Engaging Congress is a fun, interactive game that uses primary source documents to explore the basic principles of representative government and the challenges they face in contemporary society.
Different Government Types
This activity teaches middle and high school students about the different government systems in the world, then challenges them to create their own government.
Birth of American Democracy: Discourse, Debate and Compromise
In this exploration of American democracy students will follow the path to representative government by analyzing the tradition of discourse, debate, and compromise from Jamestown to Williamsburg and Philadelphia and finally to Washington. Students will determine the importance of debate and compromise for the development of a government by and for the people and also identify strategies for making their voices heard in government today. Free registration required to access lesson plan.
National Debate Topic for High Schools
Each year the U.S. Senate disseminates a document to assist debaters in researching the subject chosen by the National University Extension Association as the national high school debate topic. The guide provides references and excerpts to articles, reports, and other appropriate materials relating to the subject. In preparing the compilations the Congressional Research Service includes current materials which are representative of, and give equal emphasis to, the opposing views of the topic.
Bring the Constitution to Life!
Locate primary sources from the holdings of the National Archives related to such topics as “checks and balances,” “representative government,” all 27 amendments, and other concepts found in the Constitution. This special home page devoted to the U.S. Constitution also features activities to share with students, such as “The Constitution at Work,” which uses primary sources to demonstrate the Constitution in action in our everyday lives.
Facts of Congress
Facts of Congress is a series of twenty fast-paced, one-minute animated videos that cover the basic concepts and terms of representative government. The series addresses questions such as: What is Congress? How does Congress work? What does Congress do for me? How can I participate? Scroll down on the linked page to find the full series of videos.
Freedom of Speech: Finding the Limits
As part of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not defined by it. That task is left up to the people through a representative government that makes the laws and a judicial system that interprets and applies the laws to resolve disputes. In this lesson, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Freedom of Speech,” students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from Supreme Court decisions and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.
The Constitution in Action: Republic or Democracy?
History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This lesson places students at the First Federal Congress and asks them to consider whether citizens have the right to instruct their elected representatives on how to vote. This gets to the very heart of what our government is all about. Should we have a republic—a representative government in which elected leaders are free to deliberate and decide on their own—or a democracy, in which representatives follow the lead of their constituents?
How Our Laws Are Made
A text-based guide to the workings of Congress and the Federal lawmaking process from the source of an idea for a legislative proposal through its publication as a statute. As the majority of laws originate in the House of Representatives, the publication focuses principally on that body. This guide enables readers to gain a greater understanding of the Federal legislative process and its role as one of the foundations of the United States of America’s representative system of government.
The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation
It is Fall 1787. The Federal Convention has recently concluded its closed door meetings in Philadelphia and presented the nation with a new model for the government. It is now up to each special state convention to decide whether to replace the Articles of Confederation with this new constitution. The debate is passionate and speaks directly to what the founding fathers had in mind in conceiving this new nation. Does this new government represent salvation or downfall?