Washington, D.C.


Using our Washington, D.C. lesson plan, students learn about the history of Washington, D.C. and about significant events in the city’s history. They also learn about various monuments and landmarks in Washington, D.C.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to give students materials to build large scale 3D models of the monuments in groups, or small-scale models in pairs.

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What our Washington, D.C. lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Washington, D.C. introduces students to the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and the history behind this famous city. Students will also learn about several of the monuments found inside the city and their significance in history. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to locate Washington, D.C. on a map, explain its significance in American history, and identify several monuments found in the city. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The supplies you will need for this lesson are colored pencils, paper, and the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For an optional addition to the lesson activity, you can have students vote for the best new class monument. You can also have your class vote for the best monument or landmark in Washington, D.C. For an additional activity, you can give students materials to build large scale 3D models of the monuments in groups, or small-scale models in pairs. You could have students write to their representatives in Congress, asking for information about Washington, D.C. For another activity, you can invite someone who has been to D.C. to speak with your students about their trip and experience. Finally, you can hold a class debate on whether D.C. should become the 51st state or not.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


The Nation’s Capital

The Washington, D.C. lesson plan includes four content pages. The city of Washington, D.C. has a lot of influence on the United States despite not being a state or being in a state. Washington, D.C. is the capital of the U.S. It’s located on the East Coast of the United States between the states of Maryland and Virginia. It’s on the north side of the Potomac River, about 150 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean.

They named the city after the first president, George Washington. D.C. stands for the District of Columbia, the area where the city is located. At one time, people used the name “Columbia” for North America. Washington, D.C. houses the three branches of government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) and most other government offices. The city also has many monuments, museums, and other attractions.

Several international organizations also chose D.C. to operate from. Both major political parties have offices here as well. The city is the center of the U.S. government and attracts many tourists and protestors every year.

In 2016, about 700,000 people lived in D.C., which we also call The District, The District of Columbia, or just Washington. If you use the name Washington, you may need to specify between the city and the state on the west coast.

Thousands of people live in the city, but they have very little say in the government and control over the city. They city has a mayor and other city officials, but U.S. Congress controls their local government, which means they disagree sometimes.

Many people who work in the city live in the surrounding areas, like Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria Counties in Virginia and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. Previously, some parts of Maryland and Virginia belonged to the city.


The first capital of the U.S. was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, not Washington, D.C. Philadelphia was capital of the United States from September 1774 to December 1776. When English settlers arrived at the land that we now call Washington, D.C., a group of Native Americans called the Nakochtank lived there already. They named the Anacostia River after their village. They thought the river’s clear waters had healing properties. Today, it’s one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

The U.S. Constitution from 1789 called for the establishment of a capital city. Several people thought they should put the city far away from the existing states and cities of the time, because they wanted it to be independent and not controlled by a state. They came to an agreement that a piece of land between Virginia and Maryland should become the capital.

The square-shaped original piece of land was 10 miles long on each side. Half of the land came from Maryland and half from Virginia. The Potomac River cut through the middle. In 1847, they returned Virginia’s half to the states. Since 1847, the entire city is located on the north side of the Potomac River. The city is about 68 square miles large, including 61 square miles of land and 7 square miles of water.

A city planner from France, named Pierre L’Enfant, designed the city. The National Mall, a large park that today connects the U.S. Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, was a major part of his design.

Famous Monuments

You can visit many famous monuments, tourist attractions, museums, and more in Washington, D.C. In 2016, the city had almost 20 million visitors. People from all over the world recognize some of the famous landmarks, like the White House and the Washington Monument. The lesson covers several of these landmarks.

The Arlington National Cemetery, located in Virginia, is a military cemetery that includes over 240,000 service members and family. You can also see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here.

The U.S. Capitol Building is where Congress meets and passes laws. We call its dome the Great Rotunda. It took builders 73 years to complete, which they did in 1865.

The Jefferson Memorial honors the third president, Thomas Jefferson. He wrote the Declaration of Independence. You can find this monument near the Potomac River.

They made the Lincoln Memorial out of marble, granite, and limestone. They built it as a memorial to President Abraham Lincoln. It features a large statue of Lincoln in the main chamber of the monument.

The National Archives are Congress’ official library. Here, you can see the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and important historic documents and photos.

The National Mall is an area that people use for protests, rallies, celebrations, and more. Numerous museums and galleries surround it.

More Monuments

The Smithsonian Institution includes 14 museums, libraries, art galleries, research projects, and special performances. You can find many of them near the National Mall.

They created the Washington Monument, which stands 555 feet tall, as a monument to George Washington. They built it using stones from all 50 states and covered it in marble. It took them more than 36 years to complete.

The White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is home to the president. John Adams, the second president, was first to use it. Inside, you’ll find special rooms like the Oval Office and the Green Room.

Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas have many other national landmarks and memorials, including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, World War II Memorial, National Zoo, National Air and Space Museum, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Ford’s Theatre.

Washington, D.C. is the most influential city in the Unites States. Even though it’s not its own state and is not part of another states, millions of people visit it every year to learn about the history of the United States.


The Washington, D.C. lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


The activity worksheet asks students to imagine that they are a designer of memorials and monuments. They must design a monument that they think Washington, D.C. should have. Their monument can be for a famous person, a group of people, a past event, or anything else. They will first create a rough draft of their design before creating a final version.


For the practice worksheet, students will look at images of landmarks and monuments in Washington, D.C. and identify them. They will also answer six questions about the city.


The homework assignment asks students to match 15 facts with the correct landmark or monument. They will then answer seven questions about Washington, D.C. and the lesson material.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade


Social Studies

State Educational Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3, 7 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, 7 CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, 7

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Miriam L.
Italy Italy

amazing lesson plan on Washington D.C.

The lesson plan is great. The description is perfect and the questions are very well focused.

Amy W.

DC Worksheet

Very helpful worksheet even for adults!

Maria B.

Washington DC

A wonderful mini unit! I love the activities!