1. Harry S. Truman
  2. Educational Resources
  3. Three Branches of Government
  4. Interactive Teaching Unit: How to Use the 3 Branches of Government Materials

Interactive Teaching Unit: How to Use the 3 Branches of Government Materials

Grades 5-8

There are 5 main focal areas to these teaching materials:

Our Three Branches of Government and Balance of Power

Legislative Branch

Executive Branch


Judicial Branch

Each area has background information, activities and projects. Each area provides Internet links to other sites where information may be obtained for student research. We have provided two formats for teaching using these materials. The first is a DAILY SCHEDULE FORMAT and the second is PROJECT FOCUS FORMAT.


The entire unit could be taught as a 3 week (15 days) government focus, or separated into sections that fit areas of your curriculum as needed. A suggested schedule is listed below for the 3 week course including the Cabinet project. Suggest having students do the How a Bill Becomes a Law file folder game as an ongoing review activity.

DAY 1: Students use the computer lab and access the site. Read 3 Branches of Our Government. Print off the accompanying worksheet and fill in the blanks as individuals or partners. Discuss in class together the main points and have students check their own worksheets and correct them. Keep these for review.

DAY 2: Students use the computer lab and access the site. Read The Legislative Branch and The House of Representatives and complete the tasks as individuals or partners using the suggested web sites. Print off the The Legislative Branch worksheet and have students fill in the blanks.

DAY 3: Review the Legislative Branch worksheet. Students check and correct their own work. Save this sheet for review. Review responses to House of Representatives tasks. Students use the computer lab and access the site. Students work in partners to read and complete tasks on The Senate--Voice of the States. Print off Questions for the Senate--Voice of the States. Students complete activities together. However, each student writes a report in his/her own words on one of the five famous senators listed.

DAY 4: Review work from Day 3. Students keep corrected pages for review and read their senator report to a partner. Students spend time in the computer lab reviewing the sites suggested on United States Capitol. Students then access the site How A Bill Becomes a Law and complete activities. Play in partners the folder game How a Bill Becomes a Law (see games and puzzles section) Print off the following as homework assignments: Congress - Courts--Keeping the BalanceCongress - President--Keeping the Balance.

DAY 5: Check homework. Print off The Executive Branch and run off copies for class. Print What a President Can and Cannot Do and make this a transparency.

Brainstorm with students about what they think a President's powers are. List these on board or overhead. Pass out the The Executive Branch. Read together and discuss. Use the transparency you have made and have students compare this list with what is on the chart. Students come to the front to mark off the chart duties listed there that are not correct. Print off both the information sheet and worksheet The Judicial Branch and use as a homework assignment. Print off Government Crossword Puzzle and have students complete this at home.

DAY 6: Check homework. Print off both the information sheet and worksheet The Balance of Government and do this in class. Review together in groups the worksheets they have saved and quiz each other over the material. Homework assignment: Each student writes a fill in the blank test of fifteen questions and a separate answer sheet. Answers -

DAY 7: Students trade quizzes and answer them. Return to author and have them graded. Collect. Students get points for level of test questions submitted and their answers on the other test.

Give essay quiz over material presented. (Allow students to use their notes.) Essay possibilities are suggested below:

  • Describe how a Congress can check a President.
  • Describe why the job of a Supreme Court Justice is so important and powerful.
  • Describe in detail which job you would prefer and why: President, Senator, Representative, or Supreme Court Justice. Use facts from your information sheets.
  • Draw a diagram or picture showing the three branches of government and the main focus of what each one does.

DAY 8: Cabinet Focus: Students use the computer lab. Access site and go to part called Why Does the President Need a Cabinet?. Students read and complete activities. Then have students go to: The President's Cabinet-Who are the Secretaries?. Have them read the list and access the listed web site to complete activity. Compare and report on answers.

DAY 9: Cabinet Focus: Student use the computer lab. Go to web site and access Cabinet Web Sites information page. Divide into partners. Each partner group will prepare a report on one Cabinet department. See guidelines under Cabinet Department Presentation. Suggest giving 2 days to complete.

DAY 10 & 11: Students work on project.

DAY 12 & 13: Project presentations. Students watching take notes on fellow classmates' presentations. Homework assignment: Study notes.

DAY 14: Quick quiz over departments. Suggest writing role or area of focus and having student write the name of the department next to it. Do twenty questions so some departments have more than one blank.

DAY 15: May do "A Cabinet Meeting" activity.


Students are given 4 days to complete all the activity pages and on-line tasks for each of the three branches and balance of power plus Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branch activity pages. Students may work in partners or individually. Students are given lab time and the teacher serves as the advisor and facilitator. However, students are expected to do some sections as homework. Students keep all work in an electronic or paper copy portfolio for future checking and presentation.

On the fifth day, questions and activities are checked in groups of four. Teacher roams around meeting with each group discussing their questions and which answers were being debated. Students make corrections so that they will have accurate information for the upcoming project. Introduce the "Teach Another Class Project" and decide on scoring guide.

Projects and Presentations:

Teach Another Class About What They Have Learned: (3 days preparation + 1 day presentation)

Students are divided into six groups (four each), two groups are assigned the Legislative Branch, two groups are assigned the Executive Branch, and two groups are assigned the Judicial Branch. Each group summarizes materials studied the first 5 days and conducts additional research on-line. Then each group designs a chart, backboard, PowerPoint presentation, a series of colorful overheads, or other format to teach another class about their subject. Arrange for students to make presentations to two classes. One set of three groups (Legislative, Executive, Judicial) presents to each class. Each group must time their presentation and keep it to ten minutes. Develop a scoring guide as a class to determine criteria for presentation. Students do a trial run for teacher before going "on the road" with their presentation.

Cabinet Project: (3 days preparation = 2 days presentation)

Students divide into partners for the Cabinet Project (see above). They are given 3 days to complete the project and 2 days are provided for presentations.