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Three Branches of American Government and Three Texans Who Have Influenced Our Democracy


Computers & Internet, Science, Social Studies  


6, 7, 8  

Title – Three Branches of American Government and Three Texans Who Have Influenced Our Democracy
By – Mary Mills
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Computers / Internet

Duration: 3 days – 45 minutes each session

Texas Knowledge and Skills Standards Addressed:

Social Studies TEKS:

  • 113.6 B 4.19
  • 113.6 B 4.22-4.24

Technology TEKS:

Main Objective/Goal:

The student will apply critical-thinking skills to describe, discuss and recall characteristics of the three branches of American government, as well as identify three Texans who have served as American presidents, in order to familiarize themselves with American democratic leadership roles in the world today.

Specific Objectives:

The student will analyze and journal the roles of the three branches by accessing the teacher-bookmarked Curriculum Page and reading the classroom poster information. Using the seven teacher-supplied questions, teams of five will meet and discuss information, making it relevant to their future roles as informed citizens.

The student will form new groups and identify three American presidents who are Texans, in order to understand the importance of leadership in a democratic society, listing three character traits that students think each of them shared as leaders.

The student will compose/write a letter to the President using address noted in site listed on Curriculum Page, including a cover letter that states teacher’s name, grade of students, and complete mailing address of the school.


  • teacher-prepared poster
  • student journals
  • pencil/pen/colored pencils
  • game supplies:
    • 3 pieces of 9 x 12 paper
    • 15 sheets of regular-sized paper
    • 6 markers
    • printer paper for group letter and cover letter
    • envelope

Teams (5):

  • Group Leader
  • Recorder
  • Materials Handler
  • Timekeeper
  • Illustrator/Graphic Artist

Anticipatory Set:

“Imagine yourself meeting in Washington, D.C., in the halls of Congress, in the Supreme Court, or in the Oval Office of the White House. Take five minutes to decide which place you are visiting, then raise your hand and share with the class what issue you might be discussing with our political representatives today. You are encouraged to discuss things that affect you as fourth graders in today’s world. Do you have concerns about our military personnel in Iraq? Or, do you think that American children need better health insurance coverage? Brainstorm… and share!”


TTW guide students through websites using the computer tied into the ELMO machine, then ask students to study the teacher-created poster for more information.

TTW identify an Internet site that tells stories of the U.S. Presidents as well as a book that describes positive character traits of successful people.

TTW show students where to access the mailing address of the President in order to write and ask three group-determined questions about his role in establishing positive relations with the three branches of government.

Instructional Input:

  • Teacher shows students how to access different branches of American government, modeling an example by using one of the websites and reminding class of poster.
  • TTW show students one of the websites about American Presidents, then picture-walk through the Book of Virtues for Young People library book to sample character-trait ideas.
  • TTW set up a sample form letter on the ELMO or overhead projector for students to insert questions as they are discussed and revised.
  • TTW prepare a sample cover letter, showing students what it will look like when they send their three group questions in a letter to the President.


  • See Curriculum Page supplied by Teacher

Check for Understanding:

  • As teacher explains and models the different tasks, she will ask:
    • “Raise your hand if you have a question about how to access the bookmarked sites,” or
    • “Do you have a question about how the group will compose the letter to the President?” or
    • “Does everyone understand what a “character trait” means?”
    • Teacher will ask pupils to pull out their journals right then, adding these five words or phrases:
      • character trait
      • legislative
      • judicial,
      • executive,
      • D.C. (Washington, D.C.).

Guided Practice:

Teacher observes students as we work on each stage of instructional input using the ELMO or projector (the Internet computer tied to the 32″ TV screen), the book and any national newspapers the teacher supplies at the last minute.

Independent Practice:

  • TSW journal seven teacher-supplied questions describing branches of American government, answering them using the Internet, book or newspaper articles;
  • TSW separate into two groups to answer and discuss questions about three Texas presidents and their three positive character traits;
  • TSW create a letter to the President, asking three questions about government branches and how the President values their input.


“My budding social scientists, we have explored our American government structure and have studied three presidents from Texas and their positive character traits. Our democracy seems to be thriving, thanks to people like you who study our government and write letters to ensure that our leaders are interacting effectively.”

Safety Rules:

  • Students will be asked to read Internet safety signage.
  • Teacher will provide a Curriculum Page on the subject, so pupils should not have problems with safety issues.


  • TSW recall specific information learned about the three branches of government by answering seven questions (to be graded) which have been previously discussed and added to class journals.
  • Groups of 4-5 students will access information on U.S. presidents using library books or the Internet sites provided by the teacher. They will name three Texas presidents and state three character traits they possessed (graded).
  • Class members will pen letter to the President (not graded).


  • Class will form groups and play attached “Three Branches of Government” game.
  • The group with the most points wins a prize, like having lunch with the Principal, Assistant Principal, Media Specialist or School Librarian, for instance.


  • character trait
  • legislative
  • executive
  • judicial
  • D.C. – Washington, D.C.


  • ESL’s might wish to access Spanish-language sites about U.S. government branches or draw a picture of a president from Texas.
  • Students with learning differences may make their own chart of the three government branches and select the branch most important to them.


U.S. Government – How It Is Structured and
Three Texans Who Have Influenced Our Democracy   Select the Introduction link and the select How Much Do You Know?.

  • Launched in 2000 by Information Please (Almanac) under its former name – “Fact Monster and its Homework Center have received national recognition for their unbeatable reference materials, fun facts and features, and individualized homework help.”
  • Tips: look under “Selected Famous Natives and Residents” (skim for president descriptor after name of people). Be sure to note that George H.W. Bush may be linked under George W. Bush’s information on this site, not as a separate listing. Also, as you skim all the names, you will find another Texas president. (Eisenhower was born in Texas, but was raised as a Kansan. The Bush presidents weren’t born in Texas, but were raised there.) Click on these name links and find out more information about these presidents from Texas to share with class or to note in your journals.
  • Library book recommended for character trait examples:

The Book of Virtues for Young People: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories
by William J. Bennett, Editor.
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publisher (May 1, 1997).
Reading level: Ages 9-12


By Kim
Grade Level: 4


  • 3 pieces of big paper (9 x 12 or larger)
  • 16 sheets of regular paper
  • 6 Markers


Remove class poster that details functions of three branches of government.

Select scorekeeper by popsicle-stick method (hand him/her sheet of regular paper).

Select timekeeper by popsicle-stick method (name on stick).

Students count 1-4 or 1-5 in sequence, pairing off in groups by the number they say.

(20 students = 4 groups of 5 students; 25 students = 5 groups of 5 students.)
Each group of 4 or 5 students chooses a recorder.
Each group separates into different parts of room.

Timekeeper writes LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIAL, and EXECUTIVE on each of three big pieces of paper.

Teacher holds up one sheet at a time, timekeeper sets time for 30 seconds, and recorder discusses with his/her group what that branch does, writing communal answer down on sheet of regular paper.

Timekeeper stops discussions and each group holds up their answer in sequence.

Scorekeeper writes statistics for all numbered groups:

Right answers = 3 points are earned
Wrong answers = 1 point is detracted

Teacher repeats process with another branch of government… then last branch of government.

The group with the most points wins a prize like having lunch with the Principal, Assistant Principal, Media Specialist, or School Librarian.

If there is a tie, the teacher, scorekeeper and timekeeper determine a tie-breaking question.

Student Number and Name: ____________________________________________________




Using the site links provided below, complete the following Internet Scavenger Hunt which teaches about American government, Texas history and Texas Presidents. Work on this sheet when you finish an assignment early or during your independent time in class for extra credit.

Go to

  • Type “Cabeza de Vaca” into search screen on home page.
  • Select “Search now!” and note links to more information about de Vaca.
  • First, go to bottom of screen and select “next 5 matches”, then, go to bottom of this screen and select “last 3 matches”.
  • Click on #12 – Explorers of the Americas link, browse down the page, reading about Cabeza de Vaca’s visit to Texas, Mexico, and Florida.

Question: What means of transportation did de Vaca use to reach Texas from Florida?

Go to

  • Select “Glossary” from the chalkboard that Ben Franklin points toward, and read the phrase “checks and balances”.
  • Think about what the definition means to you and tell me in your own words what the phrase means.


Then, use the same “Glossary” and find the phrase “separation of powers”.
Put the definition in your own words if you can.


Use the “Arrow Back” button on the top left of the browser screen and return to Ben Franklin’s chalkboard.

  • Now, select “Games and Activities“.
  • Click on Print Games.
  • Click on “Expand Ben’s Vocabulary” (expand means to help Ben learn more words). Print out the picture of Ben sitting on his name by right-clicking the mouse and selecting print color picture (or black-and-white picture).
  • Make up five new words from the letters you see in Ben’s name. Please do not use proper names like people’s names (example: Frank or Ben). Just look for regular words you use every day. Place this answer sheet at the end of your 10 questions. Great job! Keep up the good work!

Go to the link for the Presidents of the Republic of Texas
and write down two different names:


How many Senators are selected from each state? __________________________
How many total Senators represent us in Congress? _________________________
How many members of the House represent us in Congress? __________________________

Go to and name 5 Texas Indian tribes: _______________________________________________________________________________

Look on the map under and list the one main tribe that lived directly on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Go to the Ben Franklin National Memorial site

State the height of his marble statue: _________________________.
Then, let the class know if you have to pay to visit the site _______________________.

Answer Key to the American Government, Texas History and Texas Presidents Internet Scavenger Hunt

Cabeza de Vaca – He traveled from Florida to Texas on a raft.

Checks and Balances – Limits imposed on all branches of government by giving each the right to amend acts of the other branches or the three branches of government watch over each other to ensure that they are being fair and just to the American people (example).

Separation of Powers – The system of dividing the powers and duties of a government into different branches, or how the founding forefathers divided our American government into 3 basic branches which have different powers and duties (example).

Five new words pool of possibilities – bin, fan, nine, line, kin, bank, jam, man mine, line, fine, link, mink, ink, beam, bean, lean, lane, main, mane, lain, rain, nib, nab…

Write down two names of the former Presidents of the Republic of Texas – David G. Burnet, Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar or Anson Jones.

There are 100 U.S. Senators (two from each state) and 435 seats in the House of Representatives. The number of House Representatives each state has depends on that state’s population. The House and the Senate together are called Congress. They make up the legislative, or law-making, branch of the government.

One way to think of the Constitution is as the law that governs the government. The Constitution is the set of rules and regulations that define the powers and duties of the government. When the Founding Fathers wrote the U.S. Constitution, they did something very important – they gave some power to the national government or federal government and some to the states. By doing this, they made sure that no one group would have too much power.

Apache tribes
Bidai tribe
Coahuilteco and Carrizo tribes
Caddo tribe
Comanche tribe
Jumano, Suma, Piro, and other eastern Pueblos
Karankawa tribe
Kiowa tribe
Kitsai tribe
Tawakoni tribe
Tonkawa tribe
Wichita tribe

Karankawa tribe

Dedicated by Congress in 1976, Memorial Hall features a 20 foot high marble status of Ben.
Admission to the National Memorial is free.

E-Mail Mary Mills!

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