Elementary Lessons


Government and Democracy

Guiding Question

Why do we need government? What events from 1830-1849 led to the government we have today?


A government is made up of the people and institutions put in place to manage the land, resources and people living within its borders. Political changes in the first half of the nineteenth century shaped the democratic form of government we have today.


In this lesson, students work in groups to explore options for leadership and governance in an exercise called Survivor Island. Afterwards, students review the concept of government and parliamentary democracy, and investigate events from 1830-1849 that dramatically shifted our political system. In the culminating activity, students imagine the ways in which a prime minister or premier can ensure they adhere to responsible government.


We are learning to:

  • develop an understanding of power dynamics and the importance of rules and laws;
  • work collaboratively and critically with peers;
  • use the concept of cause and consequence to determine the factors that led to responsible government in Canada;
  • use the concept of historical significance to analyze past actions and events that have contributed to Canadian democracy;
  • develop an understanding of how political, economic, and social institutions affects our lives.


Below are some sample success criteria you can use or build upon. Co-creating success criteria with your class will allow students to have ownership over their learning and understand what successful learning looks like.


  • explain why we need leadership, rules, and government in our society;
  • work collaboratively with my peers to make decisions;
  • define responsible government;
  • analyze and evaluate the events that led to responsible government in Canada (cause and consequence);
  • discuss some events that were important to Canadian democracy (historical significance);
  • explain how past events and political institutions affect my community and me.


Grade 7:

  • History – B3, B3.1, B3.2, B3.5
  • Oral Communication – 2, 2.2
  • Writing – 1, 2, 1.4, 2.5



1. Ask students to imagine they are stranded as a group on a remote island and they need to make decisions about how they will live and survive.

2. Divide students into groups and explain that each group will explore the need for leadership, organization and rules within a community by considering the following questions.

  • Will everyone find their own food and shelter, or will the class work together as a team or in small groups? Explain the reasons behind your choice.
  • If you decide to work as a team or in groups, how will the tasks be divided?
  • Will you need a leader? If so, how will they be selected? What powers will they receive?
  • Are rules necessary? If so, which rules are needed? How will they be established?
  • Will there be consequences for those who break the rules or do not contribute their fair share? How will this be determined and by who?

Alternatively, the process can be self-directed with each group brainstorming what decisions would need to be made and how they would be made, in order to create a community.

3. Bring the class back together and discuss the decisions made by each group. Reflection questions:

  • How was the community organized?
  • Was there a leadership system? How did it work?
  • Who ultimately held the power? Everyone or only the leader?
  • What were the challenges with the process of making decisions and how were they overcome?


1. Review the concept of government and parliamentary democracy (‘Parliamentary Democracy in Ontario’ video). Guiding questions: Who makes the rules and decisions in our province or country? How are leaders and/or government representatives selected? How do they maintain power?

  • A government manages the land, resources and people living within its borders. This includes creating and enforcing rules and laws.
  • In a parliamentary democracy, the people elect members to their parliament and legislatures to make decisions on their behalf. Most members belong to political parties. The political party with the most members in the legislature usually forms the government and their leader becomes the leader of the government.
  • In Canada, we adhere to the principle of responsible government, which means the government is responsible to the representatives of the people. The executive (prime minister or premier and his or her cabinet) must maintain a majority of support in the elected legislature or parliament in order to govern.

2. Using Handout 2.2, review the events that led to responsible government in Canada. It may be helpful to supplement this information with other resources or videos.

Additional resources:

3. Review the concept of cause and consequence, as well as the difference between underlying and immediate causes, and intended and unintended consequences.

  • Cause and consequence is a historical thinking concept used to determine the factors that affect or lead to something (e.g., an event, situation, action, interaction) as well as its impact or effects.
  • Immediate causes are the circumstances that are most closely connected with the event.
  • Underlying causes are broader circumstances that led up to an event but are less connected to it.
  • Intended consequences are the expected effects as a result of an action or event.
  • Unintended consequences are the unexpected effects as a result of an action or event.

4. Using Handout 2.2, have students work in pairs to discuss the events that led to responsible government in Canada and fill out the graphic organizer (Activity 2.3).

5. Afterwards, have the pairs form groups with another pair in the class to discuss their choices. End the activity with a whole class discussion. Final reflection questions:

  • How would you rank in order of importance the events that led to responsible government in Canada?
  • How do these events help us to understand the past?


Have a brief closing discussion about responsible government and parliamentary democracy in Canada, or ask students to write a reflection on one or more of the
following questions:

  • Which event do you think was most important in creating responsible government in Canada? Explain your choice by analyzing the intended and unintended consequences.
  • Is responsible government significant today? How does it relate to my community and me?
  • Why is the concept of responsible government important? What does it mean to you?


  • Lessons are not meant to be covered entirely in one period. Please use the activities and combine them in a way that is appropriate for your class.


Type: For Learning

Lesson Area: Minds On

Guiding Questions for Teachers

  1. Are students taking turns listening and speaking?
  2. Can students think of various ways to address their needs in the survival activity?

Type: As Learning

Lesson Area: Minds On

Guiding Questions for Teachers

  1. Are students categorizing and ranking possible solutions? Are student responses realistic and plausible?

Lesson Area: Action

Guiding Questions for Teachers

  1. Are students actively listening and asking questions?
  2. Can students demonstrate an understanding of cause and consequence?
  3. Can students recognize the significance of historical events?

Lesson Area: Consolidation

Guiding Questions for Teachers

  1. Can students evaluate the importance of the events leading to responsible government on their personal lives?
  2. Are students able to explain the importance of the events leading to responsible government on their personal lives?

Type: Of Learning

Lesson Area: Consolidation

Guiding Questions for Teachers

  1. Can students evaluate the importance of the events leading to responsible government on their personal lives?
  2. Are students able to explain the importance of these events?


Individual Education Plans


  • Provide ample time for concept attainment: vocabulary in advance, explain responsible government in a way the student can understand using student interests and prior knowledge (i.e. The captain of a hockey team might need to have the support of most of the team for the team to play successfully).


  • Students can complete an alternate consolidation by exploring Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin, key figures in bringing responsible government to the federal government. (Resource: http://education.historicacanada.ca/en/tools/446)

English Language Learners

  • Vocabulary in advance will help with understanding classroom discussions.
  • Be sure to invite students to share similarities or differences from their country of origin, if applicable. This will help draw upon prior knowledge.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

  • When introducing responsible government, be sure to mention that not all countries have these types of checks and balances in their political system.

Indigenous Focus

  • Introduce consensus decision-making processes in the final discussion of the ‘Minds On’ Activity.


  • Activity 2.1: Survivor Island [PDF] [Word]
  • Handout 2.2: Shaping Democracy in Canada [PDF]
  • Activity 2.3: Cause and Consequence – Responsible Government in Canada [PDF] [Word]

Download Lesson (PDF)