Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-12, students play a game called Counties Work, in which they play the role of county official, helping fellow citizens while managing taxes and local emergencies, while keeping in mind their reelection.   

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Learn about local government by playing a county official responding to citizen requests.
  2. Simulate the role of county government, including organization, responsibilities, and services.
  3. Identify appropriate resources and departments of county government to solve problems.
  4. Consider how a budget and major sources of local revenue affect both services and citizens.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called Counties Work developed by our partner,  iCivics. In this game, students learn about local government by playing a county official responding to citizens’ requests while managing county resources and thinking about reelection.

Review the Counties Work Game Guide for step by step directions on how to play the game. Then, preview and play Counties Work to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game and for specific prompts to provide students with during game play, see Counties Work: Additional Features for My BrainPOP.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Citizenship, Taxes, Budgets, Democracy, and Court System.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Tell students that today they will play a game, called Counties Work, in which they take on the role of county official, helping fellow citizens while managing taxes and local emergencies.
  2. Explain to students that since one of their jobs as county official is to manage taxes, they need to have a solid understanding of what taxes are before playing the game. Play the Taxes movie for the whole class. In this movie, students will discover what taxes are, how they are used, and why they exist. After viewing, review key concepts such as sales tax and income tax to ensure understanding.
  3. Now display the game Counties Work on the whiteboard. Show the class, if necessary, how to get started by choosing a name for your county, an avatar, and designing a seal. Then click to Start Game and play for a few minutes to model how the game works. Draw their attention to the available options and features (see the Game Guide for a description of the features and for tips on gameplay). Tell students that the game ends after four years have passed in the county. Point to the citizen satisfaction feature in the top left corner. Explain that if citizen satisfaction is above 50% at the end of the game, they will be re-elected to a second terms as county official.
  4. Have students play the game in pairs or small groups for at least 30 minutes. Circulate as students play, listening in to their discussions and decision-making, providing support as needed. Encourage them to practice close reading while they’re playing so that they are able to solve each citizen’s problem effectively, and ask that they pay particular attention to the role that taxes are playing in the game.
  5. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during gameplay. Review Your Bill of Rights: Additional Features for My BrainPOP for suggested prompts.
  6. After students have played the game, come back together as a class to discuss their experience. You may want to ask students specific questions about the effect of their actions. For example, you might ask how taxes are connected to citizen satisfaction and elections.

Extension Activities:

Invite students to research their own county, parish, borough, etc. and design a poster or brochure as a whole class. The National Association of Counties is a useful resource. Create a Venn diagram comparing a county to a city, state or nation.