The teacher can engage the students by asking them if they have ever heard or said, "That's not fair!" The teacher can allow the students to turn and talk about when they said or heard this statement. Allow a few groups to share their thoughts. The teacher can then lead the class in an open discussion of what rules are and why we have them. Lead the students to the fact that laws are rules that have been decided on for everyone. These rules have to go through a specific process before they can be a law. Once passed, these laws apply to everyone in a country.
Divide the students into 4 groups. One way to do this would be to allow students to work in table groups. Give each group a piece of paper. Tell the students that they are going to take 1-2 minutes to write down all the things for which they think there should be a rule or law. Remind students that they are graffiti writing and it's okay to use phrases and not complete sentences as well as if they write upside down from their neighbor. Set a timer to keep students on track. As students are working, walk around the room to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and ideas. Remind students that there are no bad ideas. This is a time to reflect and dump all the ideas out of their brains.
After students write down their ideas, have each group choose one idea that is their favorite. Allow time for each group to write a list of at least 3 reasons they think their choice should be a law.
Write the idea from each group on the board and number them. Ask students to vote on the choice they think would make a good new law. The vote can be done by students raising their hand, raising the number of fingers of their choice, on paper, or using a Google Form.
Remind students that the law would affect everyone so choose carefully and be sure that they can explain why they think it should be a law.
Once the students have voted on a choice to use, tell them they are going to watch a video about what happens when someone thinks something should become a law. The process goes through the legislative branch of the government. This choice is written down and called a bill. The teacher will write the class's choice down on a paper or type it on the computer and project it.
The video we are going to watch will explain what happens once the bill is written down. Schoolhouse Rock I'm Just a Bill. Watch the video 2 or 3 times. Have students fill in the Video Graphic Organizer (or take notes on their paper) while watching the video (2nd and 3rd viewing).
Divide the class into 2 groups. One group will be the House and one group will be the Senate. Give each group time to discuss if they think the bill should become a law. After students have had time to discuss, have students write a paragraph arguing for or against the bill. They must include 2 or more reasons. The teacher can use the hamburger paragraph rubric to assess writing. This can be posted in the classroom for students to refer to throughout the year as they write.
After the students have had time to write about their choice, give students the opportunity to vote by placing a mark on the Voting Board. The Voting Board Template can be displayed on an Interactive White Board or document camera.
Tally the votes from both the "House" and the "Senate". If the law passes, then ask students where the law will go next. Tell students that the law will go to the President and he can either sign it (it becomes a law) or veto it (and it is not a law and the process will begin all over again).
When the activity is finished, have students complete an exit slip answering 4 questions on their own paper or in a shared Google Doc file:
- How does an idea become a bill?
- Describe the steps of a bill becoming a law. Assume that it passes at each stage.
- What are 2 reasons a bill would not become a law?
- What happens to a bill if it does not become a law?