Students read about the branches of government in North Dakota. They use the information they learn to fill out a chart of each branch’s roles and responsibilities.
This lesson is part of "Great States | North Dakota | Unit 7: Statehood & Citizenship" - a survey of what it means to be a citizen of North Dakota. Learn about government structures and challenges citizens of North Dakota have faced.
4.4.2: Identify the basic roles of the three branches of North Dakota government (i.e., Executive, Legislative, Judicial).
8.4.5: Describe the relationship (e.g., power, responsibility, influence) among the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the government at the local, state (i.e., North Dakota), and national level.
Lesson: The Powers of the Government
An interactive whiteboard, projector, or other type of screen to project the lesson to the class
Class set of North Dakota’s Government handout
Before class, review the lesson, The Powers of the Government. This activity only uses elements of the full lesson in order to cater to fourth grade students. You will need to create free PBS LearningMedia accounts to access this online portion of the activity.
Prior to this lesson, you will also want to establish the current members of your state government (state governor, possibly several state representatives and senators) in order to complete the extension activity. See North Dakota Office of the Governor for more info.
Provide students with the North Dakota’s Government handout.
Explain that the structure of government used in North Dakota is similar to that of the Federal government. They both have three branches. Instruct student to name each branch in the first row of boxes. Below the name of the branch, describe some of its powers and responsibilities in the second row of boxes.
Show students panels 4, 5, and 7 of The Powers of the Government lesson. Read each panel text to your students as they take notes to complete their chart. For fourth grade students, do not follow the activity prompts in the lesson. After you play the video on panel 5, have students answer the question on the handout.
Aristocracy: a form of government in which the highest class or nobility hold the power
Veto power: a system in which each branch of government has the ability to cancel (or postpone) new decisions or enactments from the other government branches
Commonwealth: a free state, or republic, characterized by a representative government. The states of the United States may each be considered commonwealths. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Virginia designate themselves as commonwealths in the United States.
Explain that in state government, the governor is the head of the executive branch, much like the president of the United States is head of the federal government’s executive branch.
Extend the lesson (10 minutes):
Connect this lesson to your students’ current local politics. Ask if they know who their current state governor is, and if not, explain who he or she is. Explain that each student has a person representing their area in the state House of Representatives and another in the state Senate, as well as representatives on the federal level. Explain that these people were elected when people in their communities voted them into office. Explain that once students turn 18 years old, they will be able to vote for the person they want to represent them in the legislature.
Executive: Carries out laws, makes budgets, and negotiates treaties with other countries; includes President and Vice President
Legislative: Makes laws, writes and passes bills; includes Senate and House of Representatives
Judicial: Evaluates laws and makes decisions about their meaning; national court system, most important is the Supreme Court
Argument for the separation of powers: prevents any one branch from getting too much power, protects democracy, prevents corruption, makes government accountable to each other and the people they represent
For more on North Dakota’s Branches of Government, click here.
The Powers of Government lesson was produced by WGBH as part of the Inspiring Middle School Literacy Collection.