Key Civics and Government Concepts

This book features critical media literacy activities for key civics concepts including democracy as a political system, a republic as a form of government, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the branches of U.S. government, elections and voting, political parties, citizenship, political leadership and courage, political protest, civil rights and social justice, political action committees, amendments to the Constitution, landmark Supreme Court decisions, functions of state and local government, freedom of the press, digital news and social media, and many more.

Each critical media literacy activity includes short written introductions followed by step-by-step directions for students to complete the activities, individually or in small groups. Every activity is designed to promote creative self-expression and higher-order critical thinking among students about the ways that online and print media impact our lives as well as our nation's politics.

1. Foundations of the U.S. Political System

Key Civics, Government, and History Concepts

Critical Media Literacy Activities

Democracy as a Political System

Democracy in Social Media Policies and Community Standards

A Republic as a Form of Government

The Internet as a Public Utility

Impacts of Enlightenment Philosophies

21st Century Women STEM Innovators

British Influences on American Government

Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families

Native American Influences on American Government

Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School Mascots


2. The Development of United States Government

Key Civics, Government, and History Concepts

Critical Media Literacy Activities

Declaration of Independence

Declarations of Independence on Social Media

Articles of Confederation

Media Marketing and Government Regulating of Self-Driving Cars and Electric Vehicles

The Constitutional Convention

Representations of and Racism Toward toward Black Americans in the Media

Federalists and Anti-Federalists

Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights on Twitter

3. Institutions of United States Government

Key Civics, Government, and History Concepts

Critical Media Literacy Activities

Branches of the Government and the Separation of Powers

Hollywood Movies about the Branches of  Government

Checks and Balances between the Branches

Writing an Impeachment Press Release

The President, the Congress, and the Courts

Members of Congress' Use Social Media


Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls

Political Parties

Website Design for New Political Parties

4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens

Key Civics, Government, and History Concepts

Critical Media Literacy Activities

Citizenship and Becoming a U.S. Citizen

Immigration in the News

Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Non-Citizens

Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and Film

Civic, Political, and Private Life

COVID-19 Information Evaluation

Women Political Leaders in the Media

Fundamental Principles and Values of American Democracy

Online Messaging by Special Interest Groups

Voting and Citizen Participation

Digital Games for Civic Engagement

Accurate Information for Voters

Social Media and the Elections

Media Spin in the Coverage of Political Debates

Political Leadership

Celebrities' Influence on Politics

Connections between People and Their Elected Representatives

Political Activism Through Social Media

Careers in Public Service

Media Recruitment of Public Sector Workers

Images of Teachers and Teaching

Individual Liberty and Social Equality

Representing Trans Identities

Political Courage and Anti-Democratic Actions

Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021

Political Protest

Music as Protest Art

Interest Groups, Political Action Committees, and Labor Unions

PACs, SuperPACs, and Unions in the Media

5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions

Key Civics, Government, and History Concepts

Critical Media Literacy Activities

The Necessary and Proper Clause

Amendments to the Constitution

Prohibition in the Media

The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and other Social Media

The Civil War, Federal Power, and Individual Rights

Civil War News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements

Representations of Gender and Race on Currency

Equal Rights and Protections for Race, Gender, and Disability

The Equality Act on Twitter

Marbury v. Madison

Reading Supreme Court Dissents Aloud

Landmark Supreme Court Decisions

Television Cameras in Courtrooms

6. The Structure of State and Local Government

Key Civics, Government, and History Concepts

Critical Media Literacy Activities

Functions of State and National Government

Native American Mascots and Logos

Distribution of Powers

A Constitution for the Internet

Enumerated and Implied Powers

Military Recruitment and the Media

Protection of Individual Rights

Your Privacy on Social Media

The 10th Amendment

Pandemic Policy Information in the Media

The Massachusetts State Constitution

Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics

Responsibilities of Federal, State, and Local Government

Environmental Campaigns Using Social Media

Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the Pandemic

Leadership of Massachusetts State Government

Online Campaigning for Political Office

Tax Supported Facilities and Services

Advertising the Lottery Online and In Print

The Functions of Local Government

Local Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy

7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy

Key Civics, Government, and History Concepts

Critical Media Literacy Activities

Freedom of the Press

Press Freedom in the United States and the World

Competing Information

Objectivity and the News from All Sides

Investigative Journalism and Social Change

Formats for News Writing

News Photographs and Newspaper Design

How Reporters Report Events

Digital News and Social Media

Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media Platforms

Fake News Investigation and Evaluation

Evaluating Print and Online Media

Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media

Editorials, Editorial Cartoons, and Op-Ed Commentaries

Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons


CC BY-NC-SA: This work is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, which means that you are free to do with it as you please as long as you (1) properly attribute it, (2) do not use it for commercial gain, and (3) share any subsequent works under the same or a similar license.