Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

When I Discover Who I Am, I'll Be Free?

American Government

Clayton Canon | Published: November 22nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3- class period(s)
  • Duration More 180 minutes


This is lesson #1 of a mini unit exploring the ideas of government structure, freedom, and whether governments truly protect our freedom. The student will assess the value of government by analyzing the structures of ruling bodies and how they influence the lives of citizens.  Learners will have opportunities to participate in multiple activities to help define the meaning of limited and unlimited governments, classify characteristics, provide examples and non-examples of each, and extend this knowledge into a deeper understanding of both historical and contemporary worlds.

Essential Question(s)

Do governments truly protect freedom?



Students engage in a card sort to differentiate between characteristics of limited and unlimited governments.


Students explore the differences between limited and unlimited governments, as well as classifications of freedom.


Students explain their reasoning for the question: does "x" country protect freedom?


Students extend their understanding of limited and unlimited governments by completing a CSI (Color, Symbol, Image) activity representing each.


Evaluate students as you listen to discussion and question them on their reasoning and understanding of the topic.


  • Student devices with internet access

  • T-Chart handouts for each student (attached)

  • Chain Notes Handouts for each class (attached)

  • Rubric for Final Assessment (attached)

  • Poster board, blank copy paper, or colored paper for final posters, depending on personal preference

  • Colored pencils, markers, rulers, etc.

  • Sticky notes in at least two colors.

  • Standard 52-card deck of playing cards.


30 Minute(s)

Instruct students as individuals or in groups to choose their own method to sort government description cards using prior knowledge and their own criteria. (11 minutes)

During the last 5 minutes, hand out limited and unlimited category cards. Ask students to change their sort putting everything under those two categories to see if it changes their reasoning or clears up the desired classification.

Allow groups or individuals the opportunity to share the classification they chose, provide reasoning for their decisions, and elaborate on how the addition of the category cards altered their thinking.

When students are finished, ask them to separate out limited and unlimited cards and shuffle remaining cards for the next class. (1 minute)


30 Minute(s)

Lead students in a discussion about the characteristics of a limited and unlimited government, taking notes using a T-Chart, the Prezi Presentation and the provided Note Key. As students share characteristics for each type of government, have them separate and list in the appropriate columns. I would begin each column with the definition of each type of government.

Encourage students to begin to put themselves in the place of teens living within the characteristics of the discussion. To determine what it seems life would be like in these situations. Doing so will help students connect the content to their own worlds.

Once you have covered the material from the Prezi and discussed the meanings of the characteristics, students need to compare T-Charts and fill in any material they may have missed.


60 Minute(s)

As students begin working on the extend activity listed below, have them also work on a Chain Notes activity.

Have students create chain notes on the following questions:

Split the students into 4 groups. Students will need to be grouped with others whom they are working on the final poster. Have each group start out circulating 1 question within the group. When everyone in the group has had input, rotate the 4 questions between the 4 groups until each participant in each group has had a chance to provide input for each question.


Place students in groups of 2-3 people. Assign each group a country for which to create a Color, Symbol, Image representation.

Encourage students to use creative ideas to represent their countries, while also illustrating the characteristics of limited and unlimited governments.

When all students have completed their C.S.I. activity, set up a Gallery Walk, allowing students to see other's work.

When each group has rotated back to their own poster the second time, have each group explain their poster and reveal the country and government type that it represents.


As students are circling the room for the gallery walk, circulate through the room and listen to discussion between students and question them on their reasoning and understanding of the topic. Use the attached rubric to assess their understanding.