Lesson Plan

Checks and Balances

The System of Checks and Balances in the American Governmental System.
james h.
Classroom teacher
Cape School
Tucson, United States
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My Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects Math, Science, Social Studies

Students will be able to... 

  1. Identify the powers each branch of government has to check the powers of the other two branches.
  2. Illustrate how the system of checks and balances works. 
  3. Analyze a current news story to explain how one branch of government checks another.




Social Studies
Grades 9 – 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook--Prediction

Free, Free to try, Paid
  1. Read the scenario posted on the board to students about the president issuing an executive order banning travel to the U.S. from multiple countries.
  2. Have student predict what actions might be taken by the U.S. courts and the Congress in response.
  3. Have students share their predictions using padlet.

2 Direct Instruction--Definition and Crash Course

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  1. Define using Smart Notebook slides.
  2. View YouTube video  Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances: Crash Course Government and Politics.
  3. Pause and discuss as needed.


3 Guided Practice--Graphic Organizer

Free, Paid
  1. Have students read text about checks and balances.
  2. Instruct students to fill in graphic organizers by entering the checks each branch has over the other two branches that are detailed in the text.
Student Instructions
  1.  Read the provided text and fill out the graphic organizer worksheet.
  2. Make sure to fill in each bulleted line.
  3. Illustrate your chart to enhance its readability or to increase its effectiveness.

4 Independent Practice--Checks and Balance in Action

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  1. Students select an article from Newsela that have been chosen by the instructor to analyze and vary by reading level.
  2. Students write a paragraph to explain how one branch of government is checking another according to the news story.
Student Instructions
  1. Write a paragraph explaining how one branch of government is checking another.
  2. Include the branch and government actor (i.e. Congress, the President, U.S Supreme Court) that took the original action or exercised a governmental power and the branch that blocked that action.  Also include the action that both branches took and explain how the second action blocked or attempted to block the first.

5 Wrap-Up--Kahoot Quiz

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  1. Have students take a Kahoot quiz about checks and balances.