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Congressional Rules and Procedures Primary Sources Lesson Plan

Author: Erin Beals

Content Area: Civics/Government

Grade Level: Grade 11-12

Lesson Length: 60 min

I. Standards

Arizona K-12 Standards for Social Studies

Strand 1—American History, Concept One: Research Skills for History

PO 6: Apply the skills of historical analysis to current social, political,

geographic, and economic issues facing the world.

PO 7: Compare present events with past events:

a. cause and effect

b. change over time

c. different points of view

Arizona K-12 Standards for English Language Arts

11-12.RI.9: Analyze foundational U.S. and world documents of historical and

literary significance for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

11-12.W.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics

or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

a. Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of

the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims,

and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s),

counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the

most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and

limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge

level, concerns, values, and possible biases.

c. Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major

sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between

claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s)

and counterclaims.

d. Establish and maintain a style and tone appropriate to the norms and

conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports

the argument presented.

II. Objective

1. Students will use the essay writing process to analyze their choice of a controversial

Congressional rule or procedure from an approved list and argue for its expiration or

continuation in order to demonstrate their ability to research, ability to formulate an

informed, balanced and appropriately supported argument, and their ability to decipher

how the values and needs of the country have changed over time and whether the

government has been a reflection of that or not.

III. The Why

• By comparing the past and present rules and procedures of Congress’s legislative branch

through primary and secondary sources, students will be able to determine if the

Congress is as representative of American citizens as it was intended to be.

IV. Materials Needed

1. Journals/Notebooks

2. Writing utensils

3. Personal computers

4. Access to online primary sources

5. SOAPS primary source templates

6. Passages from The Best of Intentions: The Triumphs and Failures of the Great Society

Under Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon by Irwin Unger

V. Warm Up

Upon entering the classroom, students will be asked to journal responding to the following

prompt: What is Congress’s role as an institution? Do you think it is upholding its role currently?

Why or why not?

VI. Anticipatory Set/Grabber

After students have had a sufficient amount of time to journal their responses, the instructor will

ask students to partake in a mini deliberation on the day’s topic before introducing them to any

material or information on it. This deliberation will be opinion-based and will be an exercise to

reflect upon when writing an essay for homework. While the students will not have access to

information on the topic, they will be encouraged to reference their journal responses completed

earlier in the period and any applicable information previously covered in the unit. The guiding

topic of deliberation will be: Can you think of aspects of Congress that are outdated or even

dysfunctional? Has the government adapted to the changing values and needs of the country? In

what ways has or has it not?

VII. Instruction
1.) Once sufficient time is allotted for a student-led deliberation, students will be broken up into

groups of no more than four to begin primary and secondary source analysis.

2.) Every group will read Article 1 of the Interactive Congress, which is lightly annotated by

pointing out changes to the Constitution that have since been made.

3.) Once students within the group are finished they will individually fill out the SOAPS form.

Students will discuss their interpretations of the document and their SOAPS answers within their

groups once everyone is finished. They will be encouraged to keep in mind the role they think

Congress was designed to serve and how the role has shifted to meet the changing needs of the


4. Students will repeat this process with an example of Congress’s responsiveness to programs

laid out by the executive branch in the mid-20th Century. They will be asked to consider the

same questions, in addition to searching for possible motives for and potential benefits of such a

large push of legislation. They should also compare their impression of the new secondary

source with the primary source.

5. With about fifteen minutes left in class, the instructor will ask students to engage in a full

class discussion on their conclusions. Any viewpoints that have changed or any insightful

realizations or connections will be encouraged. The instructor will then assign the homework

essay and ask students to reflect on the class activities and sources when writing their papers.

VIII. Assessment

Comprehension checks this lesson will come in the form of analyzing the students’: completion

of the SOAPS Primary Source Think Sheet, to be used as a pre-write/citation resource for the

essay assigned for homework, and the quality and content of their essays.

IX. Closure
The instructor will ask the class to regroup to have a brief discussion on student findings as a

closure activity.

X. Independent Practice/Homework

Essay Prompt: Choose one Congressional rule or procedure from an approved list that has some

controversy surrounding it regarding its appropriateness in the 21st Century and argue either for

its renewal or its expiration (1-2 pages, due Thursday)

XI. Reflection

The reflection of how well the lesson is being received by students will be consistently

monitored by the instructor, who will be circulating the room during student-led discussions to

hear student insights and provide guidance when needed. The responses of the SOAPS forms and

the quality and content of student essays will also be indicators of student comprehension.

*Attached below is the SOAPS worksheet students will be asked to complete