Government Day! Experience based learning with a 21st century approach

One of my favorite experiences from last school year was an entire school day dedicated to all fourth graders called, Government Day. (The lesson plan is at the bottom of my page!)

After three-and-a-half years teaching fifth grade in inner city Chicago, I transitioned to my current fourth grade position in suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan. There were a lot of changes (obviously), but I think the biggest learning curve was adjusting to different standards. In particular, learning the social studies and science standards, which were entirely new to me. I am looking forward to beginning a new school year with all experiences of last year to guide me, especially, Government Day.

I cannot take any credit for this idea. The previous fourth grade teacher (who retired) created this experience…can you tell I have big shoes to fill?

Government Day is an experience-based approach to learning about basic government skills, specifically “How a Bill becomes a Law”.

The entire day is completed through role play:

  • The school library becomes the Chamber at the state Capitol
  • Students become House of Representatives, Senators
  • A Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected by their classmates

Since Government Day is student led, students learn from one another through discourse, which is extremely motivational. When students are actually experiencing the content, the information is more meaningful and memorable.

Can you think of a positive learning experience you had in school that you will never forget?

Mine was running a restaurant in 7th grade with my social studies teacher Mr. DeBoer – but that’s another story.

From my understanding, Government Day exceeds the desired effects of pedagogical and content knowledge as described in TPACK. The level of engagement proves that this hands-on approach to learning is something our students will always remember, which is our ultimate goal.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, copyright 2012 by

As a grade level team, we are assessing our students throughout the entire day. However, this is an area I want to improve upon for next year. I plan to make the experience even better by adding a technology component to Government Day. 

Experience based learning, requires a different type of assessment. Therefore, I plan to continue to offer the students choice in explaining their level of understanding for “How a Bill becomes a Law.” Students will create an infographic, using Canva or Piktochart, to summarize their learning. (Check out these platforms – both of them are amazing!)

canva_logo      0236e8d72de0b3ebb73ede360491ae484e88b061_original

For other performance tasks within our social studies curriculum, students are asked to create advertisements, billboards, and magazine covers to represent their learning. The technology skills of using infographic platforms, such as Canva and Piktochart, will allow students to be creative. They will be expected to design something that demonstrates their level of understanding within the content in a creative way.

With this additional aspect of knowledge added to the lesson plan (see below), I am confident we are reaching all learners in different ways. I hope that Government Day can be one of those memories that my students always remember.

As promised – here is the lesson plan about Government Day!  I encourage you to give this a try at your school! I am sure you will have lots of questions, so please let me know by commenting on this post.

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*Video created by Bridget Bennett

*Photographs in video taken by Bridget Bennett

*Students photographed have approved photo release forms



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