Checks and Balances Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Simplify your instruction on checks and balances with the help of a video lesson and fun in-class activity. To take your instruction to a deeper level, consider the optional supplementary activities and related lessons.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the nuances of a system of checks and balances
  • analyze the system of checks and balances within the US government
  • design a system of checks and balances for classroom management


1 hour

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).


  • Ask students to consider what their behavior might be like if there was no chance of being punished.
  • Now have them explain how the threat of punishment helps to control their behavior in many ways.
  • Continue the discussion by asking the students what the phrase 'checks and balances' means. Write the student-suggested explanations on the board.
  • Next, play the video lesson Constitutional Checks & Balances on the Power of the Supreme Court: Definition & Examples, pausing at 1:28.
  • Now ask the class if they hit the mark with their explanations of checks and balances. If not, have them fill in the missing information gleaned from the video lesson as you write their additions on the board.
  • Play the remainder of the video lesson.
  • Now divide the students into three groups. One group will represent the legislative branch of government, the second the executive, and the third represents the judicial branch.
  • Have them work within their small groups and together with the other two groups to create a system of checks and balances based on the design of US government for the management of classroom behavior.
  • When the students have finished designing their classroom system of checks and balances, have them demonstrate how it works with a specific problem/example.

Discussion Questions

  • Is US government's system of checks and balances always fair and effective?
  • What types of things could erode the efficacy of the check and balances with the US government?
  • What other types of organizations utilize systems of checks and balances?


  • Ask students to research the processes behind the impeachments of President Andrew Johnson and President Bill Clinton. What role did the system of checks and balances play in each?
  • Have students research and report on the systems of checks and balances of a well-known company.

Related Lessons

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