Government and Biographies of Famous Leaders

Students explore the structure of the American government, the three branches of government, the history of women's suffrage, and read biographies about famous Americans who fought for change.

Unit Summary

This unit serves as a foundation for understanding the way in which the American government was formed and the way it is structured. The unit has three main sections. In the first section, students learn about the functions of government, the three main branches of government, and how the branches work together to meet the ever-changing needs of our country. In this section students will be challenged to think about how government is useful to its citizens and about the key powers of each branch. In the second section, students explore elections and how people become elected officials. Students also explore the women's suffrage movement, why women couldn't vote before 1920, and what changes brought about women's suffrage in the United States. Finally, in the third section, students read biographies of a few courageous individuals who overcame racism, sexism, and hardships to prove that they deserved a spot in government and that they would do whatever it takes to fight for and push for change. During this final section, students will be challenged to think about how the actions of others can inspire us to drive for change, especially in the current political climate.

This unit expands on the work done in units 1 and 2 to build reading skills. Students will continue to develop their skills as critical consumers of a text by annotating for main idea and details that support the main idea of a text, summarizing sections of a text, explaining the connection between ideas and concepts, interpreting information presented through different text features, and describing the structure of different paragraphs. In this unit students will also be challenged to think about how an author uses evidence and reasoning to support particular points or ideas in a text. They will also be challenged to integrate information from one text with information they learn in another text about the same topic.

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Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit with videos and short readings that cover:

  • Key standards
  • Essential questions
  • Text complexity
  • Monitoring student progress
 

Texts and Materials

Core Materials

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What is the Constitution of the United States? Why is it important? 
  • What are the main functions of each branch of the United States government? 
  • Why couldn't women vote before 1920? What changes brought about women's suffrage in the United States? 
  • How can courageous individuals create and drive change? 

Writing Focus Areas

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Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions 
  • Use progressive verb tenses

In this unit students will continue to respond to daily Target Tasks by writing sentences with coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Additionally, students will learn how to use progressive verb tenses. 

Paragraph-Level Focus Areas

  • Draft strong paragraphs that include a strong topic sentence, 3-4 supporting details and a concluding sentence 
  • Use transition words to signal a relationship between ideas 

In this unit students build on what they learned in units one and two. Students will continue to draft and write single paragraphs with a focus on having a strong topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence. Students will also begin to use transition words to signal a relationship between ideas within a paragraph.

Informational Writing Focus Areas

  • Research and take notes on a topic, group related information
  • Use notes to complete single-paragraph outlines
  • Develop the topic with facts, definitions and details 
  • Use transition words to link ideas 
  • State an opinion based on research 

At the end of the unit students research a local or national election. Students practice gathering details, grouping related information, and then crafting strong paragraphs that are supported by facts, definitions and details. Students also learn how to use transition words to link ideas. After researching two candidates, students will state an opinion about which candidate they would support.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Elaborate to support ideas. Students provide evidence or examples to justify and defend their point clearly. 
  • Use vocabulary. Students use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share thoughts.
  • Build on partner's ideas. Students seek to genuinely understand what their peers are saying, and then build on. 

In units one and two students worked on clarifying and sharing their on thoughts during a discussion. They worked on providing evidence or examples to justify and defend their point clearly, and using specific vocabulary when sharing their thoughts. In this unit, students move beyond their own reasoning and begin to respond and interact with the reasoning of others. Students are held responsible for listening to and learning from their peers, and begin to refine and clarify their own thinking  based on others' ideas. 

When building on to partner's ideas, students should seek to genuinely understand what their peers are saying and build on. Ideas should not be random, disconnected, or replace a previous idea. Rather, ideas should zoom in on a particular idea that was said, make a connection between a previous idea and a new idea, or challenge a particular part of an idea. Guidance on teacher moves to support these discussion focuses can be found in our Guide to Academic Discourse (below).

Vocabulary

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Below are all of the unit vocabulary words. Prior to teaching the unit, we recommend teachers decide which words to prioritize. We also recommend that teachers decide which affixes to prioritize. See our teacher tool Prepping Unit Vocabulary (below) for more guidance on which words to pick as priority words.

Text-based

Constitution Executive President Secretary abolitionist advise adjourn amendment articulate authority branch cabinet candidates campaign contradict compromise consultation debates democracy deliberate debate desegregation economic enforce evoke exposure federal freedoms humiliated interpretation inferior justice majority mockery nominee optimism passive pessimism pivotal plea publicity ratify radical representatives revelation ridicule sacrifice separation segregation strategically sympathetic taunt unanimous vision

Root/Affix

-ism -ist -ment -tion de- en-

Content Knowledge and Connections

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Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

Lesson Map

1

  • Building a Nation pp. 1 – 9

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.3

Explain the fatal flaws of the Articles of Confederation.

2

  • Building a Nation pp. 10 – 15

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.3

Describe the plan the Constitution made for the government of the United States.

3

  • The Bill of Rights pp. 8 – 13

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.3

Describe a few of the rights protected by the Bill of Rights.

4Essential Task

Writing

  • Building a Nation

  • The Bill of Rights

    W.4.2

    W.4.2.a

    W.4.2.b

    W.4.2.c

    W.4.2.e

Write a paragraph explaining what the Constitution of the United States is and why it is important. 

5

  • Ntl. Gov't pp. 4 – 9

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.7

Explain what the sections “What is Government?,” “The Constitution,” and “Separation of Powers” are mostly about.

6

  • Ntl. Gov't pp. 10 – 13

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Describe why the Executive Branch is important and why the President’s Cabinet is important.

7

  • Ntl. Gov't pp. 14 – 23

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Describe the difference between the Senate and House of Representatives and why they are both important.

8

  • Ntl. Gov't p. 30

    RI.4.3

Explain how laws are made and why there are so many steps.

9Essential Task

  • Ntl. Gov't pp. 24 – 27

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.8

Explain what the sections “The Judicial Branch” and the “The Supreme Court” are mostly about.

10

Discussion & Writing

  • Building a Nation

  • The Bill of Rights

  • Ntl. Gov't

    W.4.2

    W.4.2.a

    W.4.2.b

    W.4.2.c

    W.4.2.e

    SL.4.1

Analzye and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from the text. 

11

  • Understanding Your Role... — 4-5, 9-15

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.7

    RI.4.8

 Explain what candidates do to try and win an election.

12

  • Understanding Your Role... pp. 16 – 27

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Debate if everyone has always had the right to vote.

13Essential Task

  • Roses and Radicals pp. 7 – 19 — Skip Know Your Radicals sections

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Describe the evidence the author gives to support the point that “to be a woman in 1840 was to be less than a man.”

14

  • Roses and Radicals pp. 73 – 80

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Explain how an author uses reasons to show that a “once-promising strategy had reached a dead end.”

15

  • Roses and Radicals pp. 88 – 92 — Skip Know Your Radicals sections

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Explain why the opposition to women’s suffrage was so difficult to overturn.

16

  • Roses and Radicals pp. 102 – 110 — Skip Know Your Radicals sections

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Explain why the New York Times called the march “one of the most impressively beautiful spectacles ever staged in this country”?

17

  • Roses and Radicals pp. 129 – 146

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.3

Summarize the final battle for the right to vote.

18

  • Roses and Radicals — All Know Your Radicals sections

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.3

Create a mini-poster highlighting the key contributions of a radical.

19

Discussion & Writing

  • Roses and Radicals

  • Understanding Your Role...

    W.4.2

    W.4.2.a

    W.4.2.b

    W.4.2.c

    W.4.2.e

    SL.4.1

Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from the text. 

20

  • Portraits pp. 25 – 27 — Dennis Chavez

    RI.4.2

    RI.4.8

Explain why Dennis "Dioniso" Chavez was important. 

21

  • Hand in Hand pp. 120 – 124 — Start at "Working for the NAACP"

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Explain the role that Thurgood Marshall played in Brown v. Board of Education and what we can learn about him from his involvement in the case.

22

  • Hand in Hand pp. 125 – 129

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Explain how Thurgood Marshall wove equality into the fabric of American justice. 

23

  • Let It Shine pp. 95 – 100

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Explain who/what inspired Shirley Chisholm to get involved in politics and fight for change.

24

  • Portraits pp. 77 – 79

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Explain who/what inspired Sonia Sotomayor to get involved in justice and fight for change. 

25

  • Hand in Hand pp. 224 – 231

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.8

Analyze how Barack Obama showed that "holding fast to hope despite obstacles is the first step to making any dream come true." 

26

Discussion & Writing

  • All unit texts

    SL.4.1

Debate and analyze unit-essential questions. 

27

Assessment

28

5 days

Writing

    W.4.1

    W.4.1.a

    W.4.1.b

    W.4.2

    W.4.2.a

    W.4.2.b

    W.4.2.c

    W.4.2.e

    W.4.7

    W.4.8

    SL.4.1

Research a local or national election and decide who you would vote for and why.

Common Core Standards

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.4.2 — Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

  • RI.4.3 — Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

  • RI.4.5 — Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

  • RI.4.7 — Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.

  • RI.4.8 — Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.

  • RI.4.9 — Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.4.1 — Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

  • SL.4.2 — Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Writing Standards
  • W.4.1 — Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information

  • W.4.1.a — Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer's purpose.

  • W.4.1.b — Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.

  • W.4.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

  • W.4.2.a — Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.4.2.b — Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.

  • W.4.2.c — Link ideas within categories of information using words and phrases (e.g., another, for example, also, because).

  • W.4.2.e — Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation presented

  • W.4.7 — Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

  • W.4.8 — Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.

Sprial Standards

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L.4.1

L.4.1.b

L.4.1.f

L.4.2

L.4.2.c

L.4.3

L.4.4

L.4.4.b

L.4.6

RF.4.3

RF.4.4

RI.4.1

RI.4.10

RI.4.4

RI.4.9

SL.4.1

W.4.10

W.4.4

W.4.5

W.4.6

W.4.9.b