Who Elects Our Senators

United States senators have been elected directly by voters since 1913. Prior to that time, state legislatures chose the state’s senators. In the mid-1850s, however, the state legislature selection process began to fail due to political infighting and corruption. Often Senate seats were left vacant for long periods of time while state legislatures debated who to send to the Senate.

House and Senate: What’s the Difference?

The United States Congress consists of two legislative bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are many similarities between these institutions. Representatives and Senators are directly elected by the public (see Capitol Visitor Center essay “Who Elects Our Senators?”). Passing legislation requires the agreement of both the House and Senate. There are chambers for both in the U.S. Capitol. Given these commonalities, are there really differences between the House and Senate?

Today’s Vote in the Classroom

Today’s Vote in the Classroom provides two-day lessons that ask students to take on the role of U.S. Senators, debate issues, and cast their votes on real bills that have been introduced to Congress. Today’s Vote in the Classroom is made up of four key parts. Sequenced instructions, a full lesson-plan download, editable worksheets, and classroom presentations will guide you and your students through the program.

Grades 7-12
Legislative Branch/Congress
Interactives

Pathways to Environmental Justice

In this one-hour virtual field trip hosted and led by Edward M. Kennedy Institute education staff, students in grades 4 through 8 learn about the challenges posed by climate change and the need to transition to a more sustainable and resilient economy. They will work together as Senators to build a bill that provides assistance and environmental justice for three distinct groups of people affected by climate change: frontline and vulnerable communities, fossil fuel workers, and young people. Register here.

Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Legislative Branch/Congress
Interactives

Impeachment Proceedings

The process of impeachment was outlined in the Constitution when it was drafted in 1787. To date, 19 officials, including judges, cabinet members, senators, and presidents, have been impeached and stood trial. The crimes these individuals have been charged with range from perjury to conspiracy to intoxication on the bench. It is important to note that impeachment is not the actual removal from office, but merely the process to remove an official.

Grades 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans

How Your State Gets Its Seats – Congressional Apportionment

The United States Senate consists of how many members? The answer is fairly simple: with two members apiece representing each of the fifty states, the total is one hundred. How about the House of Representatives? The answer is much more complicated. There are currently 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. How did this number come about and how is the number of Representatives per state determined?

Starter Kit: Legislative Branch Podcast

There are 535 people who meet in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill. They go in, legislation comes out. You can watch the machinations of the House and Senate chambers on C-SPAN, you can read their bills online. But what are the rules of engagement? Where does your Senator go every day, and what do they do? What does it mean to represent the American people?
This short episode includes a one-page Graphic Organizer for students to take notes on while listening, as well as discussion questions on the back side.