1. Introduce the vocabulary.
Write the vocabulary words union and alliance on the board. Explain to students that both unions and alliances are groups. Tell students that unions and alliances can be groups of people or countries that join together to work toward a common goal. Ask: Imagine our class is a union or alliance. What goal do we work toward as a group? Elicit from students that the class is a group of students and a teacher who meet each day to work together to learn.

2. Have students identify examples of unions or alliances they are a part of.

Ask students to list some of the unions or alliances they are part of. If needed, prompt them with examples such as school teams, their extended families, clubs, or religious groups. List students' unions and alliances on the board.

3. Have students identify non-examples of unions and alliances.
Ask students to list some non-examples of unions and alliances in order to reinforce the idea of unions and alliances as groups working toward a common goal. If needed, prompt them with non-examples such as bus riders or students in different grades.


4. Discuss conflict and conflict resolution within groups.
Ask: Do group members ever disagree or get into arguments? What happens in these situations? Encourage students to describe how group members act or what they say. Ask: How can they solve their disagreements? Students may recognize that there is a group leader to resolve disputes, or that all members are equals and must vote to make decisions.

5. Brainstorm the pros and cons of being a member of a union or alliance.
Draw a simple T-Chart on the board and write in the heads Pros and Cons. Ask students to brainstorm some of the pros and cons of being a member of a union or alliance. For example, Pros include having the same goals and Cons include not being able to agree on what to do. List students' ideas on the board.


Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • identify unions or alliances they belong to
  • describe conflict resolution within groups
  • identify the pros and cons of being a member of a group

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Brainstorming
  • Discussions

National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

Theme 5
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

National Geography Standards

Standard 13
How the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface


What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Pens

Background & Vocabulary

Background Information

Unions are groups of people, countries, or organizations that join together because of a common goal. By thinking about the groups you belong to and how these groups help members work together, you can understand why countries join together in the United Nations and other international alliances.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None


Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry



people or groups united for a specific purpose.



group of people or countries that work together for a common goal or set of goals.


Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.


Betsy Hedberg


Christina Riska, National Geographic Society

Educator Reviewer

Jeanne Wallace-Weaver, Educational Consultant


adapted from the National Geographic Xpeditions lesson “Unions and Alliances”

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