Lesson plan

One Tree, Three Branches

Get your kids excited about social studies with this comprehensive lesson, which will allow them to make their own visual comparisons of the three branches of the United States government.
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Students will be able to identify the leaders and roles associated with the three branches of the United States government.

(5 minutes)
  • Tell the students that they will be learning about the way our nation's government works.
  • Have students turn to a partner and share what they know about the national government.
  • List their ideas on the board.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that many people compare the United States government to a tree with three branches. The government's branches are the executive, legislative, and judicial branch.
  • Give out copies of The Three Branches of Government.
  • Read aloud or have volunteers read aloud, stopping after each branch to discuss and to explain vocabulary. You should give examples of things that may confuse the students, such as veto or reviewing a law.
  • Add to what was listed on the board and cross out any information that proves to be incorrect so that the list has something similar to these nine items: president, White House, carries out laws, congress, capitol building, makes laws, justices, Supreme Court, reviews laws.
(20 minutes)
  • Give out the drawing paper.
  • Model drawing a simple tree shape with 3 branches on the board.
  • Have students draw a similar tree on their papers.
  • Model labeling each branch: executive, legislative and judicial.
  • Give each student nine leaf shapes.
  • Model finding three items from the list on the board, writing them on three leaves, and gluing them to the tree. You can do this two ways—either one branch (president, enforces, laws, White House) or one category (White House, Supreme Court, Capitol).
  • Observe to make sure the students have placed their leaves correctly.
(15 minutes)
  • Have the students place the remaining leaves on the tree.
  • Observe to make sure the students have placed their leaves correctly.
  • When all students have completed their trees, ask for volunteers to read the leaves for each branch.
  • Allow time for any mistakes to be corrected.
  • Enrichment: Advanced students could create three trees by adding state and local government as well.
  • Support: For struggling students, working in pairs or a group could be helpful. You could also pre-print the leaves for them.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students complete (independently or with a partner) the Three Branches of Government crossword.
(5 minutes)
  • To conclude the lesson, remind the students that in the United States, all three branches of the government work together, and that no one is more important than the others.

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