Civics Lessons

Teaching How Citizens Influence Public Policy

Target Grades: 4-6
In this lesson, students use a school policy to define policy, understand that policies change, and recognize what and who influences policy making and changes.

The Road to the Constitutional Convention

This lesson focuses on the various problems under the Articles of Confederation between 1783 and 1786 that led to the call for the 1787 Convention. By examining documents of Congress, the state governments, and prominent American founders—both public and private—students better understand why many Americans agreed that the Articles should be revised and amended.

To Amend or Not to Amend, That’s Been the Question…Many Times

This lesson asks students to examine recent proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, analyze them for public policy triggering mechanisms, and compare and contrast them to amendments that have been ratified.

Voting in Congress

Students learn what factors members of Congress consider when deciding whether to vote for a bill. These include the powers given to Congress by the Constitution, members’ personal opinions, political party support, and what voters think. During the first day of the lesson, students find out about each of these factors. During the second day, students get to try their hand at weighing the factors by considering hypothetical bills.

What is the Role of the President in the American Constitutional System?

This lesson examines sources of presidential power and ways that checks and balances limit presidential power. Students explain the president’s constitutional responsibilities, identify checks on the president’s power, and defend positions involving the exercise of presidential power.

Wanted: A Just Right Government

Students learn how the U.S. Constitution came to exist by looking at the tensions and differences of opinion that existed among early American states and citizens. Students learn about the Articles of Confederation, why the first “constitution” didn’t work, and how compromise led to the Constitution.

What Makes Lawmakers Tick?

This is the final lesson of three lessons on the Fundamentals of Representative Democracy.
This lesson is designed to give students a better idea of what makes members of Congress and state legislators tick. What motivates them, why do they run, what attributes and skills do they possess, and what is the nature of their jobs? This lesson relies upon a lawmaker being invited and coming to class to answer student questions about legislative life.

Why Do We Have a House and Senate, Anyway?

Students learn why there are two houses of Congress and discover how a bicameral legislature ensures that states have a voice in bills. Together, the class creates a school cell phone policy and experiments with different voting groups that demonstrate why the bicameral compromise was necessary. Students also examine how things might be different today if there were just a House or a Senate.

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