Lesson Plan: Introduction to Congress


Objectives: The students will

I. describe how Congress is organized;

II. understand the idea of representation in Congress and how it differs between the two houses;

III. describe the Committee system of work in Congress.

Curricular Connections:

2.2 Differentiate between the House and the Senate in reference to length of term, qualifications, leadership, and committee organization. PS-1

2.3 Demonstrate how a federal bill becomes a law. PS-1

2.4 Compare and contrast delegated, implied, and denied powers of Congress. PS-1 PNW-1

Warm Up Activity (Anticipatory Set): What do you know about Congress?

A) Have students form groups of three or four.

B) Have them create a list that indicates what they already know about Congress.

C) Students should not use their books. Review the answers of each group orally. Have them check off items mentioned by any other group.

Main Activity (Instructional Input): Congressional Vocabulary

From Civics Today, Chapter 6

1. Apportionment
2. Gerrymandering
3. Term Limits
4. Qualifications for the House of Representatives
5. Qualifications for the Senate 
6. Franking Privilege
7. Immunity
8. Expulsion
9. Censure
10. Terms and Sessions
11. Caucus
12. Majority Party
13. Minority Party
14. Speaker of the House
15. Floor Leader
16. Party Whip
17. President of the Senate
18. President Pro-tempore
19. Bills
20. Committees
21. Standing Committees
22. Subcommittees
23. Select Committees
24. Joint Committees
25. Conference Committee
26. Seniority System
27. Elastic Clause 
28. Implied Powers
29. Treason
30. Impeachment
31. Special Powers of the House
32. Special Powers of the Senate
33. Ex Post Facto Law
34. Bills of Attainder
35. Writ of Habeas Corpus

Answers for this set of terms are available here.

From Chapter 5 of American Civics

  1. Ex Post facto law
  2. Bill of Attainder
  3. Writ of Habeas Corpus
  4. Constituents
  5. Seniority
  6. Speaker of the House
  7. House Majority Leader
  8. House minority Leader
  9. Party Whips
  10. President of the Senate
  11. President Pro tempore of the Senate
  12. Senate Majority Leader
  13. Appropriations Bill
  14. Standing Committee
  15. Select Committee
  16. Conference Committee
  17. Pocket Veto
  18. Filibuster
  19. Cloture
  20. Quorum
  21. Voice Vote
  22. Roll call vote


B) Assign a set of words to each group of students. Have students word process their definitions on computer. Each term should reside on a computer and students should move around the room to word process them where the word is posted. The same can be done with poster board.

C) Have each group use the Internet to locate a link or web page that illustrates the definition. If the word is a position in Congress such as the majority whip, have the students find the page of the majority whip and place the title and wehb address of the web page on the file with their definition.

D) The final product should bring all terms, definitions and web addresses together so that the vocabulary list can be posted as an interactive vocabulary list that students and teachers can use to find information about Congress.

Examples (Modeling): See previous activity.

Check For Understanding: Reading and Puzzle on Congress

A) Distribute a reading on Congress that contains the key words above.

B) Have students create or complete a crossword puzzle that uses those terms.

Homework (Independent Practice): Congress In The News

A) Have students locate web, magazine or newspaper articles that deal with Congress.

B) Students must summarize their article and identify how the function or structure of Congress is found in the article.

Wrap-Up Activity (Closure): Local Congressional Leaders

A) Have students use a newspaper or the Internet to identify the leaders of Congress for their state.

B) Have students write a short biography of one or more of the state's delegation to Congress.

C) Have students find out who is running for reelection and who the opponent is, their political parties, and the views they hold on the major issues.

Evaluation: The lesson will be evaluated by:

I. the accuracy of student's written responses;

II. student's scores on future tests and quizzes.

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