Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Memo from the Governor

Julie Thompson
Bay District Schools


Students receive a mock memo from the governor, setting the stage for inquiry into the history of Florida's capital and for proposing sites for a "heart of Florida" capital. This engagement activity introduces students to a Problem-Based Learning unit.


The student uses a variety of reference materials to gather information, including multiple representations of information for a research project (for example, maps, charts, photos).

The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of fourth grade or higher level content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes (for example, journals to reflect upon ideas, reports to describe scientific observations).

The student knows selected physical features of Florida (for example, bodies of water, climate, elevation).

The student understands ways geographic features influenced the exploration, colonization, and expansion of Florida.

The student understands some ways industrialization and urbanization have affected Florida (for example, the growth of railroads and highways, the development of large population centers, tourism).

The student knows selected economic, political, and social transformations that have taken place in Florida since World War II (for example, civil rights movement, space program).

The student understands the contributions of selected significant men and women, including African Americans and Hispanics, on the development of Florida (for example, Ponce De Leon, Henry Flagler, Mary Bethune Cookman, Chief Osceola, Governor Bob Martinez).

The student understands the unique and diverse cultural make-up of Florida (for example, Caucasian, Hispanic, Haitian-Creole, African-American).

The student knows ways various cultures contributed to the unique social, cultural, economic, and political features of Florida.


-Copies of Memo from the Governor scenario (see Associated File)
-T-Chart on class board or chart
-Map of Florida (see Weblinks and Associated File)
-Where's the Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist (see Associated File)
-Florida County Population Estimates chart (see Associated File)
-Folders and notebook or copy paper for Research Portfolios
-Student Copies of T-chart (see Associated File)
-Reflection Log (see Associated File)
-Conference Form (see Associated File)
-Reference List (see Associated File)
-Map of Florida's Major Cities (see Associated File)
-Mileage Chart (see Associated File)


1. Download the -MEMO from the Governor- from the Associated File and make copies for each student or small groups of students.
2. Prepare a T-chart on the board or on chart paper. Label one side -Hunches- and the other side -Questions-.
3. Download the T-chart from the Associated File and make copies for students to place in their Research Portfolios.
4. Prepare Research Portfolios for each student. A simple method for this is to give each student a letter or legal size file folder. Legal size is preferred since several of the handouts for the Research Portfolios are 11 x 14.
5. Gather background information on the history of the state capital and begin to brief yourself before teaching this lesson. You can do this at Florida Kids. (See Weblinks.)
6. Review the entire Problem-Based Learning unit (see Extensions) before proceeding with this lesson.
7. Become familiar with the structure of a Problem-Based Learning unit.
8. Download and preview the Where's the 'Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist. Reproduce one copy for each student and record their assessment information. (see Associated File)
9. If you need a map that shows the counties in Florida, there is one at Florida Profiles. (See Weblinks.)
10. Download the Reflections Log, Conference Form, and Reference List located in the Associated File and make a copy of each for every student.
11. Download and reproduce the blank map of Florida, the map of Florida's major cities, and the Mileage Chart (see Associated File). One copy of each per student is needed.


(Prior to beginning this session, administer the Where is the Heart of Florida? Pre Test. See Extensions for more information.)

Session 2: Where's the 'Heart of Florida'? Problem-Based Learning Unit

1. Ask students what they know about the capital of the state of Florida. Discuss briefly as students respond. Tell students that in the state of Florida, fourth graders learn about the state capital, its history, and how it represents the people of Florida. (This should be very brief so students can get to the scenario.)

2. Arrange the students in small groups. Set the stage for the Problem-Based Learning unit by telling the students that soon they will receive a mock memo from the governor.

Explain that mock means an imitation of something that is not the real thing, but that the situation itself could actually happen. Make certain that the students understand that this is a mock memo. Tell students that the memo presents a situation with which the governor needs your help. Distribute the memos (scenario) and allow time for students to read for themselves. When students have read the memo, distribute the Florida County Population Estimates chart, the blank map of Florida, the map of Florida's Major Cities, and the Mileage Chart (see Associated File). As the memo and other handouts spark conversation, direct students' attention to the T-chart on the board or chart paper. Tell students that what they think is important, and that they need to record the information in an organized fashion to share later. Instruct students to place a copy of the T-chart provided in their Research Portfolios (see Preparation).

3. Model how to record a hunch about the problem on one side of the T-chart that is on the board (or chart paper). A hunch could include information from the memo, past experience, or prior knowledge. A hunch could also be a student's reaction to the problem. Hunches are usually declarative statements (There must be people from around the state that think the capital should be relocated.). In this process, questions will also arise. Direct students to record the questions on the other side of the T-chart. Students continue to record their hunches and questions on the T-chart in their Research Portfolios. You may want to teach students how to record individual responses, as well as how to carry out their assigned responsibility or role in the group as cooperative workers, that is if you have not done so already. (When assigning cooperative groups for this unit, small groups should contain no more than 4 or 5 students. Roles should be assigned for students to insure involvement by all. Use your own cooperative worker tools or assign students the following roles: Recorder, Fact Finder(1 or 2 students), Materials Manager, Reporter.) All input should be recorded on the T-chart for further discussion. As the coach, probe students' thinking to search for all applicable information the students bring to the scenario. It will be helpful to look at the Criteria Checklist in order to guide the discussion toward the selected standards.
Possible probing questions are as follows:
-What are your hunches about the problem?
-What are your questions regarding the problem?
-What do you know about the capital of Florida?
-What is the problem?

Provide ample time for small groups to discuss the memo before proceeding. The questions are more important than quick answers or premature conclusions. The questions the groups come up with are what tailor the unit to your students and encourage deeper understanding, so resist the urge to come to quick answers.

4. In whole group, discuss the information recorded in the small groups. Chart it on the class T-chart to begin building a blueprint for inquiry and investigation into the problem in the coming lessons. (During this time, the coach should take note of points of confusion or prior knowledge and tailor future lessons to address misconceptions or understanding.)

5. At the conclusion of the group discussion, distribute copies of the Reflections Log (see Associated File), Conference Form (see Associated File), and Reference List (see Associated File) to each student. Explain that the Conference Form should be placed in the Research Portfolio for later use. The Reference List is for the students to document the appropriate reference materials and information gleaned throughout the inquiry and investigation process. Tell the students that a completed list will be expected closer to the end of the unit but as they use reference materials, they should enter information on this list. You might want to model an example entry for the students. The Reference List should be kept in the Research Portfolio. The teacher can formatively assess the list as the unit progresses. Save the summative assessment until completion of the lesson titled Consider This! As for the Reflections Log, explain that at the completion of each session, students will be given an opportunity to reflect on information gleaned from the activities, address any questions posed by the teacher, and record any insights they have concerning the problem. The Reflections Log entries will be an ongoing tool by which the teacher and student conduct formative assessment. If your students are not aware of formative assessment, this is a great opportunity to explain to them the process and purposes for formative assessments.

6. Allow students time to record their entries for this session's activities in their Reflections Log. Refer to the probing questions presented in step 3 of Procedures. Students need to place the Reflections Logs in their Research Portfolios.

7. Formatively assess the work with students using the Where's the Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist. This may deepen the discovery and bring up more hunches and questions that should be recorded on the T-chart. Notice that the criteria on the checklist is subdivided according to Goal 3 Standards. Management of this assessment tool is recommended by conducting desk-side conferences with students as each session moves along.

Possible embedded instruction: Students may need a mini-lesson on what it means to make inferences based upon available information, past experiences, or prior knowledge before this lesson or as a result of this lesson. If your students are engaging in the unit, this instruction should take place before proceeding to the next lesson in the unit.


Each student should have a completed T-chart with hunches and questions from the memo and the Florida County Population Estimates chart in their Research Portfolios as a formative product.

The content of each student's T-chart should have personal reflections regarding the perceived problem; hunches and questions should note where the student is in regard to the following criteria:
-understanding the influence of geography on the history of Florida -understanding ways geographic features influenced the exploration, colonization, and expansion of Florida
-knowing individuals, events, and social, political, and economic characteristics of periods in Florida history
-understanding the perspectives of diverse cultural, ethnic, and economic groups with regard to past and current events in Florida's history
-knowing how various cultures contributed to the unique social, cultural, economic, and political features of Florida

While students' entries at this juncture may prove to be scant, note each student's performance level on the Where's the Heart of Florida? Criteria Checklist. Take this information into account when planning your next instructional steps. Share the information when appropriate with each student so he or she knows what is expected.

Management strategy of Criteria Checklist: It is unreasonable to expect the teacher to conference with all students daily. Therefore, it is suggested that the teacher stagger these desk-side conferences so that each student has at least been conferenced with twice throughout the duration of the unit.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unitís link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

Web Links

Web supplement for Memo from the Governor
Florida Kids

Web supplement for Memo from the Governor
Florida Profiles

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.