Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

They May Take Our Lives, But They'll Never Take Our Freedom...

American Federal Government

Clayton Canon | Published: November 17th, 2022 by K20 Center

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


This is the second lesson 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)

How does government structure influence what constitutes a human right?



Students engage in a CUS and Discuss activity to define and provide examples of human rights and freedoms.


Students participate in an Agreement Circles activity to explore the ideas of promoting and protecting human rights, as well as the consequences of such actions.


Students participate in an Example, Nonexample activity to explain the meaning of promoting or suppressing human rights in limited and unlimited governments.


Students extend their learning by creating a poster with examples of human rights being promoted and repressed, as well as comparing and contrasting real-world examples.


Use the attached rubric to evaluate student levels of understanding and mastery of content.


  • Paper

  • Writing utensils

  • Colored pencils

  • Dry erase markers


30 Minute(s)

Lead students in a Cus and Discuss Activity to answer the following question: What are human rights?


60 Minute(s)

Lead students in an Agreement Circles Activity with the purpose of answering the question "Does 'X' country protect and promote civil rights?" The outside of the circle will be reserved for those students who believe that the country does not protect and promote human rights, while the inner circle will be saved for those who believe that the country does protect and promote civil rights.

Read the descriptions of the 3 countries and have students discuss and come to personal conclusions about whether the described countries protect human rights. Encourage students to cite reasons from the text (i.e., I believe that the United States protects human rights because _____________________.)

Introduce students to the Freedom Index provided by CATO. Explain to them that CATO compiles a yearly freedom index ranking the nations of the world based on different criteria in regards to the freedom that people who live there enjoy. Students should not be expected to analyze the entire report, but rather focus on pages 88-111, which outlines rankings of the world's countries. Students may be interested in reading the introduction information at the beginning of the report.


45 Minute(s)

Lead the students in an Examples and Non-Examples activity

Quickly review definitions and examples of limited and unlimited governments established from the first half of this mini-unit with students.

Students will be divided into pairs or groups of three and will use pages 88-111 from the CATO Freedom Index, printed sources, and internet sources to research an Example and a Nonexample of both a limited and an unlimited government from the current, or historical world.

Student groups need to pay special attention to the protection and promotion, or lack, of human rights.


45 Minute(s)

Maintaining groups from the Explain stage, assign the following assignment: Students will create a product comparing and contrasting the examples of limited and unlimited government, paying special attention to the promotion and protection, or lack, of human rights.

Use the Final Project Menu to provide students with a variety of options in which to express their mastery of the content. An example has been attached above. Encourage students to collaborate creatively and think outside the box. These projects could turn out to be extremely meaningful learning experiences.

Students will also need to utilize information from the CATO Freedom Index and other print and digital sources. They will be required to cite the sources they utilize on the back of their posters or on an additional page. Regardless of medium chosen, have students complete a works cited page.


Use the attached rubric to evaluate the final product of the activity from the extend stage.