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Teachers > Civic Engagement > Lesson Introduction

This is one of six modules of What Does It Mean to Be an American?,

a curriculum resource designed for high school and college classrooms. 

In this lesson, students will reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy and why civic engagement is important for the functioning of democratic societies. They discuss the meaning and types of civic engagement, consider the many different ways—governmental and nongovernmental—that everyday Americans can be civically engaged, and examine case studies of people whose civic engagement has had an effect on democracy in the United States.

Lesson Introduction


What are the rights and responsibilities of citizens? 

Why is civic engagement important for a functioning democratic society?


What civic dispositions or traits of private and public character are important to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy?


In what ways can ordinary Americans take part in civic life and participate in the political sphere?

Organizing Questions

In this lesson students:

Discuss the meaning of civic engagement

Consider different types of civic engagement

Be introduced to people whose civic engagement has had an effect on democracy in the United States

Discuss ways that students have been or can be civically engaged


The following are suggestions for assessing student work in this lesson:

  1. Assess groups’ presentations in Recap: Civically Engaged Americans based on

    • clarity of presentation;

    • thoroughness and relevance of research; and

    • equitable distribution of researching and presenting responsibilities among group members.

  2. Assess written reflections in Reflecting on Civic Engagement based on students’ quality of thought and clarity of writing.

  3. Assess student-created visuals in Levels of Government based on accuracy, thoroughness, and overall presentation. 

  4. Assess student participation in group and class discussions, evaluating students’ ability to

    • clearly state their opinions, questions, and/or answers; 

    • exhibit sensitivity toward different cultures and ideas; 

    • respect and acknowledge other students’ comments;

    • ask relevant and insightful questions; and

    • provide correct and thoughtful answers to classmates’ questions.


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