One of the main strengths of our form of government, as laid out in the Constitution, is the system of Checks and Balances which protect against government over-reaching by spreading out power among three disparate and independent branches. Wisely, our founding fathers established a system of government that not only protects us against possible tyranny by a single official but also against tyranny of the majority. The ability of one branch to “check” an abuse of power by another branch has, for the most part, kept Americans free from runaway governmental abuse and oppression.
Understanding how the system of Checks and Balances works is essential to becoming an informed citizen of our society. However, simple rote memorization of the different powers of the three branches of government is ineffective in achieving this goal; rather, students should be challenged to analyze and apply these concepts to real life scenarios in order to gain a thorough and working understanding of how they operate. Without this knowledge, students run the risk of not truly understanding how their government works, without even realizing it.
This 6 day complete unit not only covers the substance of Checks and Balances but also, more importantly, engages students in a thorough analysis of the concept by applying the principles to hypothetical yet real-life situations. In this unit, students will engage in a variety of critical thinking exercises to determine how Checks and Balances actually operate. At the unit’s conclusion, students will have a deep understanding of how our government operates.
This unit is based upon and complements my textbook, We Take Nothing by Conquest, and is designed for both the novice and experienced classroom teacher as it contains everything needed for the full course. These materials – all of which have been battle-tested in the crucible of my own 8th grade classroom - include:
* a 22 page Teacher’s Guide which provides day-by-day and step-by-step instructions how to teach the unit and use all of the materials;
* 9 pages of informative and interesting text (divided into two distinct sections to ease student understanding);
* an inquiry based study guide (in two parts, one for each section of the text) for the text to focus students on the main points and supporting details;
* two PowerPoints (one for each part of the study guide) with answers to the study guide for review;
* quizzes for the two study guides to quickly assess student understanding as the unit progresses;
* a study aid for students to fill out to further help them understand this complicated material;
* a series of critical thinking and analytical exercises concerning the practical and theoretical application of Checks and Balances;
* a PowerPoint Quiz Show to further engage students in critical thinking and analytical exercises while playing a fun and competitive game;
*and a unit test on Checks and Balances.
Answer keys and grading guides for all study guides, activities, quizzes and tests are included in the Teacher’s Guide. All materials are provided as word documents and PDFs in one zip file.
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