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January 21, 2014

Paper football and government fundamentals – Lesson Plan

By Katie Gould, PBS NewsHour Extra Teacher Resource Producer


Use this lesson plan to help students understand the difference between the types of governments they might encounter while studying world history.


World history, civics and government

Estimated Time

30 minutes

Grade Level

Middle school and high school


Warm Up Activity

Demonstrate to students how to make a paper football with this handy guide.

Main Activity

Have students push their desks together.  The two desks should face each other so that the paper football can slide across the desks to each player. Some desks may be different heights, but do your best to pair similar height desks together.

Now, you will need to explain the rules of paper football to your students:

Basically, the object of the game is to score touchdowns. To get a touchdown, you must flick the ball with you finger (you play on a straight edged table) and have the ball stop, with part of it sticking over the table, as seen here. That is 6 points. Players take turns, one flick each back and forth until someone scores. If the ball goes off the table, you kick off. Hold the ball in your hand, resting on the palm, and toss it on the table by hitting your fingers on the underside of the table.

After a touchdown, you can kick a field goal. Whoever is kicking hold the ball vertical between his finger and the table, and with his kicking hand, he flicks the ball with his finger. The other person is holding a field goal with his finger arranged in a position, look here if the ball sails between the two posts, it’s good for 1 point. See it in air here

Once the kids understand, let them try for a few minutes, going around and helping those who are confused.  Once kids have the basics down, tell them that these set of rules are called “Empire Rules”.  Although they are each their own small territory, they must obey the rules of the empire.

Next, tell kids that they are now going to be playing by some different rules:

  • city-state: every pair comes up with their own rules. Rules may be based on specific preferences of the pair and will most likely reflect something about them.
  • oligarchy: choose a few groups to come up with the next set of rules that everyone will have to play by.
  • democracy: everyone will vote on the rules.
  • monarchy: select one student to be king or queen and they are responsible for making the rules.

Now call out one type of government, and the kids have to play by those rules.  Go around to students to check to make sure they know why they are playing the way they are playing.  For example, “Why are you playing by your own rules?” “Because we are playing city-state rules.” Make sure to cycle through all of the types of governments giving students time to process what they are doing and why.

Have fun!

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