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Teaching about forms of government can be a somewhat dry task, especially when talking about it with middle schoolers. Here in Florida, benchmark SS.7.C.3.1 (Compare different forms of government (direct democracy, representative democracy, socialism, communism, monarchy, oligarchy, autocracy)) requires students to really consider types of government in a number of ways. From the Benchmark Clarifications:

  • Students will identify different forms of government based on its political philosophy or organizational structure.
  • Students will analyze scenarios describing various forms of government.
  • Students will apply their understanding of the definitions of the various forms of government.

So as the clarifications indicate, students really do need to be able to do more than simply complete a Venn Diagram (and this is also more evidence for why we should always always always use the Benchmark Clarifications when planning both our instruction and our assessment!).

Civic MordorNaturally, having a resource that can help us get to these clarifications in a way that can be useful to students is important, and thanks to our friends at the Florida Virtual School, we have one! The video below does an excellent job comparing different forms of government, and even can be used as the basis for a scenario that gets to that second clarification!

It is important for us to note that this should hopefully NOT be the first time that students are exposed to forms of government and an understanding of the purpose of government. This video might also work for those of us in other grades! For example, SS.2.C.1.1 asks students to ‘Explain why people form governments’, and this is certainly a big part of the video! SS.3.C.1.1, ‘Explain the purpose and need for government’, builds on what they covered in second grade and again, the video addresses this pretty well! You MIGHT even use this to introduce students in fifth grade to benchmark SS.5.C.1.1, which asks them to “explain how and why the United States government was created,” though admittedly this benchmark calls for a greater consideration and exploration of something like the Articles of Confederation and the Declaration of Independence (in other words, it demands a greater American context) than the other benchmarks we have mentioned in this post so far.
Let’s not forget our friends in high school. Benchmark SS.912.C.1, “Demonstrate an understanding of the origins and purposes of government, law, and the American political system,” is another benchmark where you can use this video to BEGIN discussion.
Isn’t it wonderful to discover a resource that can cut across all grade levels to some degree or another???

H/T to  Cathy Schroepfer of Leon County Schools for the recommendation and Peggy Renihan for sharing it with her folks and with me.