Modern Britain

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13291

Take a tour of modern Britain—as quick as a ride through the chunnel, as exciting as a debate in the House of Commons, and as soothing as a hot cup of tea. Keep calm and carry on!


World, World

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What do you think of when you hear the word Britain?

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  • Maybe you think of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Changing of the Guard, and Wales?

They're all part of Britain, too!

Britain is made up of the countries of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales united into one kingdom. Today's Britain, also called the United Kingdom (UK), is a mix of old and new, monarchy and democracy, modern inventions and long-standing traditions.

map of the United Kingdom

  • Confused about the terms Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, and the UK?

Let's sort them out!

uk vs Great Britain vs England for kids from Lindy McKay:

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If you've studied some British history, you may remember that Britain has been ruled by a monarch (king or queen) for most of its history, since the year 1066.

But the way it's been ruled has changed much over the years. The monarchy has lost power, while the Parliament and Prime Minister have gained power.

Let's take a look at how the British government works today.


The British Parliament is made up of two houses: the House of Lords and the House of Commons. They meet at the Palace of Westminster in London and vote on the laws of the country.

Palace of Westminster

  • What exactly does Parliament do, and how do the members get selected?

Watch How Parliament works in nearly 60 seconds from UK Parliament:

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The British Parliament is well-known for its loud, sometimes unruly debates. An important job is that of the Speaker, who tries to maintain order and make sure that different points of view are heard.

Prime Ministers

The loudest debates in Parliament usually occur on the days when the Prime Minister comes to answer questions. The Prime Minister has to be a tough person and a quick thinker to stand up to the questions and criticism of the Parliament members.

  • Who gets to be Prime Minister?

Officially, the Prime Minister is chosen by the Queen. Traditionally, she has picked the leader of the party that wins the elections as Prime Minister.

Let's meet one of the modern Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher.

Margaret Thatcher, 1990

Image by the White House, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Margaret Thatcher was Britain's first female Prime Minister. Watch Margaret Thatcher The Chemist Who Changed Britain Biography:

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Queen Elizabeth II was been the longest reigning monarch in British history when she died on 8 Septemeber 2022. Her son, King Charles III, is now head of the monarchy.

Queen Elizabeth, 2007

Image by NASA, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Learn more about Queen Elizabeth II and her reign as you watch Queen Elizabeth II: A constant presence in a changing world - BBC News:

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The British people (and many people around the world) take a lot of interest in the Royal Family.

You can learn more about them at British Life and Culture: The British Royal Family, by Mandy Caroow for Project Britain. You can also check out our lessons found under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

Daily Life

  • What is a day like for a typical British child?

Visit Project Britain: British Life and Culture again to read about the life of Craig, a 10-year-old English boy.

Something that improved the lives of many British and French people—or at least reduced their travel time!—was the building of the chunnel.

  • What's a chunnel?

Find out in the TED-Ed video, How the world's longest underwater tunnel was built - Alex Gendler:

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When they're not working or going to school, many Britons enjoy sporting events.

The most popular sports are football (called soccer in the U.S.), rugby (similar to U.S. football), and cricket. Cricket is a little bit like baseball in that the players hit a ball with a paddle-shaped bat. But it's also very different.

What Is Cricket? Get to know the sport thanks to this video from ICC, the International Cricket Council:

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  • What about food?
  • Do Britons really drink a lot of tea?

Well, yes they do! In fact, the British people drink 165 million cups of tea per day!

As a treat with their tea, they'll sometimes have a crumpet.

toasted crumpets

Or they might have a scone, tart, biscuit, or piece of cake. Since most people now work in the late afternoon, the traditional tea time (with a tea and snack at 4 PM) is not practiced by most people.

Many people save something like this for a special occasion, like a birthday!

scones with jam and tea

  • What are some other favorite British foods?

Check out Britain's Top 10 Favorite Foods and Drinks by Elaine Lemm for The Spruce Eats.

  • The different types of food look good, don't they?
  • Which is your favorite?

You've learned how Britain is a mix of old and new, modern inventions and ancient traditions. Now move on to the Got It? section to test your knowledge of modern Britain and see if you can recognize the countries of the United Kingdom on a map!

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