What Is a Good Citizen? How the Textbook(s) Define Good Citizenship and/or Civic Virtue

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will be able to identify a basic textbook definition of good citizenship, including the classic Roman concept of civic virtue (putting the common good above individual need).

PrintOne 45 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • state orally at least four words or phrases that describe a good citizen (a person of civic virtue).

Use a chapter that includes a discussion of citizenship from any basic high school textbook. Note: if the textbook material does not use the classic Roman definition of civic virtue (putting the common good above individual need), the teacher will need to make sure the students write down the definition during the introductory part of this lesson.


Center for Civic Engagement. We the People. Calabasas, CA: 1987 (This resource is out of print) 


  1. Anticipatory Set: Write the term "good citizen" on the board. Give students two or three minutes to work with a partner to come up with a list of characteristics of good citizens. Call on several students to report on the characteristics they identified.

  2. Explain that ideas about citizenship have been debated and discussed for many centuries and that many different cultures and societies have influenced Americans' ideas. Some of the earliest ideas came from the Roman Republic where the leaders believed that all citizens must have civic virtue. They believed that citizens with civic virtue put the common good above their own individual needs.

  3. Assign the chapter (or chapter section) that deals with "citizenship" in the class social studies textbook. Ask students to look for and make a list of all words and phrases in the lesson that might be considered part of the definition of good citizenship (i.e., a citizen with civic virtue).

  4. Homework: If this is not finished in class,students finish reading the chapter and create a list of words and phrases describing civic virtue by writing down all words and phrases from the chapter that relate to good citizenship and civic virtue. A minimum of four words or phrases must be included on the list.


Each student will be required to state orally a minimum of four words or phrases describing a good citizen or a person with civic virtue. The response should be based upon the material in the textbook chapter dealing with citizenship (and/or the material from class discussion if the book does not use the term civic virtue). Evaluate homework for completeness and accuracy.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss civic virtue and its role in democracy.