Fourth Grade Lesson: Tree Branches of Government


written on 3-7-07 by Kathryn Ohlmann 

I.                  Objective

a.     Students will identify the functions and components of the three branches of state government.

b.     Students will understand some simple terms associated with the functions of the state government.

II.               Key Concept(s)

a.     Powers of the government are separated to maintain balance and order.

III.           Standard(s) Addressed

a.     IN 4.2.3      Identify and explain the major responsibilities of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of state government as written in the Indiana Constitution.

b.    IN 4.2.5      Explain that Indiana is one of 50 states in the United States and that other countries are also made up of smaller units, such as states, provinces, or territories.

IV.           Vocabulary

a.     governor- the head of the Executive branch of Indiana government

b.     representative- A person elected to speak for a part of the population

c.      executive- the branch of government that carries out the law

d.     legislative- the branch of government that creates the laws

e.      judicial- the branch of government that interprets and enforces the laws

f.       bill- a written idea that is voted on to become a law

g.     law- a bill that is signed by the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Governor

h.     veto- the power of the governor to refuse a bill that is signed by the House of Representatives and the Senate

i.       vote- making a decision for or against a proposal

j.       justice- a judge that is a member of the Supreme Court

k.     override- to disregard a governor's veto and make a law anyway

l.       enforce- to make sure that people obey a law

m.  democratic- a form of government where every citizen has a voice

n.     republic- a form of government where citizens elect someone to speak for them


V.               Materials Needed

a.     Branches of Government Art Project

                                                             i.      1 poster with the three branches of government, their functions and the positions in each branch listed clearly.


                                                           ii.      3 six-inch sticks from a tree per student

                                                        iii.      Extra sticks in case some break

                                                        iv.      1 3” diameter Styrofoam ball for every two students and one for the model

                                                           v.      1 paper plate per student and one for the model

                                                        vi.      Brown spray paint

                                                      vii.      Green construction paper

                                                   viii.      Fine point marker or pen for each student

                                                        ix.      Brown construction paper

                                                           x.      At least 20 2” pieces of floral wire per student (or ornament hooks) and 20 for the model

                                                        xi.      1 pair of scissors per student

                                                      xii.      A one hole punch tool

                                                   xiii.      1 rubric (attached) per student

                                                   xiv.      1 model of completed tree


b.     Enrichment Materials

                                                             i.      1 wire hanger for each student

                                                           ii.      A one hole punch tool

                                                        iii.      at least 3 index cards for each student

                                                        iv.      a pencil and a marker for each student

                                                           v.      yarn

                                                        vi.      information about the powers of the government for each student

VI.           Procedure

a.     Prepare before the lesson:

                                                             i.      Cut each Styrofoam ball in half.

                                                           ii.      Spray paint each half brown (If you are too close, the paint will eat away at the Styrofoam.  But if you spray from a distance, it will lightly cover it and the foam will be okay.)

                                                        iii.      Glue each half onto the middle of an upside down paper plate with strong glue that will hold foam to paper.

                                                        iv.      Cut one 5” x 0.75” strip of brown construction paper per student.

b.     Have the prepared plates, sticks, the brown construction paper strips, and pens or markers laid out on a table. (Have the green construction paper, scissors and cut wire in another place for later.)

c.      “Thank you all so much for coming back.  And thank you for working so hard on the vocabulary last time; it will really help us now.  Last time, we identified the three branches of government.  Now, we are going to make a model of a tree to demonstrate our knowledge of the three branches of government.  Does anyone remember what those three branches are?”

d.     Show the example of the tree that you have created, and explain the components.

e.      Have the students pick up a prepared plate, 3 sticks, a pen or marker, and the brown strips of paper.  Pass out two pieces of wire to each student’s desk.

f.       Floral wire is a little more flimsy than ornament hooks, but it will go through construction paper.  Explain to the students that they might stick their fingers a little with it, so they might want to poke a hole with a pencil first, or they can use the hole punch to make it easier.  If you only have one hole punch tool, it might be better to just have them use pencils so there is no waiting or fighting for it.

g.     “Spend a little time setting up your tree to look something like the model, with the three tree branches pushed into the foam.  Write ‘Indiana Constitution’ on the brown strip and use some wire to stick it into the foam at the bottom, since the powers of these three branches come from our Constitution.”

h.     Have the students pick up the green construction paper and the scissors.  Pass out more wire to the students’ desks.  They should have about 18-20 pieces or wire each.

i.       “Once you have your tree set up, you will take the green construction paper and cut out the shapes of leaves.  On a large leaf, put the branch of government on each stick on the tip.  On other, smaller leaves, write the functions and the people that define the branch. You can find this information by looking at the poster on the wall or by looking on page 366 of your Indiana Social Studies book.  You will need to have a leaf that names the branch and at least 3 smaller leaves describing the branch.” Use the model to show examples of this.

j.       Introduce enrichment.  “Once you are finished with your project, you may begin another small project about the functions of the government.  You will need to pick up the handout and the materials listed on it on the back table.”

VII.        Assessment

a.     The tree is completed and assessed using the rubric.

VIII.    Enrichment

a.     Mobile about the functions of government.

                                                             i.      Instructions and materials list on handout provided. (to be added shortly)

IX.           Targeted Outcomes

a.     Cognitive

                                                             i.      Recalling vocabulary terms

                                                           ii.      Acquiring knowledge about the branches of government

b.     Affective

                                                             i.      N/A

c.      Psychomotor

                                                             i.      Fine motor skills used in cutting, attaching wire and manipulating sticks into foam.

                                                           ii.      Enrichment- Fine motor skills in punching holes into the cards and tying yarn to them.