Teaching Canadian Government in Elementary School


Student cutting up newspapers

Looking for some new ideas to teach Canadian government in your Grade 4-6 social studies class?  Believe it or not, it can be engaging for both you and your students!  

Check out these 3 ideas for bringing Canadian government alive in your classroom!

Newspaper Article Sort 

Find newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and any other current print resources that have information relevant to any level of government.  (If it’s an election year, you will have more than enough material delivered by the candidates and their campaign teams right to your door!)  Check with your local newspaper, and see if they would be willing to donate (or sell at a steep discount) copies of their papers for your government unit.

After spending some time teaching about the 3 levels of government and their responsibilities, explain that all forms of media spend much of their time investigating and reporting upon issues that are important to all Canadians, all people in a province or territory, and/or citizens of a municipality.  Create a chart with three columns:  Federal/Provincial (or Territorial)/Municipal.

Newspaper articles sorted into levels of government

Distribute the print resources you have to students, and ask them to cut out and sort any articles in which a level of government might be involved. Once completed, take one level and discuss the various issues students found that might be handled by that government. Repeat with the other two levels of government. If you wanted to take the learning further, you could proceed with the next strategy, which is…..Community Mapping.

Community Mapping

The Ontario Social Studies Curriculum for Grade 5, Strand B states that students “will develop plans of action to address significant social and environmental issues“.  The easiest way to approach this is by having your students IDENTIFY social and environmental issues within their immediate community, whether that be the school catchment area, the small town they live in, or the rural area that surrounds the school.

Here is a short summary of what I have done in my own class:

  1. Community Features: Class makes a chart of buildings, features and services that people might expect when moving to a new community.
  2. Community Walk:Class takes a walk through the community, looking for the buildings services, and features from their chart, as well as identifying issues in the community.
  3. Community Mapping:  Students return to class.  Each student or pair of students creates a “bird-eye” view map of the community.  
  4. Community Issues:  Students discuss and chart the community features they noticed, using their maps as a reference tool.  They then create a 2nd “Issues” chart, noting where the community could benefit from some improvements.
  5. Choosing Community Action Focus:  Have students form groups.  Each group chooses ONE “issue” from the community for which they will create an action plan to address. For example, in the “Issues” chart below, one group might decide to take on the lack of a municipal pool, and create their plan to approach the municipal country to address the lack of a splash pad or pool.
  6. Community Action Plan:  Students make a plan for doing further research, contacting local officials, planning a publicity session…..the options are endless!

student made community map

Chat Stations

If you’re looking for a quick introduction to Canadian government, try introducing some “chat stations” into your classroom.  Collect anywhere between 6 and 12 government-related issues or images, and post each in different spot in your classroom, along with a prompt or question for students to consider as they rotate in small groups from station to station.  (You may want each group to record their thoughts on a clipboard as they rotate through the stations.)  After everyone has had a chance to visit each station, bring them back together to discuss each station.  
two Canadian government chat stations
A Canadian Government Chat Station

I hope at least one of these ideas inspires you to try something new with your class this year!  If you’re looking for more ideas and activities to support you in teaching Canadian government, consider these resources from my Coach’s Corner TPT store:

Product Cover - Ontario Social Studies Canadian Government and Citizenship

Product Cover Digital Canadian Government Unit
Canadian Rights and Responsibilites

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