The most basic understanding of the Constitution of the United States is an understanding of our form of government. Branches of government is not a concept that can be taught to kids without some visual aids. Lucky for you, we have printables just below.
Print out Three Branches of Government cards, each page onto a different color of card stock.
The first page shows who holds each office or position. The second page tells what the jobs of each of these branches does. The final page has the name of each branch. Be sure your kids know that two of the offices belong to the same branch which has been split into two parts.
Now have your kids match up the two sets of papers. How much help they need will depend on what they’ve been taught before about this subject and how much your family discusses politics around the dinner table. The only difference between the Senate and House of Representatives descriptions is that the House does not ratify treaties.
Then I gave the kids pictures of these people to match up with the offices. They made some mistakes there, but this was not a test, it was a chance to learn. I got pictures of the president, vice president, and supreme court off the Internet and printed them out. Then since we live in Idaho, I chose our Idaho senators and representative and printed out pictures of them as well.
- Talk with your kids about politics and current events over the dinner table or while driving in the car. They should not only know that you agree with a particular person or idea, but why. There is nothing that affects our lives so intimately as the type of government we live under. It’s important and it’s squarely and definitely the role of the parent to teach this to kids. If you leave it to the schools, you kids will be taught to follow some else’s tradition and not yours.
- Make up an imaginary bill proposed by your state senator or representative and explain what happens to it along its road to becoming a law. Talk about vetoes and the 3/4 rule for the representatives and senate to override the veto. Talk about committees and debates. Talk about what happens if the Supreme Court decides a law is unconstitutional.
- Compare the United States form of representative government with other representative governments like Britain’s or Canada’s.
- Compare a republic with monarchy, fascism, communism, socialism, democracy, anarchy or other forms of government. Talk about the definitions and what life under these types of governments has been like in the past.
- Hold a mock debate for an imaginary or real proposal using parliamentary rules with a chairman, asking permission to speak, raising hands to vote aye or nay, and so on.
- Hold a mock family court and decide on an issue.