ALEX Lesson Plan


Keeping Up With the Alabama Legislature: Legislative Update Wiki Project

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Scarlett Gaddy
System: Tuscaloosa County
School: Hillcrest High School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 29800


Keeping Up With the Alabama Legislature: Legislative Update Wiki Project


This technology-based lesson encourages active engagement in the state legislative process. Students participate on a wiki designed to follow the progress of legislation as it moves through the state legislature. It is conducted during the Legislative session and concludes at the end of the session. Sessions will start in either January or February depending on whether or not it is an election year.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 9-12
Computer Applications
12 ) Use digital tools to publish curriculum-related content.

Examples: Web page authoring software, coding software, wikis, blogs, podcasts

Technology Education
TC2 (2009)
Grade: 9-12
Computer Applications
13 ) Demonstrate collaborative skills using curriculum-related content in digital environments.

Examples: completing assignments online; interacting with experts and peers in a structured, online learning environment

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 12
United States Government
5 ) Compare specific functions, organizations, and purposes of local and state governments, including implementing fiscal and monetary policies, ensuring personal security, and regulating transportation. (Alabama)

•  Analyzing the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 to determine its impact on local funding and campaign funding (Alabama)
•  Describing the influence of special interest groups on state government (Alabama)
Insight Unpacked Content
Column Definitions

Strand: Economics, History, Civics and Government
Course Title: United States Government
Evidence of Student Attainment:
  • Differentiate between roles and responsibilities of local and state functions as well as identify areas in which their power is concurrent.
  • Analyze the Alabama Constitution of 1901 to identify how its key components impact the relationship of funding between state, local, and special interest groups.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • home rule
  • local funding
  • campaign funding
  • special interest group
  • lobbying
  • fiscal policy
  • monetary policy
  • city council
  • county commission
  • mayor
Students know:
  • Key features and concepts of the Alabama 1901 Constitution.
  • Differences between monetary and fiscal policy as well as how these differ between state and local levels, including differences amongst localities.
  • Purposes and functions of special interest groups.
Students are able to:
  • Compare state and local governments on a given characteristic in how they relate to one another in the state of Alabama.
Students understand that:
  • The similarities and differences in the roles and powers of local and state governments using the Alabama Constitution of 1901 illustrate the impact of such on local funding, campaign funding, and the role of special interest groups.

Local/National Standards:

NCSS Standards
Theme X: Civic Ideals and Practices
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

• High School - High school students increasingly recognize the rights and responsibilities of citizens in identifying societal needs setting directions for public policies, and working to support both individual dignity and the common good. They learn by experience how to participate in community service and political activities and how to use democratic process to influence public policy.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will monitor the progress of individually selected legislation as it moves from its assigned committee to the House or Senate floor and report on that progress in writing on the wiki.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will collaborate and contribute on a classroom wiki.

Students will be proficient in navigating ALISON the Alabama Legislative System Online Database.


 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Note: Resources and Equipment necessary for this lesson are all technology items.

Technology Resources Needed:

Students and teacher will need either laptops/ computers with Internet access and a flash drive to back up the wiki posts.



Web Sites needed:

Alabama Legislative System Online

Wikis in Plain English  


Teachers should have a working knowledge of wikis and a familiarity with ALISON the Alabama Legislative System Online.
Teachers should set up the wiki (Wikispaces or PBwiki). Wikispaces will allow teachers to set up ad-free wikis at no cost. Students may be grouped by the legislative committee to which their bills have been assigned or students may work independently. Set up a wiki page on the class wiki for each committee represented by the legislation in the House and the Senate. Students will post their wiki summary and their updates on the committee page that corresponds to their legislation.

Preparation for students should include the basics about state government. Students should be introduced to wikis if they are unfamiliar with them before beginning the project.


Set up the wiki for student use  and select enough samples of introduced legislation so that each student will have one you have selected. This enables you to select legislation that you believe is most important and insures that it will be part of the monitored group. Once they are familiar with ALISON the Alabama Legislative System Online database, allow them to pick their second piece of legislation based on their interest. Once the basic wiki has been created by the teacher, it is ready for students to list their pieces of legislation. The teacher controls the number of people who may access the wiki through the wiki's settings. Students will need to provide email addresses to the teacher in order for them to receive an invitation to join the wiki group and once they receive the invitation, students should respond to the instructions in the email to join the wiki. Once the student has accepted the invitation to join the wiki, he or she is ready to post.

This project is one that can be done on a collaborative basis either in groups in the same classroom or with another school that takes a portion of the legislation to follow. This allows for more oversight of the legislative process. An example of this project may be viewed at the following site: AP Government Legislative Update 2010.

There are several items that may be added to the wiki home page that are helpful. These include the sample of how the students' posts should appear, links to the Alabama House and Senate, ALISON, and  an online magazine that monitors state legislative activity. Links to each of your school's legislators will also be helpful when students do the "Write Your Legislator" activity. For this activity, it is not necessary that the student write the legislator about their legislation. Letters that are easiest for the student to write are the ones about subjects in which they are most interested. If this information is posted on the wiki home page, it is not necessary to provide copies of the instructions to each student.

Just prior to conducting the lesson visit ALISON, select one bill per student, paste on a sheet of paper, then cut them so that each individual bill may be laid out on a table for students to select from the group.

Allow students time to get started on the wiki. This will have to be done after they have been accepted into the wiki group. It may be done during school or as homework from their home computer. Provide a deadline approximately one week from introduction of the lesson for students to post their first entry on the wiki. This first post should include a synopsis or short description of their legislation. It is important that students save a copy of their post in Word as a backup in case another student accidentally erases their post. As long as they have a backup, it is easy to replace. This can be done by copying the post and pasting it into Word and saving to their computer or flash drive. Once the original post is on the wiki, all that remains is for the students to update their legislation once a week.

Select a day of the week for students to have updated their wiki posts. Mondays are good days since students have the weekend to work on their assignment. Score them each week using the previously identified points from the Project Instruction handout.


Later in the project, have the students write their legislators on some piece of legislation. Instructions for writing legislators are included in the lesson plan.


A simple rubric for scoring the wiki posts can be generated as a student record page or portfolio, that is stored in a file accessible to the students for their viewing, or it may simply be added into the gradebook by the teacher. The letter to the legislator should be scored before the letter is sent.

**Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

Assessment Strategies

From the Wiki Project Instructions attachment above for instructions on writing and evaluating the wiki posts.
• First post with synopsis and original update = maximum of 20 points (10 for synopsis, 10 for the post)
• Each weekly update will be awarded a maximum of 10 points.

The letter to the legislator does not have to be on the student's assigned legislation, though it should be the content with which they are most familiar. If they are concerned about another public policy issue, that works just as well. These letters can be proofread by the teacher to record a score (see attached rubric) prior to the letters being mailed to the legislators. Students may find that they receive a letter in return. Have them report to the class if this occurs. It's a great motivator!


Students who are adept at working on wikis and blogs may be utilized as technology "instructors" for those who are unfamiliar with the technology platform.


Students who have problems with the wiki posts may be paired with students who are more proficient or visit the teacher for assistance.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.