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How laws are made

Election 2002

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Arts & Humanities
Educational Technology
Social Studies
Visual Arts
Current Events
U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced

Brief description

Students create a graphic organizer to illustrate the steps elected representatives must take to make a new law. Included: Student work sheet and role-play ideas.


Students will
  • learn about the responsibilities of their elected leaders.
  • learn the steps (from proposal to presidential signature) involved in making new laws.
  • create a graphic organizer (work sheet included) that illustrates the steps in the lawmaking process.
  • follow some actual legislation through the process.
  • play the role of a representative or senator in proposing and acting on legislation.



legislation, Congress, vote, Representative, Senator, law, Washington, D.C., government, civics, election, graphic organizer, citizen, citizenship

Materials needed


Lesson plan

In the upcoming election, voters around the United States will elect the person(s) who will represent their districts in the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. Voters in each district will elect their U.S. Representative, who will serve in the House of Representatives; voters in about one third of the United States will elect a senator to serve in the U.S. Senate. The representatives and senators who are elected will be responsible for enacting new laws for all the people in the land.

In this lesson, students will learn about what representatives and senators do; they will also learn how the U.S. Congress creates and passes new laws. Online resources are provided to supplement students texts. Students will create a graphic organizer (work sheet provided, or they can use software such as Inspiration to create their own graphic organizer) to show the 9-step process from the time a bill is proposed to the day the President signs a bill into law.

You might begin the lesson by sharing a resource from Scholastic. What Does Congress Do? provides a simple overview of the role elected representatives play in creating new laws for the country.

Then help students dig a little deeper into the lawmaking process by providing additional resources. Your students social studies texts should have some good grade-level resources. Supplement those resources with one or more of the online Bill-to-Law Resources listed below.

If you do not have access to a computer, select one or more of the resources below to print and share with students.

Following are a few ways in which you can share those online resources:


Note: You might also use supplemental reading books as resources for completing this activity; the Education World article Elections and our government -- in words a third grader can understand! tells about one excellent resource.

Provide each student with a copy of the How laws are made work sheet. The work sheet provides a graphic organizer for students to use as they boil down the bill-to-law process to its 9 steps. Students should explain each step in their own words. The amount of information students provide, and the complexity of it, will depend on the students grade level.

If your students have access to computers, they might use graphic software such as Inspiration or Kidspiration to build their own graphic organizers to display the steps in the bill-to-law process.

Extension activities

  • Set up a role-play activity in which students play the roles of representatives and/or senators. Each representative/senator will serve as a member of at least two committees. (See the List of senate committees.) They will vote on bills in those committees as well as all bills that make their way to a final vote.
  • Use the official Web site of the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives to follow the progress of a handful of legislation. You might follow legislation that has been introduced by your states senator or representative; the local office of that elected official can provide you with additional resources -- or perhaps even a visit from the senator or representative. Another option: Have each student, or group of students, follow a separate piece of legislation.
  • Have students write letters or e-mails to their senator or representative. In those letters, students share their thoughts about a current piece of legislation. Students can access the mailing information they need using the Communicating With Congress page at the Web site.
  • Create a bulletin board that displays on a large scale the information students write in their How Laws Are Made graphic organizers.



Students will use their graphic organizers to write a paragraph briefly explaining the bill-to-law process.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins


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