Three Branch Checking Game
The Democracy Project
In this lesson students will play a game that
is designed to help them understand the powers and responsibilities
of the three branches of the United States government. The lesson
can be used to pre-assess or reinforce students' understanding
of the powers of the three branches.
Targeted Audience: Grades 4-5
Time to Complete: 40-50 minutes.
Benchmark Addressed: Civics 1 [Government]
Students will understand that the United States government is
divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches,
each with specific responsibilities and powers.
- Pictures or drawings of the White House, United States Capitol,
and Supreme Court.
- Cutouts of the powers of the three branches of government
- Cutouts of checks (see
1. Cutout the powers of the three branches of government
and checks found on Resources 1 and two prior to class. You
will need one set of Resource 1 cutouts for every 3 students
in class. Place the Resource 1 cutouts in small bags making
sure that the wording on each cutout faces down (i.e. is not
visible to the students). Include one "check" (see
Resource 2) for each student in each bag.
2. Place students in groups of three and arrange their seats
so that the 3 members (triads) of each group are facing each
other. Give each student in a triad a picture or drawing of
one of the three branches (e.g. Student A receives a picture
of the White House, Student B receives a picture of the Capitol,
and student C receives a picture of the Supreme Court). Ask
each student to display the picture on their desk so that
the others in the group can see it.
3. Tell the students that they are going to play a game that
will reinforce and assess their understanding of the powers
of the three branches of the U.S. government. Explain that
you are going to place a bag with cutouts on the desk (or
table) of each group. Each cutout describes a power of one
of the three branches of government. Proceeding clockwise
and one at a time, each student is to draw a cutout from the
bag. Read the power that is described on the cutout and place
it on top of the picture that shows the branch that possesses
4. Scoring: If the student is correct, he or she earns one
point. If either of the two other members of the group believe
that the student's placement is incorrect, they can "check"
the placement by placing their check on top of the cutout
and explain where he or she actually thinks it belongs. A
student who correctly "checks" a response earns
two points while the student who placed it incorrectly loses
5. Add up the total number of points earned by each student
at the end of a round to determine a winner. Winners can be
given an award such as bonus points.
- Ask the students which branch they think was given the most
power? Why might the Framers of the Constitution have chosen
to do this?
- Ask the students why the Framers of the Constitution separated
the powers of government into three branches?
Explain that the Framers intended to divide power relatively
evenly among the three branches and that they also separated
the powers of government believing that by separating power
they would help to insure that no single person or group would
be able to abuse power. By separating powers into three branches
the Framers intended to give powers to each branch that would
allow one branch to check the actions of the other two if either
attempted to abuse or assume powers that they were never intended
to have. Ask students to think of examples whereby one branch
abuses power and one of the other two check that abuse.