Branches of Government Lesson Plan: The Online Law Craft Game

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this branches of government lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use BrainPOP’s Law Craft online social studies game to explore the relationship between the three branches of the U.S. Government. Students will select an issue that’s important to them and their virtual constituents and take it through the law-making process in interactive online game play.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explain the relationship between the three branches of government.
  2. Select an issue that's important to them and their virtual constituents and take it through the law-making process.

Materials:

  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • LCD Projector or interactive whiteboard
  • Computers for students to use
  • Photocopies of the Graphic Organizer

Vocabulary:

sponsor; bill; senate; house of representatives; committee; full house; law; veto; override; congress; representative; policy; cabinet; checks and balances; impeach

Preparation:

Download the Law Craft Post-Game PowerPoint and make photocopies of the Branches of Government Graphic Organizer. Play the Law Craft Game to familiarize yourself with game play. Also, take time to explore the Branches of Government Topic Page to determine which features to use and how to best adapt them for your students' needs.

In the Law Craft game, students play a Representative or Senator in the U.S. Congress. They choose an issue and select from a variety of amendments to create a bill, while paying attention to how much support each amendment has among other Representatives or Senators. After passing the bill, students work to compromise with the other chamber—and, if necessary, the President—to create a bill that will be signed into law. More details are available in the Law Craft Teacher's Guide made available by iCivics.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Day 1: Pass out the Graphic Organizer to students and encourage them to talk with a partner about what they already know about the branches of government.
  2. Play the Branches of Government Movie. Afterward, have students fill out the graphic organizer. You may want to play the movie through a second time with closed captioning on.
  3. Review the graphic organizer with students. Talk about the role each branch of government plays in passing laws. Tell the class they will have the opportunity to virtually pass a law through a GameUp activity.
  4. Project the Law Craft Game for the class to see. Review the instructions and introduction, and model game play as needed for students.
  5. Give students at least 20 minutes to play the game. Two rounds of play may take 30 minutes, so this is an ideal amount of time. Point out the "help" features to any students who get stuck, and talk them through the decision-making process.
  6. Talk with the class about the law making process. Discuss difficulties law makers encounter, the role of the congress person, etc. in terms of what students discovered as they were playing the game. Clear up any misconceptions the class may have.
  7. Optional: Have students complete the Activity for homework.
  8. Day 2: Show the How a Bill Becomes a Law Movie and talk about it with the class. What are the steps a bill goes through before it becomes a law? Have students write down the steps or record their answers in a class chart. How might students use the information learned in the movie to help them improve their strategies in the Law Craft Game?
  9. Allow students to play the game for at least 20 minutes. Afterward, show the Law Craft Post-Game PowerPoint and guide students to reflect on what they learned.
  10. Return to the class chart or individual lists of how a bill becomes a law. Have students make corrections as needed, based on what they learned in the movie and through game play.
  11. Ask students to think about an issue that is important to them and other constituents in real life. Encourage them to write a letter to their congressional representatives urging them to pass a bill in support of their idea.

Extension Activity:

The Law Craft game is one of many that were developed by iCivics in conjunction with BrainPOP. You can extend students' understanding of the court system by introducing them to Argument Wars (which permits students to argue real Supreme Court cases), Branches of Power (in which students control all three branches of government at the same time), Executive Command (in which students play the role of the president through a full four year term), and Court Quest (which allows students to guide virtual constituents to the right court to hear various types of cases.)

You may also want to use the other Social Studies Games featured in GameUp.


BrainPOP Movies:

Branches of Government (Activity Page Answer Key)