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

4th Grade

Unit Summary

Please Note: We have updated the unit with a new core text, For Which We Stand: How Our Government Works and Why It Matters by Jeff Foster. Additionally, we have released updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.

This unit serves as a foundation for understanding how the American government was formed and the way it is structured. The unit has three 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 determining the main idea of a text and which details best 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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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Before you teach this unit, unpack the texts, themes, and core standards through our guided intellectual preparation process. Each Unit Launch includes a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning to ensure you're prepared to support every student.

Essential Questions

  • 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 through government? 

Reading Focus Areas

  • 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.

Writing Focus Areas

Informational Writing

  • 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.

Opinion Writing

  • Write strong topic sentences that clearly state an opinion.

  • Provide reasons and evidence to support a particular opinion.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • 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.



Constitution abolitionist advisor amendment bill branch candidates campaign cabinet chamber consolation compromise constituents democracy desegregation enforce evoked executive exposure federalism federal freedom humiliated interpretation inferior justice legislative mockery nominate nominee optimism passive pessimism pivotal president publicity radical representatives revelation republic ridicule sacrifice separation segregation strategically sympathetic taunt unanimous veto vision


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

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 4, view our 4th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

Supporting All Students

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.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

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Unit 3

Interpreting Perspectives: Greek Myths


Unit 5

Believing in Yourself: The Wild Book

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