Lesson Plan

Powers of Governments

Metal wheels interlocking with words written on them such as rules, policies


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Civics Lesson

GRADE LEVEL: High School

Which Form of Government Has the Most Power?

What are the Differences in Power Between Each Form of Government?

Which Form of Government Has the Most Power to Address Equity and Social Justice Issues?


Aside from the separation of powers at the federal level, the U.S. Constitution also describes the power relationships between state and federal governments, how that power will be distributed, and the relationships between the states themselves. Local governments (municipalities in a city, town, county, village or borough) are granted their powers by the state and these powers vary from state to state.

In addition, there are stipulations between the U.S. federal government and indigenous Native American tribes. Federally recognized tribes have sovereignty, meaning that tribal nations have the power to govern themselves and are considered independent sovereign nations apart from local, state or federal government. Just as the federal government relates to states as governments, it also deals with federally recognized tribes as governments, not as special interest groups, individuals or some other type of non-governmental entity.

About the Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students compare the kinds of power given to each form of government, the dependencies and relationships between the various levels of government, and where there is shared oversight. Besides understanding these structures and assigned powers, students will consider which form of government has the most power to address issues, including those of equity and social justice, in their communities and lives. This exploration encourages students to think critically about how and why power was allocated, and how it affects them and issues they care about.




  • Differentiate the powers held by each level of government.
  • Explain which level of government has the most power in the lives of people in the United States.