ALEX Lesson Plan


Alabama's Early Governors

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Virginia Henshaw
System: Madison County
School: Central School
The event this resource created for:Alabama Department of Archives and History
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35072


Alabama's Early Governors


In this lesson, students will learn about the executive branch of government at the state level, especially related to the first governors of the state of Alabama. Their impact on the development of Alabama and Alabama's role in the United States will be discussed.

Students will use research and note taking skills to gather information on an early governor. Then students will participate in jigsaw groups to share their information, discuss the importance of each governor, similarities, and impact. Finally, students will discuss the role of governor and how governors have an impact on the state and the impact these men had in Alabama and in other states. 

This lesson was created in partnership with the Alabama Department of Archives and History. 

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
10 ) Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. [RI.4.1]

NAEP Framework
Anchor Standard::
Anchor Standard 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Cognitive Target::
  • Identify textually explicit information and make simple inference with and across texts, such as: definitions, facts, supporting details.
  • Make complex inferences within and across texts to describe problems and solution or cause and effect, determine unstated assumptions in and argument. Draw conclusions and provide supporting details.
  • Determine fact from opinion.
  • Identify textually explicit information within and across text, such as locating specific information in text or graphics. Make complex references within and across texts, such as draw conclusions and provide supporting information.

NAEP Descriptor::
Use examples from article to explain interpretation. (Integrate and Interpret)

NAEP Descriptor::
Recognize main questions answered by an article. (Integrate and Interpret)

NAEP Descriptor::
Interpret text details to select and provide one example. (Integrate and Interpret)

NAEP Descriptor::
Recognize explicitly stated information from an article. (Locate and Recall)

NAEP Descriptor::
Recognize explicitly stated information in an informational text. (Locate and Recall)

NAEP Descriptor::
Recognize cause explicitly stated in an informational text. (Locate and Recall)

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.4.10- Answer who, what, when, and where questions to demonstrate understanding of an informational text.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
12 ) Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text. [RI.4.3]

NAEP Framework
Anchor Standard::
Anchor Standard 3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Cognitive Target::
Identify textually explicit information within and across texts to find evidence in support of an argument.
NAEP Descriptor::
Describe a process with text support. (Integrate and Interpret)

NAEP Descriptor::
Interpret information in expository passage to describe steps in a process. (Integrate and Interpret)

NAEP Descriptor::
Recognize best description of character based on action described in expository passage. (Locate and Recall)

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.4.12- Identify events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in an informational text.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
25 ) Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 22-24 above.) [W.4.4]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
30 ) Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. [W.4.9]

a. Apply Grade 4 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text [e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions]"). [W.4.9a]

b. Apply Grade 4 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., "Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text"). [W.4.9b]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.4.30- Identify evidence from literary or informational texts to support a research topic.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
32 ) Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on Grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly. [SL.4.1]

a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. [SL.4.1a]

b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. [SL.4.1b]

c. Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others. [SL.4.1c]

d. Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion. [SL.4.1d]

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 4
Alabama Studies
5 ) Describe Alabama's entry into statehood and establishment of its three branches of government and the constitutions.

•  Explaining political and geographic reasons for changes in location of Alabama's state capital
•  Recognizing roles of prominent political leaders during early statehood in Alabama, including William Wyatt Bibb, Thomas Bibb, Israel Pickens, William Rufus King, and John W. Walker
Unpacked Content
Strand: Geography, History, Civics and Government
Course Title: Alabama Studies (Alabama)
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Describe Alabama's entry into statehood as well as identify and explain the role of its three branches of government and the constitutions.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • legislative
  • executive
  • judicial
  • constitution
  • senate
  • congress
  • house of representatives
  • governor
  • checks and balances
  • capital
  • capitol
Students know:
  • Alabama has had six different constitutions. Alabama has three branches of Government: Executive, Legislative, Judicial.
  • The reasons why Alabama has had five different capitals.
  • The roles of prominent political leaders during early statehood in Alabama, including William Wyatt Bibb, Thomas Bibb, Israel Pickens, William Rufus King, and John W. Walker.
  • What the U.S. Constitution and the Northwest Territory require of a territory to become a state.
  • The history of early settlements in Alabama and the cession of Indian lands.
  • What it means to have a republican form of government.
The students are able to:
  • Analyze Alabama's entry into statehood.
  • Identify and differentiate the roles of the three branches of government.
  • Compare and contrast Alabama's constitutions.
  • Explain political and geographic reasons for changes in location of Alabama's state capital.
  • Recognize roles of prominent political leaders during early statehood in Alabama, including William Wyatt Bibb, Thomas Bibb, Israel Pickens, William Rufus King, and John W. Walker.
Students understand that:
  • Many prominent people were involved in Alabama's entry into statehood and that our government was designed in a way that allowed a system of checks and balances to be in place.
Alabama Archives Resources:
Click below to access all Alabama Archives resources aligned to this standard.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.4.5- Identify the location of the state capital; recognize that Alabama is a state with three branches of government.

Local/National Standards:

NCSS Standard VI. Power, Authority, and Government  e. distinguish among local, state, and national government and identify representative leaders at these levels such as mayor, governor, and president

Primary Learning Objective(s):

I can recognize the roles of William Wyatt Bibb, Thomas Bibb, Israel Pickens, John Murphy, and Gabriel Moore. 

I can determine the importance of these leaders. 

I can discuss similarities and differences of early leaders with my peers. 

I can take notes. 

I can write an organized paragraph in order to inform someone about an early governor. 

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Students will need access to the Archives page on Alabama Governors. If needed, teachers can print off the articles for students to read. (If you think your students need a lower leveled text, you can use to simplify the text.)

Students will need a copy of the notes page; teachers may choose to have students write on notebook paper.

Students will need a copy of the portrait of their given governor and quote. If possible, this should be printed in color. 

Students will need a copy of the graphic organizer for the jigsaw activity. 

The teacher will need the article for William Wyatt Bibb and chart paper to model taking notes. 

The teacher will either need chart paper, a whiteboard, or computer and projector to model writing an organized paragraph. 

A ThinkSheet graphic organizer is also provided, for the student question and answer activity. 

A rubric is provided for assessing the paragraphs. 

Technology Resources Needed:

Teachers will need to access the Alabama Archives website on Alabama Governors.

A computer and projector can be used as a part of the modeling process if available. These technology tools are not necessary to implement the lesson. 

Student computers, laptops, and/or iPads can be used when students are reading the article about their governor. However, the teacher can print these articles off if needed. 


Students need to be prepared to discuss the topics with their peers. If student discussion is not an established routine, then supports should be put in place to help students be successful. Teachers should be prepared to monitor student work, question, support, and redirect students as needed. Students need to be able to take notes in their own words. If students have not had experience with this, then more than one modeling lesson may be needed. 

Teachers should have computers or tablets available for student use or have copies of the articles available.

Teachers should print a colored copy (if possible) of the portraits of the governors. At least one copy should be provided to each group. 

Teachers should have an understanding of the Jigsaw learning method. The website  provides detailed information. 

The following articles from the Encylopedia of Alabama will provide background information: 

William Wyatt Bibb   

Thomas Bibb 

Israel Pickens

John Murphy

Gabriel Moore


Before beginning this lesson, teachers need determine which governor each student will learn about. There should be four groups of students. 

Before: Have students write down one thing they know about early Alabama or what they know about governors on a sticky note. Allow students to share with a partner. During this time, the teacher should monitor discussion to promote engagement. 

The teacher should share something like this with the class, "Each state in our union has a governor. We have had a governor in our state since it was a territory. William Wyatt Bibb was our first governor. Today we are going to learn about him, his responsibilities, and his influence on our state. Also, you are going to collaborate with a team to learn about another early governor of Alabama." 

During: Begin by displaying the visual primary source of William Wyatt Bibb (PPT). Tell students who he is and that he is the focus of the first part of the lesson. Students can be asked what they think about him based on the visual, but this should lead into the next part of the lesson.  Then, either post the article about William Wyatt Bibb on the projector screen, or provide each student with a copy of the article. Have chart paper displayed. 

Read the article aloud once all the way through. Then go back paragraph by paragraph. Stop at the end of each paragraph. Discuss with students what they think is important and interesting about William Wyatt Bibb. Record these items on the "notes" chart. As you chart, remind students of the importance of taking notes in your own words. Continue this process until you get through the entire article. 

Read the notes aloud to your class and decide if there is anything else that the class would want others to know about William Wyatt Bibb.

Then examine the quote provided that William Wyatt Bibb shared with the General Assembly of Alabama (on same PPT slide). Discuss the quote and determine what Governor Bibb was conveying to them. 

Assign students to their predetermined group. Provide students with the visual of their governor and his quote. Have students

1. View the visual first, and determine if any information about him is provided by examining the portrait.

2. Provide a copy of the the group's article to students. Follow the model for taking notes. Students can use notebook paper for this part. Assign each group its governor. Students will work with a partner within their group to read and take notes about their given governor. It is best to have groups with the same governor to sit in a common area. When all students in the group are finished, they will meet to discuss what is most important about their governor and what is interesting about him. Students also need to discuss, "is there anything else we'd want others to know about this person?" Students will put these important and interesting facts on their governor graphic organizer in the coordinating box. 

3. Examine the quote provided that each governor shared and examine the context. Discuss the quote as a team and determine what their governor was trying to convey through this quote. Add important information from this discussion to the graphic organizer in order to share it with peers. 

If you are making this a two day lesson then stop here and recap the importance of reading for information and taking clear notes. Explain to students that tomorrow they will be sharing their information with others. 

During Part 2: Divide students into groups of four; one person should be from each governor expert group. Have students in these groups sit together in a manner that promotes discussion and collaboration. Students will take turns sharing about their governor. When one person is presenting, then the other three members are listening and recording important information. Students should each have an opportunity to share their learning and record the learning of others. 

After: Once students have had time to share information, pose the following discussion questions for the jigsaw groups to answer: (A graphic organizer is provided.)

  • What do your governors have in common?
  • Which governor do you think had the biggest impact on Alabama? Why? 
  • Did any of our governors have an impact in other states, territories, or the federal government?How?  
  • Are you surprised by any of the achievements of these governors? 
  • What kind of qualities do you think these governors needed to lead our state during its early years? Why do you think so? 
  • How can learning about our first few governors help us to possibly understand the beginnings of other states?  

After students have had an opportunity to discuss each question, then have students share out to the class their discussion and thinking. A ThinkSheet organizer is provided for students to record their answers to these questions, in order to hold their thinking. 

Students will write an organized paragraph about one of the four governors they studied. Students should write it for someone who is not in their class and should include information they think others should know about this governor.  If your students are not proficient at writing organized paragraphs, then take time here to model how to write one using the information on William Wyatt Bibb. Encourage student input, and have students write their own copy so they can use it as a reference. A rubric is provided to use when grading.

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Assessment Strategies

During this lesson, teachers should monitor student note taking and provide support when needed. Teachers should observe students during discussion times and provide support as needed. 

Teachers can review the student note pages and the graphic organizer and determine if students need more support or if they have the information they need. 

Teachers can review student responses on the question ThinkSheet. 

Teachers can read the students paragraphs to determine student understanding of the importance and influence of a given governor. 


Students can create a PowerPoint, Prezi, etc. to share the information gained from the research. 

Students can choose another governor from our history and research him/her and create a presentation to share with the class. 

Students can use the Alabama Archives Governor List and articles  or can use the Encyclopedia of Alabama to search other Alabama governors. 

Students can research how early governors were chosen in other states, and compare the process. 

Students can research to find out when gubernatorial terms changed from two to four years.


Read and Write for Google Chrome can be utilized to provide support for students who cannot read independently. 

Rewordify can also be utilized to support students who cannot read the article independently. 

Students can be allowed to take fewer notes, or to complete the notes page orally. 

Support or accommodations can also be made for the written assignment at the end. For example, the teacher could help the student write the topic sentence, then the student could write the second sentence. The teacher could support on the third, etc. 

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.