Social Contract Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson will help your elementary students understand John Locke's social contract theory. Students will read a text lesson, participate in group activities, and prove their knowledge with a short quiz.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the social contract theory using domain-specific vocabulary
  • understand how to illustrate the social contract theory


45-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.


Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.


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


  • Scenario cards (activity)


  • Ask students to list all of the reasons why people follow rules.
  • Write down their ideas.
  • Read the text lesson John Locke's Social Contract Theory as a class. Then discuss:
    • John Locke was a philosopher. What is a philosopher?
    • According to social contract theory, what is the role of government?
    • What did Locke think people should do if government fails to do their job?
    • What are some examples of social contract theory in practice?
  • Five-minute quick write:
    • Have students write for five minutes describing what social contract theory is. Divide students into small groups to share what they have written. Provide each group the opportunity to share their writing with the class.
  • As a class, develop a definition of social contract theory. Write it one the board and compare the theory to the ideas students had about reasons for following the rules.
  • Use the lesson's printable worksheet to check for understanding.

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