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The Citizen Advocacy Center is pleased to make these lesson plans available as a free resource for educators.*
While written for specific grade ranges, they can easily be adapted for younger or older students.
Click on the title link to open the pdf file.
Funding provided by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
* Regarding the Illinois Learning Standards referenced within each lesson plan:
The New Illinois Learning Standards Incorporating the Common Core are in the process of being written and implemented. Citizen Advocacy Center expects to update lesson plans to reflect the changes when the process is complete.
Military Tribunals (Grades 9-12) This lesson discusses the use of military tribunals after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and analyzes the difference between military tribunals and civilian criminal trials. This lesson should be taught after teaching the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as the main effects of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and Military Tribunals are on freedom of speech, search and seizure, and other procedural due process rights for defendants.
USA PATRIOT ACT 2001: Post 9/11 Due Process (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an opportunity for class discussion of the issues of security and civil liberties. Students will understand that the line between liberty and security is not always clear and that liberty and security are largely dependent on one another.
Ballot Initiatives: Direct Democracy vs. Representative Democracy (Grades 7-12) This lesson poses the question, “How much of a direct say should citizens have in government decisions?” and provides an overview of ballot initiative (referendum) questions in Illinois.
How Hard Is It to Run for Public Office? (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of how candidates get their names on the ballot and of the different standards that must be met by candidates of established political parties, candidates of third parties, and independent candidates. Students will participate in a mock congressional campaign.
Third-Party Presidential Candidates: Barriers to Ballot Access (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an introduction to the barriers to accessing the ballot faced by third-party Presidential candidates.
Federal Election Commission (Grades 6-8) This lesson provides an overview of the structure of the Federal Election Commission and a discussion of its strengths and weaknesses.
What Role Does Money Play in Politics? A Mock Campaign (Grades 7-12) This lesson provides an overview of the U.S. election finance process through participation in a mock campaign.
What Role Does Money Play in Politics? A Moderated Discussion (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of the U.S. election finance process and the values it reflects through an active class discussion.
Census 2010: You Count! (Grades 4-6) This lesson provides an overview of the U.S. Census, explains its relevance, and emphasizes the importance of each household’s completion of census forms.
Fitness Plan for Democracy (Grades 7-12) This lesson gives students the opportunity to assess their level of involvement in their local communities and beyond. It also provides a series of questions, the Fitness Plan for Democracy, to guide them to greater civic involvement.
Introduction to Active Citizenship (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides students with an overview of activism in government and communities. Students will identify and discuss methods of citizen participation, create and express possible policy solutions for local issues of concern, and address policy concerns to actual decision-makers in government.
Jury Duty: First Hand Participation in Government (Grades 7-12) This lesson provides an overview of the American jury system and the civic obligation to serve on a jury through discussion and a mock trial.
Making a Difference: What is a Citizen & What Can Citizens Do? (Grades 5-8) This lesson gives students an overview of different kinds of citizen participation, and requires students to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of those methods. Students are given the opportunity for active participation and then asked to share their experiences with classmates.
Young Voters and Civic Participation (Grades 9-12) This lesson demonstrates to students that they have a voice and that an organized student voice can be powerful. Further, the lesson will demonstrate that even students that are not old enough to vote have a myriad of ways to engage in civic participation. Lastly, a successful grassroots organizing strategy will be illustrated.
Who Represents You in Government? (Grades 5-12) This lesson explains who represents students at various levels of government as well as the basic roles and differences between each level of government.
The Preamble: A Plan for a Country (Grades 7-12) This lesson explores the purpose of the Preamble to the United States Constitution, and asks students to create their own Preamble.
The Bill of Rights (Grades 5-12) This lesson explores both the words and the practical implications of the Bill of Rights.
The Fourth Amendment (Grades 9-12) This lesson explores the meaning and application of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, utilizing the Supreme Court case New Jersey v. T.L.O.
The Fifth Amendment (Grades 9-12) This lesson explores the meaning of the phrase “due process” in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and how due process affects students’ daily lives.
Active Use of the First Amendment (Grades 9-12) This lesson covers the content of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Students will also learn how they can use their First Amendment rights to become active in their communities and to create change.
Internet Freedom (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides the basis for a student discussion about the goals and policies of their school district when considering their freedom on the Internet. Students will have the opportunity to rewrite the goals and policies that are currently in place.
Music Censorship (Grades 6-8) This lesson will give students the opportunity to discuss censorship and the First Amendment as it specifically relates to the music industry.
Understanding the Five Freedoms (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an understanding of the content and meaning of the five freedoms of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through the use of case studies. Students will learn their First Amendment rights as residents of the United States, as well as the reality that these rights can be limited and controversial.
Freedom of Information
Freedom of Information Act, Illinois (Grades 9-12) This lesson will explore two main themes: what types of information held by government agencies is considered public information and how to access public information.
Judicial Independence (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of the issues and cases the Supreme Court decides as well as who might have an interest in those cases, and why it is important that the judiciary remain independent from the other branches of government.
Basic Legal Research: Finding Federal, State and Municipal Laws (Grades 9-12) This lesson informs students how to obtain information on specific bills and how to influence the legislative process. This lesson should be taught after “Legislative Process - How a Bill Becomes a Law,” so that students are familiar with how bills are passed before they begin this lesson.
How to Draft A Bill (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an opportunity for students to brainstorm ideas for good laws, individually draft a bill from one of those ideas, and as a class vote on which bills should be passed into law.
Mock Hearings: Senate Committee Hearing & Full Senate Vote (Grades 7-12) This lesson uses mock hearings to provide an overview of how a State Senate committee and the full Senate evaluate policy suggestions and laws.
Politics and the Media (Grades 5-12) This lesson provides an opportunity for students to evaluate the importance of the broadcast media in a democracy. This lesson is best used prior to an election and may be used to follow the lesson plan “Media - Young Citizens and Television Broadcasters.”
Young Citizens and Media Access (Grades 5-12) This lesson invites students to consider the various types of news media and its availability to the public as a means to express views on important issues.
Young Citizens and Television Broadcasters (Grades 5-12) This lesson provides the opportunity for students to survey local broadcast television coverage and to analyze programming broadcast to the public.
Municipal Government in Illinois: The Most Local Form of Government
(Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of municipal government in Illinois, the most local form of government and where citizens can have the greatest impact.
Open Meetings Act, Illinois (Grades 9-12) This lesson teaches students to use the Illinois Open Meetings Act in a practical manner as well as imparts an appreciation and understanding of the importance of citizen participation and open government as essential to democracy.
What is Redistricting and why does it Matter? (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of the redistricting process through a moderated discussion of what redistricting is, why redistricting matters, and how the process takes place in Illinois.
Understanding How the Lines are Drawn (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of U.S. Congressional districts, how and when they are drawn, and who draws them. Students will practice drawing districts for their state and learn about political issues related to redistricting.
Illinois Freedom of Information Act (Grades 9-12) This lesson will explore two main themes: what types of information held by government agencies is considered public information and how to access public information.
Illinois Open Meetings Act (Grades 9-12) This lesson teaches students to use the Illinois Open Meetings Act in a practical manner as well as imparts an appreciation and understanding of the importance of citizen participation and open government as essential to democracy.
Illinois Municipal Code (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of municipal government in Illinois, the most local form of government and where citizens can have the greatest impact.
Illinois Early and Absentee Voting Procedures (Grades 6-8) This lesson explains who can vote early or who is permitted to vote by absentee ballot, as well as the procedures for early and absentee voting in the state of Illinois.
Illinois Election Law (Grades 9-12) This lesson provides an overview of how elections work in Illinois and describes who is eligible to vote. Through a mock election, students will investigate state election law and learn the processes and practices of voter registration and poll watching.
Illinois Voter Registration (Grades 6-8) This lesson provides an overview of elections and describes the requirements for voter registration by giving students the opportunity to engage in a mock voter registration drive.
Voting Systems: What Is Fair? (Grades 9-12) This lesson explores plurality, cumulative and instant run-off voting systems and asks students to evaluate the pros and cons of each system and to consider which one best represents citizens in a democracy.
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