Lesson 3

I Am a Citizen

 

Lesson Overview:

This lesson focuses on the child as a U.S. citizen. In Part 1, the children will review rights, rules and the songs from Lessons 1 and 2. In Part 2, they'll color a map of the United States, hold a mock election and learn a new song. In Part 3, they'll do a simple group project, explore diverse cultures and play a citizenship game.

 

Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards

 

Learning Objectives:

The children will:

  • Recognize why governments exist.
  • Identify the vocabulary words.
  • Tell the difference between the U.S. government and others.
  • Describe the voting process.
  • Explain their responsibilities as young citizens.
  • Define diversity and tell its importance.

 

Introduced Vocabulary:

vote
campaign
united
democracy
authority
federal
polling place
nominate
"the common good"
diversity
citizen
government
candidate
 
 

Part 1: Our Citizen Rights

Review:

Wherever we go we find rules made by those in charge. Parents make the rules at home. Ask the children to name a family rule and why they have that rule. The principal and teachers work together to make rules at school. Ask the children to name a school rule. Why have this rule? Remind them rules exist so everyone knows how to behave, stays safe and feels their rights are respected.

To complete the review, listen to The Rights Song and/or Part of a Team.

 

Reproducible: U.S. Bill of Rights

The students will refer to the U.S. Bill of Rights and also My Bill of Rights.

Families and schools are run by one, two or a few people. Who runs big places like towns, large cities, states or whole countries? Governments do. Governments are large groups of people who guide citizens. One thing governments do is make rules that everyone has to follow, called laws. Laws make sure strong people don't take away the rights of those who are not as strong. Like rules, laws help citizens, people who live in those places, by keeping them safe and secure and letting them know what to do.

Direct the children to look at My Bill of Rights from Lesson 1. What does this Bill of Rights tell us? (What we can do or be.) Review especially the rights to be respected, to make decisions and to be safe and healthy.

The United States of America has its own Bill of Rights. Direct the students to the U.S. Bill of Rights reproducible. All citizens have these rights, no matter where they live or how rich, poor, young or old they are. No American leader, no matter how important or powerful, can take away any citizen's rights. All people can make choices about where to live and how to spend their time; they can respectfully voice their opinions and travel freely.

 Activities:

  • Invite a police officer to speak with the children about his or her job in law enforcement and the benefits of laws.
  • Read a book about bullying. Discuss how bullies take away the rights to be respected and be safe.

 

Part 2: Our Country and Government

Reproducible: The United States of America Map

The children will refer to the map of the United States reproducible. They'll also need crayons.

Remind the children that a map is a picture of a place. This map shows the United States of America. The children may enjoy counting the states.

The word united means joined together, but two - Alaska and Hawaii - are not connected to any other state. Our states are "united" by a common history, their values and love of freedom.

Ask the children to find the state where they live. Younger children may need help. Tell them to color it any color but black. Ask where they live in the state. Point to the general location and direct them to draw a black X there. Now ask them to lightly shade the rest of the map with a different color, including Alaska and Hawaii. All 50 states form one country: the United States of America. Some children may enjoy naming and labeling the other states.

 

Discuss:

Remind the children while rules are made by families, schools and other small groups of people, laws are made by our government.​


​ ​​

There are three levels of government in the United States​:

  • The federal government. (Ask them to point to the whole country.)
  • The state governments. (Ask them to point to the state in which they live.)
  • The local governments. (Ask them to point to the X.)

All three governments work together to make sure we live in an orderly, secure and safe place. Point to the map and ask who leads the entire country. Point to the state in which they live. Who leads their state? What does the X mean on their maps? (The town or city in which they live.) Ask who leads their town or city.

In some countries, powerful people decide to be leaders on their own and then bully weaker citizens. This never happens in the United States because our form of government is a democracy. In a democracy, every citizen has the right to decide who should lead. Leaders make decisions for citizens, but citizens have the right to tell those leaders how they feel and what they want leaders to do.

How does an ordinary citizen get a chance to be a leader? Ask the children if they've ever made a family or group decision by voting, such as where to go eat or which TV show to watch. They will learn more about voting in the following activity.

 

Activity: Mock Election

The children will select a group mascot by holding a mock election. If the children are unfamiliar with the term mascot, explain it's an animal, person or thing that represents a team, class or other group. They may be able to tell the names of mascots in the local area.

Mascot suggestions: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter, Buzz Lightyear, SpongeBob Squarepants, Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny, Dora the Explorer, Care Bears, Bob the Builder, Barney.

 

Preparation:

You'll need pictures of the mascot nominees, a large sheet of paper for each group's campaign poster, drawing and coloring tools, and small sheets of paper for ballots.

Relate each step of the mock election to the actual procedure of voting.

 

Step​ ​Mock Election ​Actual Voting

Compile a short list of mascots​ (suggestions are given), or let older children nominate their own. People nominate themselves or are nominated by others.
Assign children to groups by drawing candidate names. (It may be helpful to assign a child who writes well for each group.) Citizens decide which candidate they'll support.
Each group will make a list of the best qualities of their candidate, such as: strong, cares about others, friendly, etc. Each candidate and supporters plan their campaign, to persuade others he or she is the best choice.
After writing a list, each group will decorate a poster. If possible, leave the posters up for the duration of the campaign. Those campaigning make signs to put in yards or on buildings.
The groups can do other supportive activities, including drawing additional posters, making up songs and dances, or writing short speeches.  They also make commercials, hold dinners and other events.
At the end of the campaign, distribute small slips of paper and ask each child to vote for his or her favorite candidate. Tell them voting is a secret process - they need not tell anyone how they voted. On Election Day, citizens go to their polling places - churches, schools and other buildings - and vote.
Count the votes in front of the group, or have a special group do the counting. Announce the winner and display that poster in a prominent place. The votes are counted and the winner is announced.
 

 

MP3: Democracy

The lyrics to this song can copied, if desired. The children will enjoy singing, moving and/or marching to the music. After listening, discuss the song using the discussion questions.

  • "When we unite out rights for a common good"  What's the "common good"? (What is best for most people.)
  • "When we live in this country, we can be citizens"  How do people become American citizens? (Almost everyone born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen. Other people have to live in this country a certain number of years, be able to read, write and speak English, and know facts about the history and government of the United States, among other requirements.)
  • "When we vote for people we can trust"  How do we know we can trust people who are running for office? (We read newspaper and magazine articles, watch and listen to what candidates say and do, listen to what other people say about them and then form our own opinions.)

 

Part 3: Our Citizen Responsibilities

Discuss:

Remind the children that in Lesson 2 they learned those with rights also have responsibilities. Young citizens do not have as many responsibilities as adults, but there are many things they can and should do now:

  • Obey all rules at home and school.
  • Respect everyone, especially those in authority, that is, those who are in charge, like parents, teachers and group leaders. Remind them while they may disagree with what leaders say or do, they must always be respectful.
  • Exercise their rights. Refer to My Bill of Rights reproducible page and review: making good decisions, being honest, speaking up, and changing what they can. See Level 1 Resources for more information.
  • Respect the land, air and water by keeping it clean. Points to cover: recycling, pollution.
  • Cooperate with others to work for the common good - the good of all Americans, not just those they know. 

 

Activity: Group Project

Choose a simple project to do in the classroom, school or neighborhood, such as picking up trash, planting flowers, straightening games or books on shelves, decorating for an open house, etc. Work in teams and afterwards, discuss how each contributed to the project.

 

Activities: Respecting Diversity

Many American neighborhoods and schools contain individuals who speak a variety of languages and have unique customs. Remind the children good citizens respect individual differences or diversity. America needs this unity between people to accomplish its goals. Try these activities:

  • Invite children to describe their family's holiday traditions or special foods they enjoy.
  • Play world music or learn a dance from another culture.
  • Read a book about children around the world. (See Level 1 Resources.)

Pizza is a worldwide treat, but the toppings vary according to food availability and preferences. If you have access to a kitchen or a microwave, the children will enjoy making and eating international pizzas. If this isn't practical, consider bringing ethnic breads for the children to sample, such as pita, matzo and tortillas.

International Pizzas

English muffins (figure one-half muffin per child)
Pizza sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Various toppings (see below)
 

Slice English muffin in half. Spread with pizza sauce. Add topping and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted. Or toast the muffins ahead of time and microwave until hot and the cheese melts. Cut pizzas into very small pieces for children to try.

Try these international toppings:

Japan: potatoes, corn, boiled eggs
Brazil: green peas
Costa Rica: tuna, salmon and onions
Australia: shrimp or ham and pineapple
Taiwan: peach slices, well-drained
South Korea: sweet potatoes
 

Reproducible: The Good Citizen Game

Make copies of the reproducible. Group the children. Have them cut out the cards and place them in a pile beside the game board. If students play independently, you'll need one die per group.

Younger children can also play as a large group. Draw the game board on the board or on a large sheet of paper and divide them into two teams. Taking turns, each team will discuss a question and give an answer. Remind them the answers are what good citizens would do.

Click here for the suggested answers to the game card questions.