Lesson Plan: The Purposes of Government

Establish Justice

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) on the meaning on "Establish Justice"


This lesson has students learn about the purposes of government specified in the preamble of the Constitution. Students will use C-SPAN video clips to define what is meant by "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty." As practice, students will apply their knowledge of these purposes by viewing real-life examples of government actions and identifying the relevant purpose of government. This lesson works well in classrooms with one-to-one devices and can be adapted to flipped classrooms.



    At the beginning of the class, introduce the topic of the purposes of government by having the students make a list of actions the government takes. Discuss with the class why the government takes these actions.

    Either as a class or individually read the Preamble of the Constitution. Have the students identify the five purposes of government that are contained in the Preamble.

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."


    Using the clips associated with each of the purposes of government found in the Constitution, students will complete the chart on the handout to summarize each purpose of government and identify keywords. This can done individually or using a jigsaw format where students are assigned one of the purposes and report back to the group.

    HANDOUT: Purposes of Government (Google Doc)


    "Establish Justice"

    "Insure Domestic Tranquility"

    "Provide for the Common Defense"

    "Promote the General Welfare"

    "Secure the Blessing of Liberty"


    Using the second page of the handout, have the students view each linked video. They should summarize the governmental actions being discussed and explain which of the purposes of government relate to that action. This can either be done as homework or a class assignment.

    HANDOUT: Purposes of Government (Google Doc)


    After having the students complete the handout, have them explain their answers and discuss. As a conclusion have them answer the following prompt as an exit slip:

    • Which purpose of government is the most important?

    Purposes of Government Research- Using C-SPAN's Video Library, find and clip examples of each purpose of government. Each clip should be no longer than two minutes. View our clipping guide for more information on how to do this.

    Purposes of Government Graphic- Create a graphic for each purpose of government that illustrates an example of it. Each graphic should show how the government fulfills this purpose.

    Additional Prompts:

    • Pick one of the purposes of government found in the Preamble of the Constitution and evaluate how well the government is fulfilling it.
    • Which purpose of government do you feel is the least important?
    • Choose one of the purposes found in the preamble and discuss why the writers of the Constitution used that specific phrasing?

Additional Resources


  • Blessing Of Liberty
  • Common Defense
  • Constitution
  • Establish Justice
  • General Welfare
  • Insure Domestic Tranquility
  • Preamble
  • Purposes Of Government


Constitutional Foundation


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