Lesson One: Nation and State

Focus Questions:

What is government, and why do countries, states, and tribes have them?

What are the three branches of government?

What is a constitution, and why is it important?

What are amendments and why are they important?

Imbedded Information in the Student Lesson:

Bill of Rights; voting in elections; Congress


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South Dakota Government Crossword Puzzle

Classroom Activities:

     Ask the students why rules are important and needed. Have them make a list of the different rules students follow at home and school. Make the transition between rules at home and school to laws made by governments. As a class, create a list of laws and illegal actions: for example, speed limits, stealing, murder, etc. Compare and contrast life with rules to life without rules.

     Divide the class into three groups and assign one of South Dakota's congressional representatives to each group. The two senators and one representative are briefly profiled under Congress in the student lesson. Each also has a web site, which is listed in the Web Links section. Have the students create a bulletin board on their assigned senator or representative. They can use newspaper articles, political material, information from web sites, etc. Using their bulletin boards, have each group report on their congressman to the class.

     Divide the class into three groups and assign one of the branches of government to each group. Have the groups elect a leader (executive, a president; legislature, a speaker; and judiciary, a chief justice) and discuss the responsibilities and roles of each of the branches and offices and how they relate to each other. Provide three sample bills for the legislature to debate and pass/defeat; present them to the president for signing/vetoing; and ask the judiciary if they are "constitutional." The sample bills can be quite simple and deal with classroom issues but should create discussion (easier/harder tests; brown-eyed students cannot participate in class discussions; "A" students must sit in the back of the room; and so on). This exercise can also be adapted to illustrate how state and tribal governments work (Lessons 2 and 4).