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Three Branches of Government Activities & Games

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The three branches of government - executive, legislative, and judicial - help pass laws, create checks and balances, and separate the powers of the government. This lesson focuses on activities based on these branches.

Executive, Legislative, and Judicial

The branches of the federal government are set up so we have one branch that creates laws, another branch that executes the laws, and the third assesses and interprets them. This is a symbiotic relationship, since one branch cannot do their job without work from the other branches. This is how the checks and balances are created. To make sure students know these branches, it is important to provide a variety of individual and group activities to reinforce knowledge and create engagement.

Group Activities

The following activities are created to involve two or more students. Because the branches of the government is such a large subject, a group can tackle it easier than an individual can.

Create a Bill

Have the class break into three large groups. One group will represent the legislative branch, the next the judicial, and the third group will represent the executive branch of the government. Within the legislative branch group, make sure there are smaller groups to represent the House of Representatives and the Senate. There also needs to be Supreme Court justices in the judicial branch, the president in the executive branch, and so on.

Now from here, start with the legislative branch. Have that branch create a bill for an issue they have agreed is important. Have the House of Representatives review the bill and vote on whether they want it to become law. If they do, then have the Senate look at it next. They can either vote or try to amend the bill.

Once the bill is to their liking, they can move it to the executive branch. Once the bill has been validated, you can then have the judicial branch interpret this law in a trial. This activity will take several days, but it will show the students the challenges of making a bill into law, and the subsequent use of that law in court.

Guess Who

This is a game for the whole class. Have a list of different actions (for example, veto a bill) and positions (for example, senator) within every branch of government. Now, make sure the students are broken into two groups, one on each side of the class, facing the whiteboard. From here, state the responsibility or position. One person from each group has to run up and write down the correct branch of government it originates from. Whoever does this first earns a point for their team. At the end, the team with the most points wins.

Making Music

This third activity will help students remember the activities and names of positions in each branch to the tune of a song. Have the students break into groups of four to five. Have each group pick a song and change the words to words that pertain to the branches of government. For example, students can use the tune We Didn't Start the Fire. So instead of ''Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray,'' they could do ''The president, executive, Congress, legislative.'' This will help students more easily remember the three branches because it is a fun study tool for exams later.

Individual Activities

These activities are for individuals, allowing students to do them in class or at home.

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