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The Government of Mississippi: How it Functions lesson plan

OVERVIEW

The election year cycle brings extra attention every four years to statewide government offices. How those offices affect our lives between elections is the focus of this lesson plan.

CONNECTION TO THE CURRICULUM

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 4, and 5

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12

MATERIALS

  • Construction paper; butcher paper; markers

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

  • depict the structure of Mississippi’s government by preparing a graphic organizer for each branch;
  • describe basic duties and responsibilities of each branch;
  • realize how state government affects all the citizens;
  • suggest ways to become involved in state government.

OPENING THE LESSON

Read the following statements to students as if they were found in an article in the day’s newspaper. Ask students: “Did you hear about the new rules going into effect in Mississippi?”

  • As of the first of next month, the driving age in the state will be raised to 21.
  • The Mississippi school day will be increased to ten hours, beginning immediately.
  • The new state budget provides no money for textbooks.
  • All juveniles arrested for crimes will be tried as adults.
  • The Mississippi State Fair has been canceled indefinitely.

Allow students to respond to the “new rules” and to speculate on their origin. Help them understand that making rules and regulations such as these are one function of their state government. They should begin to realize how state government affects their lives.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1. Tell students that Mississippi’s state government, like the United States government, is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. As they read the Mississippi History Now article, have them prepare a graphic organizer for each branch and indicate how it is structured and its broad responsibilities.

2. Conduct a class discussion to check for accuracy. As students volunteer their information, teacher may wish to draw a large organizer on the board for each branch. Teacher should stress the major responsibilities of each branch of government.

(Note: The following activities will give students an indepth understanding of how each branch operates.)

3. Assign each office in the Executive branch to small groups or to partners, depending on class size. Each group will prepare a large representation of their office showing its duties and responsibilities. This will be presented orally to the class so that all students will gain a better understanding of each office that assists in carrying out the laws of the state.

4. After the presentations, the teacher will administer the following activity to check for mastery. It is entitled “Who Are You Going to E-Mail?”

In the Executive branch, who would you e-mail ….

  • to thank for touch-screen voting?
  • to complain about cuts in the state budget?
  • to report a dangerous railroad crossing?
  • to find out the amount of state sales tax collected for a year?
  • to ask questions about a scam targeting the elderly?
  • to determine how a school district is spending taxpayer funds?
  • to get information on the practices of an insurance company?
  • to ask questions about a proposed increase in electric rates?
  • to get information about the Agricultural Museum in Jackson?

Students may enjoy comparing their answers or teacher may collect them for a grade.

5. Ask students to reread the Legislative branch section and to construct a flow chart showing how a bill becomes law. Distribute state maps showing the Senate and House of Representatives districts to each student. (Could possibly reproduce them two to a page.) Ask students to color the House and Senate districts in which they live and to find the names of their legislators to list in their notes. Allow them to take these home to share with their families.

6. To take a closer look at the Judicial branch, distribute small maps to each student showing the chancery, circuit, and supreme court districts of the state. (Maps can be found with the Mississippi History Now article.) Again, have students color their districts and research the names of the judges serving those districts.

7. As a summarizing activity, ask students to classify each of the following as part of the LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIAL, or EXECUTIVE branch of state government.

a. House of Representatives
b. Highway commissioners
c. Circuit court judge
d. Makes laws
e. Governor
f. Ensures fair elections
g. Chief legal officer
h. Regulates insurance rates
i. Commander-in-chief of militia
j. Keeps track of how much money the state has
k. Brings lawsuits on state’s behalf
l. Punishes lawbreakers
m. Carries out the laws
n. Determines if laws violate the state Constitution

8. Have students collect current news articles relating to state government. Using the articles and the activities in this lesson, lead a discussion of how our lives are impacted by state government.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1. Ask students to respond to the following statements as a way of encouraging them to participate in state government.

  • I will be eligible to vote on this date ____.
  • I live in this State Senate district ____.
  • I live in this State Representative district ____.
  • The first state election I can vote in will be ____.
  • The state public office I am most interested in is ____.
  • A law I think would be good for the state is ____.
  • Some things I can do for a favorite candidate include ____.
  • Ways I can become knowledgeable about candidates include ____.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1. Participation in discussions and class activities
2. Completion of graphic organizers
3. Map completion
4. Reinforcement activities
5. News article

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1. Schedule a visit by a state government official to the classroom. Have students prepare questions in advance they would like answered.

2. In election years, students could collect campaign literature or could create a piece supporting their favorite candidate.

3. Students could draw political cartoons which address some aspect of state government.

4. Let students conduct additional research by accessing the web sites of the governmental offices.

5. With guidance from their teacher, students will write an authentic e-mail message to a state office regarding an issue of state government they are concerned about.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (Blue Book) is the repository of information on current state government. It is published every fourth year after a presidential election and is available through the Secretary of State’s office. (accessed November 2007)

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