -- Free Presentations, http://government.pppst.com/types.html
Government Lesson Plan, http://mdk12.org/instruction/curriculum/hsa/government/lesson_plan/lesson12.html