This Share My Lesson collection provides free lesson plans and resources to support teachers in educating students about the legislative branch of Congress. Students will learn about the powers of Congress and state legislatures, how those powers have been used or changed over time, and what issues face Congress today.
This secondary level lesson plan, developed in collaboration with the National Archives, draws on the legendary political cartoons of Clifford Berryman to consider the lawmaking process. Students analyze the cartoon and describe how it illustrates the process. It aligns with both Common Core ELA standards and C3 Framework components.
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?
History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students at the Constitutional Convention and asks them to construct a legislative branch for a proposed new government. Should there be one branch or two? Should each state get an equal voice in the legislative branch? By discussing and debating the various options, they will gain a deeper understanding of the choices the framers faced and why they opted for particular structures, ones we live with today.
This short video explains the differing perspectives that emerged about the Constitution and slavery. Some, like Frederick Douglass, believed that the Founders put slavery on the road to extinction while others, like Roger Taney, believed that the Constitution was a slaveholders’ document. Professor Gordon Lloyd contends that the slavery clauses in the Constitution both limited and expanded slavery’s impact, and that the Founders alone do not bear responsibility for slavery’s later expansion.
This short video examines the role played by the Committee on Detail in defining the powers of Congress, the most important of which were the power to tax and the power to regulate commerce. The Committee wanted to promote an interstate commercial republic and specified congressional powers to achieve that goal. According to Professor Gordon Lloyd, the inclusion of the “necessary and proper clause” was the most significant contribution of this Committee.
This short video explores the Connecticut Compromise, in which the delegates rejected an “either/or” solution to the question of representation and instead “thought out of the box,” creating a government that was partly national and partly federal. Professor Gordon Lloyd points out that although the final vote (5/4/1) on the Compromise did not reflect a bi-partisan consensus, it nevertheless was a significant breakthrough for moving on to other issues.
This short video highlights the four plans discussed during the first two weeks of the Convention: Madison’s Virginia Plan; Sherman’s New Jersey Plan; Hamilton’s “monarchical” plan; and, finally, Madison’s amended Virginia Plan. Each plan attempted to reconcile the potential conflicts between a strong national government and strong state governments. Professor Gordon Lloyd notes that an inability to compromise resulted in a stalemate after the first two weeks.
This short video discusses George Washington’s “infinite care in preparing the Constitution for posterity.” As Chair of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was most often silent, but he did cast a crucial vote in the Virginia delegation, resulting in the adoption of the Connecticut Compromise. Professor W. B. Allen emphasizes the role played by Washington in providing leadership and structure as the principles of the Constitution were argued and articulated.