Lesson Plan: US Government

Topic: The Special Powers of the House and Senate

Date: Friday, November 7, 1997

Objectives: The students will

I. identify the special powers held by the House and the Senate.

II. Identify powerful members within the Congressional leadership.

II. determine how these special powers help divide power evenly in a democratic government.

III. evaluate the current political atmosphere to determine how well these powers are being used "to promote the general welfare" of the American people.

Warm Up Activity (Anticipatory Set): The House and Senate Powers

Venn Diagram: Special Powers of the House and Senate

A) Distribute and/or display the Venn Diagram. If needed, have students copy it into their notes.

B) Make a transparency of the list of powers for each house and their examples. Cut the transparency into the headlines.

1) Judiciary Committee considers articles of impeachment against Nixon in Watergate affair.

2) Winner of 2000 Election in question after Florida votes go uncounted.

3) US Troops land in Afghanistan to fight terror.

4) Clarence Thomas approved as Supreme Court justice by a 52-48 vote.

5) Clinton budget passes as VP Gore casts tie breaking vote.

6) Quarters with history on each become collector's items.

7) Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees eye tax hike.

8) Versailles Treaty is rejected after third vote. Wilson's 14 Points fail to win support.

9) Bill to cut defense spending fails to pass.

10) Reagan nominee for Supreme Court, Judge Bork, fails to win support.

C) Copy the headline list on sheets.

D) Divide the class into groups of four or less. Distribute the sheets containing the headlines to the groups.

E) Have the groups place the headline in the correct section of the diagram.

F) When all groups are done, review the answers orally  by giving selected students a "power-strip," that is, one of the powers contained in the headlines cut into strips from the transparency. Have students place the strip on the overhead where he or she thinks it goes. Discuss their response and evaluate.

Here are the answers for the entire diagram:

 A JavaScript mouse-over of each power can be found by itself on a separate page. This page can be displayed on a computer with a liquid crystal display (LCD) and can be used to isolate each of the powers. This link will bring up the page in a separate window.

Main Activity (Instructional Input): The Powers of Congress In the News

A) Assign a topic to each of the groups. Each topic has a website and question sheet associated with it. The topics for this lesson are:

1) The Speaker of the House
2) The Majority Whip
3) The House Minority Leader
4) The Senate  Leadership
5) Fast-Track approval of trade deals for the President
6) Impeachment of Bill Clinton
7) Confirmation of Samuel Alito for Supreme Court Justice

 These websites can be viewed on-line or downloaded with programs such as Webwhacker. In this instance, students will view these sites off-line.

Examples (Modeling): Questions to Answer

It may be useful to provide the students a brief overview of how to use a web browser. The key to success is the back and  forward buttons for navigation. The table of contents (generated by the Webwhacker program) for the local links will be set at the top of the bookmarks files for the PCs the students will use. So if the students become disoriented or lose their place, they only need to hit "bookmarks" at the top of the browser to return to their table of contents.

Check For Understanding:

A) Have each group answer the questions relating to their topic.

B) Have students rotate through each station in order to view the web site.

C) If time runs short, have each group search for the answers dealing one web site only.

The question sheets for each of the topics can be found within these links:

Impeachment Inquiry Sought
Senate Panel Delays Vote
Early Fast-Track Victory
The House and Senate Leadership

D) Have each group present their responses in summary format to the class. Discuss responses.

Homework (Independent Practice): Writing Assignment

A) Have the students choose one of the three topics (Impeaching Clinton, Affirmative Action, or Free Trade) and answer one of the following questions. Instruct students to support their written response with examples from internet, magazine or newspaper articles.

1) Were there grounds to impeach the president? What crimes might he have committed?

2) Should the President have "fast-track"  trade status even if he might make decisions that lead to decisions that hurt the American people and economy? How would such power effect the checks and balances system that acts as the basis for our government?

3) Bill Lee favors affirmative action. Take a position on this practice. Keep in mind the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that all Americans must receive "equal protection of the law."

Wrap-Up Activity (Closure): Class Discussion

A) Have students form groups according to the topic they chose. Have them choose a spokesperson to outline their position.

B) Instruct each group to create a T-chart that outlines both sides of the issues for each group. Have students place their chart on a computer in text or graphic form to be posted on the Internet or shared with other classes.

C) Combine class lists to develop three master lists outlining these issues. Display the results in class or on the World Wide Web. If the charts are posted to the web, allow web visitors to submit their opinions, which can also be placed on the charts.

Evaluation: The lesson will be evaluated by:

I. the accuracy of student's written responses;

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

George Cassutto's Cyberlearning World

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