ESL Local Government Lesson Plan

Instructor: Carrin Hahn

Carrin taught 3rd grade for ten years, worked as a learning specialist with K-5 students, and has a Master's degree in Elementary Education.

This lesson will help the ESL students understand what a local government is and how it works. Students will learn associated vocabulary, as well as official positions in this government and their functions. Students will be able to play a game with the vocabulary, and then the students will act out a city council meeting.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, the students will be able to

  • Define key vocabulary words that relate to local government.
  • Understand what a local government does.
  • Understand the positions in a local government.


45-75 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.


By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Vocabulary and Phrases

  • Local Government
  • Municipality
  • City
  • Mayor
  • City manager
  • City council member
  • City Commissioner
  • City Attorney
  • Election
  • Taxes


  • One or two set(s) of sentence strips with one vocabulary word written on each strip, depending upon how many students you have
  • One or two set(s) of sentence strips with the definition of one vocabulary word written on each strip
  • Pictures of the mayor, a city, a school, a park, a fire truck, a police car, a city bus

Lesson Instructions

  1. Ask the students who makes the rules in their house. Then ask who makes the rules at the school. After, ask who makes the rules or laws in your city (make sure you tell the students the mayor's name).
  2. Tell the students they are going to learn about 'local government. Explain what the local government does.
    • Start with 'mayor.' Mayor XXX, is the Mayor of (your city). Explain that the mayor's job is to make sure people living in the city have what they need for schools, parks, transportation, police departments and fire departments. Hold up the pictures that go along with each thing as you say it.
    • Go over 'city' and 'municipality.' Show the picture of your city and hold up the word. 'City' and 'municipality' are synonyms. The mayor is the person in charge of the city.
    • Go over 'city manager.' Hold up the word, and tell the students that the 'city manager' helps the mayor make good choices about the city council decisions. An example that might help: Lidia and Tristan decide which movie they want to watch (they are like the city council); their dad thinks that their mom might not agree with the movie choice, so he talks to their mom to help her make a choice about Lidia and Tristan's movie choice. The dad is acting like the 'city manager' to help the mom ('mayor') make a decision.
    • Talk about 'city council member.' Hold up the sentence strip. Tell the students that this person is part of a group of 5-50 people who do things to help the city. They might figure out how much money is needed for the playgrounds in the parks or pass a small law saying dogs must wear shoes when walking by the city's river or find a new police chief for the city.
    • Go over 'county commissioner.' Hold up the strip and say the name of your county. Tell the students they live in YYY city, but they also live in ZZZ county. The county commissioner tries to make things work properly in the county, such as having places to park, setting rules for how tall building can be or deciding what kind of business can move into an empty lot.
    • Talk about the 'city attorney.' Hold up the strip for this. Explain that this person takes care of all the legal issues in the city.
    • 'Election' is the next word. After holding up the sentence strip, find out what the students already know about elections. Tell students that the mayor is mayor because of an election, just like the President of the United States and the Governor of (your state) are chosen by an election.
    • 'Taxes' are money that the local (and state and United States) government collect to help pay for things like parks, schools, buses and police officers.

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