Wayne RESA
Unit Abstract

This unit focuses on the legislative branch of government and politics.  Students begin with a review of the principles of enumerated powers, popular sovereignty, checks and balances, separation of powers, republicanism, and bicameralism.  They explore how these principles are reflected in the provisions of Article I of the U.S. Constitution.  After examining the origins of political parties in the United States; students assess the purposes of politics and the role of political parties.  They learn about some of the distinctions between conservatives and liberals and explore how the political spectrum reflects a multitude of positions on a variety of issues.  They investigate how the legislative and political processes reflect this diversity of opinion including debates about how to best fulfill the purposes of government.  Students explore how political parties differ in how they view legislation and how these differences influence the legislative process.  After defining their own political identity, students participate in a legislative simulation.  They identify current issues of concern and attempt to resolve them through the drafting of public policy.  After researching a selected public issue and gathering a sampling of public opinion, students draft legislation to address the issue. They learn about the importance of party leadership and committee work as they try to move legislation through both houses of Congress.  Through debates and compromise, students work to resolve the simulation issue.  They then use a case study of the Family Medical Leave Act to explore how Congress works. Students examine how an issue gets on the public agenda and how it may ultimately be addressed through public policy.  In doing so, students examine the role of conflict and compromise in the legislative process.  They also analyze the role of public opinion, the media, interest groups, and lobbyists in the legislative process.  Throughout the unit, students consider the purposes of politics, why people engage in the political process, and what the political process can achieve.


Stage One - Desired Results

Compelling Question

How are both knowledge about American constitutional government and actions by citizens' essential components of effective government?

Supporting Questions
  1. How are laws made?
  2. How do pressures from individuals, interest groups, the media, political party leadership, and public opinion affect public policy?
  3. How effective is the legislative process in addressing the needs of the nation's citizens?
Content (Key Concepts)


checks and balances

enumerated powers


legislative process


political parties


popular sovereignty

public agenda

public opinion

public policy


role of the media

separation of powers

substantive discourse/ deliberative public discussions 


Skills (Intellectual Processes)



Identifying Perspectives

Issue Analysis

Problem Solving



Stage Two - Assessment Evidence

Unit Assessment Tasks

Stage Three - Learning Plan

Lesson Plan Sequence


Card Stock paper


Chart paper


Computer with Internet access




Overhead projector or document camera


Student Resource

Active Legislation 111th Congress (2009-2010). United States Senate. 6 October 2015. http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/b_three_sections_with_teasers/active_leg_page.htm


*Bill Search. Congress.org. CQ-Roll Call Group. 6 October 2015. http://www.congress.org/congressorg/issuesaction/bill/


Brookings Institute. 6 October 2015. http://www.brookings.edu/


The Cato Institute. 6 October 2015. http://www.cato.org


Center for American Progress. 6 October 2015. http://www.americanprogress.org


Congressional Bills Main Page, GPO Access. 22 May 2010.


The Constitution of the United States, Analysis and Interpretation. United States Government Printing Office. 22 May 2010.


Current Legislation. Key Bills in Congress. Roll Call/Congress.org. 22 May 2010.


The Democratic Party. 6 October 2015. http://www.democrats.org


Figure 12.4 - How a Bill Becomes a Law. La Quinta High School. 22 May 2010.


Government 101: How a Bill Becomes a Law. Project Vote Smart.6 October 2015. http://www.votesmart.org/resource_govt101_02.php


The Heritage Foundation. 6 October 2015. http://www.heritage.org/


How a Bill Becomes a Law. CQ Roll Call Group. 6 October 2015. http://corporate.cq.com/user-assets/Images/congress101/how-a-bill-becomes-law.jpg


I’m Just a Bill. School House Rock. 22 May 2010.


*Inside Politics. CNN/Time. 6 October 2015. http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS


Klein, Ezra “Government by Loophole.” Newsweek. 5 March 2010. 22 May 2010.


Legislative Activities. Office of the Clerk, U. S. House of Representatives. 6 October 2015. http://clerk.house.gov/floorsummary/floor.html


Legislative Archive. United States House of Representatives. 22 May 2010.


Nagourney, Adam and Megan Thee-Brenan. “New Poll Finds Growing Unease on Health Plan.” New York Times. July 30, 2009: 6 October 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/30/us/politics/30poll.html


National Issues Forum.6 October 2015. http://www.nifi.org/


News Batch. 6 October 2015. http://www.newsbatch.com


*Political Bulletin. US News and World Report. 22 May 2010.


*Political Cartoons. 6 October 2015. http://www.politicalcartoons.com


Politico.6 October 2015. http://www.politico.com


PolitiFact.com.6 October 2015. http://www.politifact.com


Polling Report.6 October 2015. http://www.pollingreport.com/


Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. U.S. Constitution Online. 6 October 2015. http://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_preamble.html


ProCon of Controversial Issues. ProCon.org. 6 October 2015. http://www.procon.org/


Public Agenda.6 October 2015. http://www.publicagenda.org/


*Real Clear Politics. 6 October 2015. http://www.realclearpolitics.com


The Republican National Committee. 6 October 2015. http://www.gop.com/


Rhee, Foon. “Measuring, influencing public opinion on health care.” Boston Globe. 16 Nov. 2009. 22 May 2010.


The Role of Political Parties. America.gov. 22 May 2010.


Seelye, Katharine. “Competing Ads on Health Care Plan Swamp the Airwaves.” New York Times. 6 October 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/health/policy/16ads.html?scp=15&sq=health%20care%20reform%20public%20awareness&st=cse


*Teachers’ Curriculum Institute. Government Alive! Power, Politics, and You. Palo Alto, CA: TCI, 2009.


Thomas. The Library of Congress. 6 October 2015. http://thomas.loc.gov/


“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: the Family Medical Leave Act as Retrenchment Policy.” The Review of Policy Research. 22 March 2003. 6 October 2015. http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-2688511/Two-steps-forward-one-step.html


United States House of Representatives. 6 October 2015. http://www.house.gov/


United States Senate. 6 October 2015. http://www.senate.gov/


Teacher Resource

*Asher, Lauren J. and Donna R. Lenhoff. “Family and Medical Leave: Making Time for Family is Everybody’s Business.” Future of Children. 22 May 2010.


*“Bush May Veto Family Bill.” May 7, 1990. LA Times. 6 October 2015. http://articles.latimes.com/1990-05-07/news/mn-265_1_family-values


*“Bush Vetos Bill on Family Leave.” June 30 1990. New York Times. 6 October 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/30/us/bush-vetoes-bill-on-family-leave.html


*The Daily Show. Comedy Central. 6 October 2015. http://www.thedailyshow.com/


Daryl Cagle’s Professional Cartoonists Index. Cagle.com. 6 October 2015.



*The Dennis Miller Show. 6 October 2015. http://www.dennismillerradio.com/


Directory of US Political Parties. Ron Gunzburger’s Politics 1.com. 6 October 2015. http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm


*Editorial: Family Leave – A Ruling for Fairness. May 29 2003. Cincinnati Enquirer. 6 October 2015. http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2003/05/29/editorial_FamilyLeave.html


*“Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy.” Democracy in America. Annenberg Foundation. 6 October 2015. http://www.learner.org/courses/democracyinamerica/dia_14/


*Employers’ Perspective. The Family Medical Leave Act. ENotes.com. 6 October 2015. http://www.enotes.com/everyday-law-encyclopedia/family-and-medical-leave-act-fmla#employers-perspective


*The Family Leave Bill Could Stick this Time. October 28 1991. Business Week .6 October 2015. http://www.businessweek.com/archives/1991/b323734.arc.htm


*In Family Leave Case, Supreme Court Steps Back Into Federalism Debate. Jan. 12 2003. New York Times. 6 October 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/12/politics/12SCOT.html


The Family Medical Leave Act. 29 USCS §§ 2601 - § 2654 (2005). National Partnership for Women and Families. 6 October 2015. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/DocServer/FMLAstatute.pdf?docID=964


*The Family and Medical Leave Issue: Small Business Reactions. Nicholls State University. 22 May 2010.


Harry and Louise on Clinton’s Healthcare Plan. YouTube. 6 October 2015. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt31nhleeCg


Harry and Louise Return. YouTube. 6 October 2015. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGvkZszS21Y&feature=related


Harry and Louise are Back. YouTube. 6 October 2015. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3Y3JVitUcs&feature=channel


*Hamilton, Lee. How Congress Works and Why You Should Care. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004.


I’m Just a Bill. School House Rock. YouTube.com. 22 May 2010.


*Janda, Berry, Goldman. The Challenge of Democracy, 8th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, 2005.


*“Legislatures: Laying Down the Law.” Democracy in America. Annenberg Foundation. 6 October 2015. http://www.learner.org/courses/democracyinamerica/dia_6/


*Letter to US Department of Labor about The Family Medical Leave Act. National Partnership for Women and Families. 6 October 2015. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/DocServer/FMLALettertotheDOL.pdf?docID=961


*Milton C. Cummings, Jr. and David Wise. Democracy Under Pressure: An Introduction to the American Political System, 10th Edition. Thompson Higher Education: Belmont, CA, 2005.


*Monk, Linda R. The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution. Hyperion: New York, 2003.


*News. US Department of Energy. 22 May 2010.


Oakland Schools Teaching Research Writing Website: Skills Progression & Lessons http://www.osteachingresearchwriting.org/


*“Political Parties: Mobilizing Agents.” Democracy in America. Annenberg Foundation. 6 October 2015. http://www.learner.org/courses/democracyinamerica/dia_12/


*Praise for Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Children. New York Times. 17 Nov. 1991. 6 October 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/11/17/us/praise-for-catholic-bishops-statement-on-children.html


*“Public Opinion: Voice of the People.” Democracy in America. Annenberg Foundation. 6 October 2015. http://www.learner.org/courses/democracyinamerica/dia_11/


*Saturday Night Live. NBC. 6 October 2015. http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/


*Scardino, Franco. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to U.S. Government & Politics. The Penguin Group, NY: 2009.


*Senate Letter to US Department of Labor about the Family Medical Leave Act. National Partnership for Women and Families. 6 October 2015. http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/DocServer/FMLASenateLettertoDOL.pdf?docID=963


*“Understanding the Media: The Inside Story.” Democracy in America. Annenberg Foundation. 6 October 2015. http://www.learner.org/courses/democracyinamerica/dia_10/


*US News and World Report. Politics Section. 22 May 2010.


*What is a Filibuster? This Nation.com. 6 October 2015. http://www.thisnation.com/question/037.html


*“Women’s Groups Begin to Push for Parental Leave Measure. Sept. 8 1988. New York Times. 6 October 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/08/us/women-s-groups-begin-push-for-parental-leave-measure.html


Yankelovich, Daniel. The Seven Stages of Public Opinion. Public Agenda. 6 October 2015. http://www.publicagenda.org/pages/seven-stages-public-opinion


For Further Professional Knowledge

Elving, Ronald D. Conflict and Compromise: How Congress Makes the Law. NY: Touchstone Publishing, 1995.


Kingdon, John W. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. 2nd ed., NY: Harper Collins, 1995.


Lenhoff, Donna R. Family and Medical Leave in the United States: Historical and Political Reflections. 1 Oct. 2004. 22 May 2010.


Mann, Thomas E. and Norman J. Ornstein. The Broken Branch, updated edition. NY: Oxford University Press, 2008.


O’Connor, Karen and Larry J. Sabato. Essentials of American Government: Roots and Reform. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009.


Price, David E. The Congressional Experience. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004.


Thurber, James A. Rival for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations. Lanham, MD: Rowman-Littlefield, 2009.


* Although the resources denoted with an asterisk are not cited in the lessons for this unit, they are included here to provide meaningful options for teachers.



MI: Social Studies (2007)
High School
Civics & Government
C1 Conceptual Foundations of Civic and Political Life
1.1 Nature of Civic Life, Politics, and Government Explain the meaning of civic life, politics, and government through the investigation of such questions as: What is civic life? What are politics? What is government? What are the purposes of politics and government?
1.1.4 Explain the purposes of politics, why people engage in the political process, and what the political process can achieve (e.g., promote the greater good, promote self-interest, advance solutions to public issues and problems, achieve a just society).
C2 Origins and Foundations of Government of the United States of America
2.1 Origins of American Constitutional Government (Note: Much of this content should have been an essential feature of students’ 5th and 8th grade coursework. High School U.S. History and Geography teachers, however, revisit this in USHG Foundational Expectations 1.1, 1.2, and 2.1.) Explain the fundamental ideas and principles of American constitutional government and their philosophical and historical origins through investigation of such questions as: What are the philosophical and historical roots of the foundational values of American constitutional government? What are the fundamental principles of American constitutional government?
2.1.3 Explain how the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights reflected political principles of popular sovereignty, rule of law, checks and balances, separation of powers, social compact, natural rights, individual rights, separation of church and state, republicanism and federalism.
2.2 Foundational Values and Constitutional Principles of American Government
Explain how the American idea of constitutional government has shaped a distinctive American society through the investigation of such questions as: How have the fundamental values and principles of American constitutional government shaped American society?
2.2.3 Use past and present policies to analyze conflicts that arise in society due to competing constitutional principles or fundamental values (e.g., liberty and authority, justice and equality, individual rights, and the common good).
2.2.5 Use examples to investigate why people may agree on constitutional principles and fundamental values in the abstract, yet disagree over their meaning when they are applied to specific situations.
3.1 Structure, Functions, and Enumerated Powers of National Government Describe how the national government is organized and what it does through the investigation of such questions as: What is the structure of the national government? What are the functions of the national government? What are its enumerated powers?
3.1.1 Analyze the purposes, organization, functions, and processes of the legislative branch as enumerated in Article I of the Constitution.
3.1.5 Use case studies or examples to examine tensions between the three branches of government (e.g., powers of the purse and impeachment, advise and consent, veto power, and judicial review).
3.2 Powers and Limits on Powers
Identify how power and responsibility are distributed, shared, and limited in American constitutional government through the investigation of such questions as: How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?
3.2.1 Explain how the principles of enumerated powers, federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism, checks and balances, republicanism, rule of law, individual rights, inalienable rights, separation of church and state, and popular sovereignty serve to limit the power of government.
3.5 Other Actors in the Policy Process
Describe the roles of political parties, interest groups, the media, and individuals in determining and shaping public policy through the investigation of such questions as: What roles do political parties, interest groups, the media, and individuals play in the development of public policy?
3.5.1 Explain how political parties, interest groups, the media, and individuals can influence and determine the public agenda.
3.5.2 Describe the origin and the evolution of political parties and their influence.
3.5.3 Identify and explain the roles of various associations and groups in American politics (e.g., political organizations, political action committees, interest groups, voluntary and civic associations, professional organizations, unions, and religious groups).
3.5.4 Explain the concept of public opinion, factors that shape it, and contrasting views on the role it should play in public policy.
3.5.5 Evaluate the actual influence of public opinion on public policy.
3.5.7 Explain the role of television, radio, the press, and the internet in political communication.
3.5.8 Evaluate, take, and defend positions about the formation and implementation of a current public policy issue, and examine ways to participate in the decision making process about the issue.
3.5.9 In making a decision on a public issue, analyze various forms of political communication (e.g., political cartoons, campaign advertisements, political speeches, and blogs) using criteria like logical validity, factual accuracy and/or omission, emotional appeal, distorted evidence, and appeals to bias or prejudice.
C6 Citizenship in Action
6.1 Civic Inquiry and Public Discourse Use forms of inquiry and construct reasoned arguments to engage in public discourse around policy and public issues by investigating the question: How can citizens acquire information, solve problems, make decisions, and defend positions about public policy issues?
6.1.1 Identify and research various viewpoints on significant public policy issues.
6.1.2 Locate, analyze, and use various forms of evidence, information, and sources about a significant public policy issue, including primary and secondary sources, legal documents (e.g., Constitutions, court decisions, state law), non-text based information (e.g., maps, charts, tables, graphs, and cartoons), and other forms of political communication (e.g., oral political cartoons, campaign advertisements, political speeches, and blogs).
6.1.4 Address a public issue by suggesting alternative solutions or courses of action, evaluating the consequences of each, and proposing an action to address the issue or resolve the problem.
6.1.5 Make a persuasive, reasoned argument on a public issue and support using evidence (e.g., historical and contemporary examples), constitutional principles, and fundamental values of American constitutional democracy; explain the stance or position.
6.2 Participating in Civic Life
Describe multiple opportunities for citizens to participate in civic life by investigating the question: How can citizens participate in civic life?
6.2.1 Describe the relationship between politics and the attainment of individual and public goals (e.g., how individual interests are fulfilled by working to achieve collective goals).
6.2.2 Distinguish between and evaluate the importance of political participation and social participation.
6.2.8 Describe various forms and functions of political leadership and evaluate the characteristics of an effective leader.
6.2.10 Participate in a real or simulated public hearing or debate and evaluate the role of deliberative public discussions in civic life.
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Wayne RESA