Lesson One: Your role as a citizen
Upon completing the lesson students will be able to:
- Identify their Senate and Assembly representatives
- Discuss how citizens are informed about government
- Use internet resources to follow the decisions being made by their representatives
One Class Period (50 minutes)
Paper or app/software for notetaking/recording
Chart paper or Padlet app on iPad/Chromebook
Online device to model research
Online devices for students to use
Part One (30 minutes)
1. Begin the unit by putting this quote by Thomas Jefferson where all the students can see it clearly:
"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their government, for whenever things go so far wrong to attract their notice, they can be relied on to set things right."
2. Ask the students to write down their interpretation of Jefferson's words.
3. Initiate a classroom discussion on what it means to be "well informed" concerning the activities of our government. On chart paper or Padlet (so that it can be viewed throughout the unit), record their ideas concerning "how" a citizen can become and remain well informed (e.g., direct observation of legislature, radio reports, television news etc.).
4. Initiate a second discussion on how well-informed citizens can "be relied on to set things right." Record the students' ideas on chart paper or Padlet. Go back over the list and ask the students to pick out ways of participating in government that do not require being of voting age – or even being a U.S. citizens (e.g., wearing a button, demonstrating in a march, convincing friends and relatives to vote on an issue) with an emphasis on communicating with their representatives.
Part Two (20 minutes)
In whatever manner your circumstances allow, lead the students through a demonstration of how to retrieve information concerning your representatives by using the internet.
To show your students how to find out who their representatives are in both the State Senate and the State Assembly, go to:
Follow the links to your representative's individual web pages to learn about them and the issues on which they are working.
To show your students what is occurring in the State Legislature "today", go to:
To show your students how to find information on specific bills, go to:
At the above web page, you can do a search by "Author" for bills carried by your representative. You may also search by "Keywords." A search for "Provisional Driver's License" or something similar suggested by the students may be of interest. This is also a good time to teach the students about Boolean Logic and other advanced searching techniques. For instance, a search for Provisional Driver's License (notice the lack of quotation marks) returns over three thousand responses, while a search for "Provisional Driver's License" (with quotation marks) returns only a handful.
Students respond to the prompt, "The internet is a helpful tool for learning about our State Senate and Assembly representatives. Yes? No? Why?"
Students answer essential question #2, "How does a community member participate in local, state, and federal politics?"
The responses should include ideas like, the students summarizing the need to be well-informed citizens and what a tremendous resource the internet is in helping them to become and remain well-informed. Foreshadow the next lesson by asking the students to think of ways they could use the internet to not only observe government in action, but to also have their voice heard.