May 9, 2021

Two Short Lessons on Checks & Balances

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Today is election day in the United States. While the election is fresh in our students’ minds, it is a good day to review how the three branches of federal government work in a system of checks and balances. 

In addition to voting for President we’ll also be voting for members of the House of Representatives and some will be voting for Senators. Those are two thirds of the branches of federal government. The other branch is judicial branch which is not elected by the people. If you’d like a couple of videos to share with your students, here are two that I recommend. Show these live or put them into EDpuzzle to make sure your students actually watch them. 

How is Power Divided in the United States Government? is an older TED-Ed lesson but is still a good one. In three minutes it covers the origin of the office of the President, the adoption of the Constitution, and gives an example of what each branch of the government is responsible for. 

A little more in-depth overview of the system of checks and balances is found in Crash Course’s Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. While the TED-Ed lesson is good for elementary school and middle school, the Crash Course lesson is appropriate for high school students who have a little bit more background on the basics of the structure of the federal government.


Bonus video!

Tom Richey made this popular video about the structure of the U.S. Congress and the roles of the House and the Senate.