Checks and Balances

This lesson explore the principle of checks and balances by providing video clips with examples and explanations. As they view these real-world examples, students will complete a graphic organizer and use it to evaluate how effective our system of checks and balances is at limiting government.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Media

Presidency on Trial: Assessing the Limits of Presidential Power

As they framed the Constitution, many of the Founding Fathers were wary of a powerful chief executive who might overshadow the legislative branch. By constructing the separation of powers within the federal government with a system of checks and balances, the Framers sought to limit the power of the president. Students will investigate not only the formal checks as laid out in the Constitution, but also explore the informal checks on presidential power that have emerged in the modern era.

Foundations of Democracy: Lesson Plans & Resources

Teach the Foundations of Democracy

This Share My Lesson collection provides teachers with free lesson plans and resources on the foundational principles of democracies, including rule of law, limited government, and checks and balances. It can be used to build background knowledge to analyze the health of our democracy over time and in today’s environment.

Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Key Constitutional Concepts

This three-part documentary discusses why and how the Constitution was created at the Constitutional Convention and explores the protection of individuals’ rights in the Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright and limits on presidential power through checks and balances in the Supreme Court case Youngstown v. Sawyer.

Each segment is about 20 minutes.

Closed captions available in multiple languages, including Spanish.

Grades 7-12
Foundations of Democracy
Closed Captions

The Role of the Courts (Separation of Powers)

In these five short videos, federal judges explain separation of powers and the roles of the three branches of government as well as landmark cases related to separation of powers. Judges also discuss our government’s system of checks and balances, and why it’s important to respect the nation’s rule of law and the jurisdiction of the courts.

Grades 8, 9-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Video

Congress at Work: The Presidential Veto and Congressional Veto Override Process

Students will use a facsimile of a vetoed bill and veto message to understand the veto and veto override process in Congress. Referring to the Constitution, students will match the Constitution’s directions to the markings and language of the bill and veto message. Students will then investigate motives for using the veto and override powers, and how the powers reflect the Constitution’s checks and balances.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans

Separation of Powers: Grades 3-5

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Separation of Powers show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they show students firsthand how the three branches of government work together through separation of powers and checks and balances.

Separation of Powers: Grades 6-8

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Separation of Powers show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they show students firsthand how the three branches of government work together through separation of powers and checks and balances.