Subject: Civics, Social Studies

Lesson Length: 45 - 60 mins

Topic: How the U.S. Government Works

Grade Level: 5

Standards / Framework:

Brief Description: Students will learn how each branch of government plays a role in making sure another branch does not become too powerful using a system of checks and balances.

Know Before You Start: It helps for students to have an understanding of the function of each of the threee branches of government. Terms to know: democracy, constitution, founders, legislative, executive, judicial.


  • Discuss power and authority in daily life.

    • What happens when someone in your family, like a cousin or sibling, tries to tell you what to do?

    • Do you like it when your brother or sister act like your parents?

    • How do you feel when a classmate tries to dictate the rules to you?

  • Read and discuss the sample comic pertaining to the three branches of government. Explain how a system of “checks and balances” is in place so that one branch of government doesn’t get too powerful.


  • Have students select two of the three branches of government.
  • Using the sample comic as a guide, have them illustrate how the two branches selected use a system of checks and balances to ensure that one branch doesn’t become too powerful.
  • The comic should include at least two panels.


  • Have students pair up with a partner to discuss their comics. 

  • Comics may also be shared with the class.


  • Allow students to use the speech-to-text feature.
  • Allow students to work in pairs or groups as needed.
  • Provide visuals and definitions for key words, e.g., democracy, constitution, founders, legislative, executive, and judicial.


  • Comic to print or display