Democracy Lesson Plan: Comparing Direct and Representative Democracies

Submitted by: Mary Howard

Grade Levels: 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6 through 8, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the differences between a direct democracy and representative democracy. Students will also investigate the meaning and significance of key vocabulary terms, including democracy, citizens, aristocrats, oligarchy and tyrant.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify the difference between the direct democracy and representative democracy.
  2. Explain the meaning and significance of key vocabulary terms, including democracy, citizens, aristocrats, oligarchy and tyrant.

Materials:

  • Computer
  • Internet access
  • Interactive Whiteboard (optional)
  • Sorting slips on Democracy
  • Photocopies of BrainPOP Democracy printed Quiz and Activity pages

Vocabulary:

oligarchy, tyranny, democracy, citizens, direct democracy, representative democracy

Preparation:

Create a chart with the headings "Athenian Democracy" and "Representative Democracy". Then create sorting slips that have various key features of each (i.e. Assembly, The Council, Courts, etc.) Alternatively, you can have students create these slips.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Introduce the concepts of Oligarchy and Tyranny, and discuss as a group the problems of each.
  2. Encourage students to come up with alternative ideas (i.e. the people get to have involvement in governmental decisions).
  3. Have students take the BrainPOP Democracy printed Quiz. This will not be graded--they will take notes during the movie and have the opportunity to go back and change answers after they learn more!
  4. Hand out the BrainPOP Activity pages for note-taking during and after the movie.
  5. Show the students the BrainPOP Democracy movie and have them take notes as they view it.
  6. Using an Interactive Whiteboard, have students take the interactive quiz as a class, correcting their own answers as you discuss. Do the same with the BrainPOP Activity Pages and other features (which can also be revisited at a later time for review or delving deeper).
  7. Have students get in groups of three.
  8. Provide each group with a large chart with two columns (Direct Democracy/Representative Democracy).
  9. Give students pre-printed cards that have statements on them such as: All citizens met as a group to debate, Citizens elect representatives to debate, There was no separation of powers, There was a separation of powers.
  10. Students must sort the slips into the appropriate columns.

Extension Activity:

Write a paragraph anticipating a situation in which a direct democracy might work better than a representative democracy. Use BrainPOP's FYI and Experiment for extension activity ideas.