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No unit on the U.S. legislative branch is complete without a lesson on how a bill becomes a law. Provide your students with multi-sensory opportunities for practicing and retaining the steps in the process.
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- Students will understand the structure of the legislative branch of the United States government.
- Students will order steps to explain how a bill becomes a law.
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- Introduce the lesson with the School House Rock video, “I’m Just a Bill," or the interactive video at the Center on Congress site at http://centeroncongress.org/modules/Legislative_Process/main.htm.
- Review with students the structure of Congress as they look at Article I of the U.S. Constitution. Remind them how representation in each house is determined and that each house has special powers.
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Students create an illustrated flow chart showing all the steps of the process, in order. Each step should be written in students’ own words and should include a picture or symbol that demonstrates understanding and serves as a memory aid. The chart should use arrows to represent the order and options in the process.
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Provide each student with an envelope containing separate strips of paper, each containing one step of the process for how a bill becomes a law. Students place the steps in order and glue the strips to paper for assessment of learning.
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Extension and Enrichment
- Students research the system of lights and bells used in the House of Representatives to call members to quorum, vote, etc. They then use their research results to create a brochure for freshmen House members, explaining the system.
- Allow students to develop a system of light and bell alerts for regular classroom activities.
- Role-play the process with small “interest groups."
Divide students into small groups of three to four. The groups should read about issues at http://www.justicelearning.org and select one. Groups research the selected issue and draft a related bill. Divide the class into House and Senate. In each, assign individuals to committees. (Base the committees on the different issues selected by the small groups.) Allow students to present study, debate and vote on each different bill.
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- The School House Rock video may be found at http://www.schoolhouserock.tv/Bill.html.
- For more lessons and activities related to how a bill becomes a law, check out these sites:
- Information about the alert lights and bells used for the House of Representatives is available at http://18.104.22.168:8000/InfoUSA/politics/lawsmade/consider.htm#lights.
- Learn more about House rules, House pages and other facts about the House of Representatives at:
With this lesson plan on how a bill becomes a law, your students will understand the difficulty in creating new legislation by recognizing the long process of passing new laws.