Alternate Unit 4: Politics and People: U.S. Government
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.
Alternate Unit 4
Please Note: The text National Government by Ernestine Giesecke used in this unit is out of print. If you already own copies of National Government, you can teach the unit as is. We will be updating the unit with a new core text by early 2024.
This unit serves as a foundation for understanding how 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 the 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.
Students continue to develop their skills as critical consumers of a text by noticing the main idea and details that support the main idea of a text, summarizing sections of a text, explaining the connection between ideas and concepts, and interpreting information presented through different text features. Students will also be challenged to think about how an author uses evidence and reasoning to support particular points or ideas in a text while also noticing how authors use different text structures depending on their purpose for writing the text. In previous units, students focused on sharing and elaborating on their own ideas when discussing the text. In this unit students begin to build on their classmates' ideas, seeking to genuinely understand what their peers are saying by asking questions, adding on, or engaging in multiple exchanges.
Students continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the Target Task and continue to work on crafting informational paragraphs and essays, focusing on writing strong topic sentences, picking reasons, and using different strategies to elaborate on those reasons. Students also have multiple opportunities to conduct research, using what they know about informational writing to teach back what they have learned.
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Book: National Government by Ernestine Giesecke (Heinemann-Raintree, 2009)
Book: Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote by Susan Zimet (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018)
Book: The Bill of Rights by David L. Dreier (Reading A-Z)
Book: Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Pinkney (Disney-Hyperion, 2012)
Book: Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera (Dial Books) (August 2014)
Book: Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013)
Book: Building a Nation by Terry Miller Shannon (www.readinga-z.com)
Book: Kid's Guide to Government: Understanding Your Role in Elections by Jessica Gunderson (Capstone Press, 2018)
Template: US Government Research Note-Taker
Template: Single Paragraph Outline
Rubric: Grade 4 Informational Writing Rubric
Various websites for research
These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read Assessment Answer Key
Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
The main idea is the most important point the author is making about a topic.
Authors use a variety of evidence and reasons to support particular points and main ideas in a text.
Authors use different text structures depending on their purpose for writing the text.
Research and take notes on a topic, grouping related information.
Use notes to complete a single-paragraph outline.
Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.
Use transition words to link ideas and information.
Provide a concluding statement or section.
Write strong topic sentences that clearly state an opinion.
Provide reasons and evidence to support a particular opinion.
Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.
Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share thoughts.
Build on to partner’s ideas. Seek to genuinely understand what peers are saying, and then build on.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 9, view our 4th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.
Explain the fatal flaws of the Articles of Confederation.
Describe the plan the Constitution made for the government of the United States.
Describe a few of the rights protected by the Bill of Rights.
Write a paragraph explaining what the Constitution of the United States is and why it is important.
Explain what the sections “What is Government?,” “The Constitution,” and “Separation of Powers” are mostly about.
Describe why the Executive Branch is important and why the President’s Cabinet is important.
Describe the difference between the Senate and House of Representatives and why they are both important.
Explain how laws are made and why there are so many steps.
Explain what the sections “The Judicial Branch” and the “The Supreme Court” are mostly about.
Discussion & Writing
Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from the text.
Informative Writing – 4 days
Write an informational report about an act or amendment that is important in U.S. history.
Explain what candidates do to try and win an election.
Debate if everyone has always had the right to vote.
Describe the evidence the author gives to support the point that “to be a woman in 1840 was to be less than a man.”
Explain how an author uses reasons to show that a “once-promising strategy had reached a dead end.”
Explain why the opposition to women’s suffrage was so difficult to overturn.
Explain why the New York Times called the march “one of the most impressively beautiful spectacles ever staged in this country”?
Summarize the final battle for the right to vote.
Create a mini-poster highlighting the key contributions of a radical.
Explain why Dennis "Dioniso" Chavez was important.
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.
Explain how Thurgood Marshall wove equality into the fabric of American justice.
Explain who/what inspired Shirley Chisholm to get involved in politics and fight for change.
Explain who/what inspired Sonia Sotomayor to get involved in justice and fight for change.
Analyze how Barack Obama showed that "holding fast to hope despite obstacles is the first step to making any dream come true."
Debate and analyze unit-essential questions.
Writing – 5 days
Research a local or national election and decide who you would vote for and why.
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
— 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.
— 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.
— 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.
— Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
— Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
— 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.
— Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
— Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information
— 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.
— Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
— 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.
— Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
— Link ideas within categories of information using words and phrases (e.g., another, for example, also, because).
— Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation presented
— With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
— With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
— Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
— 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.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Form and use the progressive (e.g., I was walking; I am walking; I will be walking) verb tenses.
— Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.
— Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., telegraph, photograph, autograph).
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
— Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
— By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4—5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
(Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1—3 above.)
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
— Apply grade 4 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., "Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text").
— Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
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