Elementary Lessons


Rules and Government

Guiding Question

Why do we need government? What are different types of decision-making? What are the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of government?


A government is made up of the people, institutions and practices put in place to manage the land, resources and people living within its borders.

In this unit, students reflect on rules and laws in their community. Students review different decision‑making models and explore their strengths and limitations through dramatic presentations of real life examples. Students discuss the purpose of government and review basic government types. Afterwards, students reflect on why we need government and what it means for them as citizens.


We are learning to:

  • develop an understanding of rules in the community (Citizenship Education Framework – Structures);
  • develop an understanding of power dynamics and recognize the different ways people make decisions (Citizenship Education Framework – Structures);
  • participate in teams by establishing positive and respectful relationships, developing trust and acting cooperatively and with integrity (Global Competencies – Cooperation);
  • understand the impact of the type of government system we have in Canada (Concepts of Thinking – Significance);
  • understand the political and social forces, their interconnectedness, and how they affect individuals, societies and countries (Global Competencies – Citizenship).



  • describe rules in my community and understand why they are important;
  • analyze different ways that governments or groups make decisions and interpret the consequences;
  • participate in teams by establishing positive and respectful relationships, and acting cooperatively;
  • explain the type of government system we have in Canada;
  • analyze the interconnectedness of government, and how it affects individuals and societies.


Social Studies Gr. 5 B3, B3.1, B3.5
Oral Communication 1, 2, 1.3, 2.3
Writing 1, 1.4, 1.5
Media Literacy 3, 3.2, 3.4


Alien Encounter

1. Ask students to imagine they are aliens visiting planet Earth for the first time. They are trying to make sense of how society functions by observing the community surroundings, the behaviour of people, their interactions with one another, and society’s general order and organization. It might seem strange that cars drive on the right side of the road (traffic laws), children go into a building each day to work without pay (school) and adults exchange coloured paper for food (money). Explain to students that, without understanding the process and reasons for decisions, our society would seem confusing or unfair.

2. As a class, make a list of rules or behaviours in your community that students think might seem strange to an outsider (alien). Questions to prompt discussion:

  • How would you explain our society to someone new?
  • How or why do you think these rules and behaviours came to be?
  • Who makes these rules and decisions?
  • Upon reflection, are there any laws or traditions that seem outdated, old-fashioned or inappropriate?

3. ‘Elbow Partner’ activity: Be an Alien. Have one student take on the role of the alien, the other the human. The human explains a rule on the class list to the alien. The alien can ask questions and make suggestions to improve the rule. Then have students swap roles and repeat.


1. Ask students to consider decision-making processes at the school. Are students involved in making decisions? If so, how? Do you have a leadership group or student council? How are they chosen? What decisions do they make? (e.g., planning of a spring/winter carnival, dance, graduation).

2. Pose any of the following questions and lead a class discussion. Use a graphic organizer (Venn diagram, T-chart, KWL) to chart the responses.

  • How do people make decisions in a group?
  • What are different methods for making decisions?
  • How can making decisions be challenging, especially with many people? (e.g., ordering a pizza with toppings and ingredients that will meet both the preferences and dietary restrictions of all students).
  • What factors contribute to a positive decision-making process?
  • What factors contribute to a negative decision-making process?

3. Review the three decision-making models on Activity 1.1 (autocratic, democratic, consensus). To explore the strengths and limitations of the different decision-making models, divide students into groups and have each group prepare a skit for one of the scenarios (Activity 1.1). At the end of each skit, have the rest of the class choose the best decision-making model for the scenario (autocratic, democratic or consensus) and provide a reason. Alternatively, students could fill out the activity sheet and discuss the answers as a class afterwards.

4. Discuss the concept of government and the need for rules and laws in society. Guiding questions:

  • What types of rules and decisions are needed for people living in a community (e.g., education/schools, roads and traffic laws, health care/hospitals)?
  • Who is responsible for making decisions in the community?
  • What would happen if there was no government responsible for creating laws and providing services to the community?

5. Using the accompanying slide deck and/or the ‘Government and Democracy’ video (2:26 min), review some basic government types and how they can be compared (e.g., democracy, dictatorship, monarchy). Connect the government types to three decision-making terms: autocratic, democratic, consensus.


Have a brief closing discussion about different types of government or decision-making models, or ask students to write a reflection on one or more of the following questions:

  • Why do we need government?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of government?
  • Why is it important to you that Canada have a certain type of government?
  • What would your life look like if Canada had a different type of government?
  • Make a list of situations when you would use each of the decision-making models.


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


  • Slide Deck: Rules and Government [PPT]
  • Activity 1.1: How Should We Decide? [PDF] [Word]
  • Handout 1.2: Key Terms [PDF]

Download Lesson (PDF)