Our Federal System of Government
Standard(s) of Learning
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of the American constitutional government at the national level by
||describing the structure and powers of national governments;
||explaining and/or simulating the lawmaking process;
||describing the roles and powers of the executive branch.
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of how public policy is made at the local, state, and national levels of government by
||describing how individuals and interest groups influence public policy;
||describing the impact of international issues and events on local decision making.
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of the judicial systems established by the Constitution of Virginia and the Constitution of the United States of America by
||describing the organization of the United States judicial system as consisting of state and federal courts with original and appellate jurisdiction;
||describing the exercise of judicial review;
Explain how the Constitution of the United States of America establishes the principle of federalism, which is the division of power between the states and the national government.
Using the following information, describe how the Constitution of the United States of America outlines powers divided and shared among the national, state, and local levels of government:
- The Constitution of the United States of America establishes a federal form of government in which the national government is supreme.
The powers of the national government are either enumerated/expressed or implied in the Constitution of the United States of America.
- The powers not given to the national government by the Constitution of the United States of America are reserved for the states.
- The Constitution of the United States of America denies powers to both the national and state governments.
Describe the primary responsibilities of each level of government:
Explain that legislative, executive, and judicial powers are separated at the national level of government.
Explain that the powers and responsibilities of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the national government are limited.
Using the following information, explain that officials who are elected to serve in the state and national legislatures make laws.
The United States Congress is a bicameral legislature. Bicameral means having two houses (e.g., the Senate and the House of Representatives).
- Makes laws for nation; approves annual budget; approves presidential appointments
- Executes law of the land; prepares annual budget for congressional action; appoints cabinet officers, ambassadors, and federal judges; administers federal bureaucracy
- Supreme Court—Has power of judicial review
- Federal courts—Try cases involving federal law and United States Constitutional question
Using the following information, describe the lawmaking process in Congress:
- Working in committees
- Debating on the floor
- Voting on a bill by both houses
- Signing the bill into law by the President
Elected officials write laws and take action in response to problems or issues.
Individuals and interest groups help shape legislation.
Explain the following legislative powers:
- Expressed (specifically listed)
- Implied (used to carry out expressed powers)
Using the following information, explain that the executive branch plays a key role in the policymaking process. The executive branch influences policymaking by:
- Proposing legislation in an annual speech to the legislature (State of the Union Address)
- Appealing directly to the people
- Approving or vetoing legislation
- Appointing officials who carry out the laws
Explain that the powers of the executive branch are defined in the Constitution of the United States of America.
Explain that the executive branch at the national level carries out the law.
Explain that cabinet departments, agencies, and regulatory groups interpret and help with carrying out laws.
Explain that the judicial function is exercised in a dual court system, which consists of state courts and federal courts.
Using the information below, explain that the United States has a separate court system whose organization and jurisdiction are derived from the Constitution of the United States of America and federal laws.
- United States Supreme Court (Justices/no jury)
- Jurisdiction: Appellate and Limited Original
- United States Court of Appeals (Judges/no jury)
- Jurisdiction: Appellate
- United States District Court (Judge with jury)
- Jurisdiction: Original
Using the following information, describe how the power of judicial review is an important check on the legislative and executive branches of government.
The Supreme Court of the United States determines the constitutionality of laws and acts of the executive branch of government. This power is called judicial review.
Marbury v. Madison established the principle of judicial review at the national level.
The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the land.
Using the following information, explain that courts resolve two kinds of legal conflicts—civil and criminal— and compare the two.
- Criminal law
- In a criminal case, a court determines whether a person accused of breaking the law is guilty or not guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Civil law
- In a civil case, a court settles a disagreement between two parties.
Below is an annotated list of Internet resources recommended for this organizing topic. Copyright restrictions may exist for the material on some Web sites. Please note and abide by any such restrictions.
Ben’s Guide to Government for Kids (6-8). U. S. Government Printing Office. <http://bensguide.gpo.gov/6-8/government/state/index.html>. Written at a middle school level, this site provides an overview of the constitutional authority of state governments.
“A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873.” The Learning Page…Collection Connections. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/collections/law/langarts.html>. This site contains lesson activities that integrate U.S. History, critical thinking, and arts and humanities.
Congress for Kids. <http://www.congressforkids.net/index.htm> This site, sponsored by the Dirksen Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization, is interactive and written at a middle school reading level.
FirstGov: The U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal. <http://www.firstgov.gov/>. This site provides access for federal, state, and local government sites; contact information, references, and news of interest.
"From George W to George W… Promises Kept: Inaugural Speeches from American Presidents.” Library of Congress. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/features/inaug/section3.html>. This site provides a set of activities on presidents of the United States. (Requires a Shock-wave plug-in.)
"In Congress Assembled: Continuity and Change in the Governing of the United States". The Learning Page… American Memory Collection. Library of Congress. <http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/lessons/constitu/conintro.html>. This site provides a unit lesson plan on Congress, the Constitution, and current events.
Kids in the House: The Office of the Clerk. <http://kids.clerk.house.gov/grade-school/lesson.html?intID=17>. This site provides information on how laws are made.
“Lesson Two: The Executive Branch: Our Presidency and Cabinet.” Rapid Immigration. This site is a lesson on the Executive Branch. It contains a description of each of the cabinet departments. <http://www.rapidimmigration.com/usa/1_eng_civics_less2.html>.
“Teaching Court Cases.” Lesson to Go. Minnesota Center for Community Legal Education. <http://www.ccle.fourh.umn.edu/lessons.html#Teaching>. This site provides a portal to dozens of lessons relating to legal issues, mock trials, and other very active lessons.
Thomas: Legislative Information on the Internet. <http://thomas.loc.gov/>. This is the official site of the Congress of the United States. It contains the texts of all bills before Congress and a listing of all members of Congress with contact information.
Understanding the Federal Courts. <http://www.uscourts.gov/understand02/> This site contains a publication of the United States Court System. Obtain class sets download or the booklet.
U.S. Courts: The Federal Judiciary. <http://www.uscourts.gov/about.html>. This government-sponsored site provides information on the federal court system and many important court cases.
Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments for the 2008 History and Social Science Standards of Learning. Civics and Economics. Test Blueprint. Virginia Department of Education, 2009.
<http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/.../2008/blueprints_civics_economics.pdf>. This site provides assessment information for Civics and Economics.
The White House. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/cabinet.html>. This site shows the current members of the President’s cabinet.