Congress and the Constitution

Model House of Representatives Project

Clock 270-360 minutes

This lesson provides the scaffolding for you to conduct a simulation of the United States House of Representatives with your class! They will draft and advocate for legislation, work in committees, and carry out duties of legislative officers, and consider and vote on legislation. Through this experience they will gain a better understanding of how the House of Representatives functions and better appreciate the challenges faced by legislators.

Founding Principles

Civic Virtue image

Civic Virtue

A set of actions and habits necessary for the safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.

Civil Discourse image

Civil Discourse

Reasoned and respectful sharing of ideas between individuals is the primary way people influence change in society/government, and is essential to maintain self-government.

Limited Government image

Limited Government

Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.

Majority Rule / Minority Rights image

Majority Rule / Minority Rights

Laws may be made with the consent of the majority but only to the point where they do not infringe on the inalienable rights of the minority.

Representative / Republican Government image

Representative / Republican Government

Form of government in which the people are sovereign (the ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.

Overview

Drafting Legislation:

  • Students will simulate the operation of the United States House of Representatives. Each student will be a full voting member of the House.
  • Each student will write a unique piece of legislation on a topic of their choice. They are encouraged to pick a topic they believe is important, and a topic that can be addressed by the law at the local, state, or national level.

Parties and Committee Assignments:

  • Teacher assigns party membership (Democrats and Republicans) randomly, mirroring proportion of each party in the current Congress.
  • Students will elect Party Leaders and a Speaker of the House.
  • Many will serve as Committee Chairs or Clerks. Each “member” will also serve on one of the four committees: Appropriations, Education and the Workforce, Judiciary, or Ways and Means.

Committee Hearings:

  • Each committee will be assigned an equal or nearly equal number of bills to review. They will hold hearings and hear testimony from and question three witnesses on each bill.
  • They will conduct a markup session to discuss and amend the bill, vote to either report the bill to the full House or kill the bill.

House Vote:

  • Bills that survive the committee screen will go to the House floor for debate and vote.
  • The simulation concludes with the veto and override process in which the teacher plays the role of the president.

Objectives

  • Students will participate in a mock House of Representatives session where they write bills, introduce bills, debate and discuss bills in committees, take votes, and understand overrides of vetoes.
  • Students will understand the process of how a bill does or does not become a law.

Materials

  • Handout A: House Bill Writing Directions
  • Handout B: House Bill Sample 1
  • Handout C: House Bill Sample 2
  • Handout D: Model House Grading Overview
  • Handout E: Bill-Writing Rubric
  • Handout F: House Folder:

Bill Roster

House Calendar

House Clerk Job Description

Speaker of the House Job Description

  • Handout G: Two Party Folders:

Republican Party Sign or Democratic Party Signs

Republican Party Roster or Democratic Party Roster

Republican Party Platform or Democratic Party Platform

Party Clerk Job Description

Party Leader Job Description

Party Whip Job Description

Roles

Nametags for students (students will create their own)

  • Handout H: Four Committee Folders:

Committee Signs (one for each committee)

Blank Committee Roster

Blank Hearing Calendar

Committee Chair Job Description

Committee Clerk Job Description

  • Handout I: Bill Introduction—Speaker and Clerk Briefing
  • Handout J: Assignment of Bills to Committees—Information for the Speaker of the House
  • Handout K: Committee Procedures
  • Handout L: Witness Form
  • Handout M: Amendment Form
  • Handout N: Committee Tally Sheet (copies for each bill discussed in Committee hearings)
  • Handout O: House Session Procedures
  • Handout P: Caucus Procedures
  • Handout Q: Caucus Position
  • Handout R: House Tally Sheet
  • Handout S: Veto
  • Handout T: Override Procedure

Key Terms

  • House of Representatives
  • United States Representative
  • Committee
  • Speaker of the House
  • Markup
  • Appropriations
  • Judiciary
  • Ways and Means
  • Political parties
  • Democrat
  • Republican
  • Party Clerk
  • Party Leader
  • Party Whip
  • House Clerk
  • Committee Chair
  • Committee Clerk
  • Hopper
  • Testify
  • Witness
  • Amendment
  • Veto
  • Caucus
  • Roster
  • Adjourn

Standards

  • National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

D2.Civ.9.6-8, D2.Civ.9.9-12, D2.Civ.10.6-8, D2.Civ.10.9-12, D2.Civ.12.6-8, D2.Civ.12.9-12, D2.Civ.13.6-8, D2.Civ.13.9-12

  • Center for Civic Education (CCE)

9-12 Content Standards: II: A, II:D, III: B, III: C

  • UCLA Department of History: National Center for History in the Schools, United States History Content Standards (NCHS)

Era 3: Standard 3, Era 10: Standard 2

Activities 335-420 min.

Activity I: How to Write A Bill » 45 minutes plus time to write bill

  1. Create student packets including each of the following items:
    • Handout A: House Bill Writing Directions
    • Handout B: House Bill Sample 1
    • Handout C: House Bill Sample 2
    • Handout D: Model House Grading Overview
    • Handout E: Bill-Writing Rubric
  2. Distribute student handout packet to each student and have them read and review the requirements silently.
  3. Review the step by step directions for writing a bill including topic, process, structure, appropriations, and penalties. Have students refer to the sample bills for clarification. Answer clarifying questions about the process.
  4. Also discuss the grading procedures and rubric with students.
  5. If time remains, have students begin to research and write their bills using the format provided in the handouts. You may assign bill writing as homework or as an in-class activity depending on the time allotted.
  6. While these activities focus on the House of Representatives, it may be beneficial to have your students research the differences between House and Senate rules and procedures for committee work, voting, and debating. Some key topics may include:
    • Filibusters
    • Representation of states versus districts
    • Advice and consent on treaties, foreign policy, and executive branch nominations
    • Trying impeachments
    • Term length
    • Committee structure
    • Leadership and parties

Activity II: Convene and Organize the House » 45 minutes

  1. Before class starts, compile the following resources:
    • Box or tray to be used as the Hopper
    • Gavel
    • Tent cards for students
    • Party pins for students
    • Create the House Folder with these resources:
      1. Bill Roster
      2. House Calendar
      3. House Clerk Job Description
      4. Speaker of the House Job Description
    • Create two Party Folders with these resources:
      1. Republican Party Roster or Democratic Party Roster
      2. Republican Party Platform or Democratic Party Platform
      3. Party Clerk Job Description
      4. Party Leader Job Description
      5. Party Whip Job Description
      6. Speaker of the House Job Description
      7. Nametags for students
    • Create four Committee Folders with these resources:
      1. Committee Signs (one for each committee)
      2. Blank Committee Roster
      3. Blank Hearing Calendar
      4. Committee Chair Job Description
      5. Committee Clerk Job Description
    • Place the Republican Party and Democratic Party signs on each side of the room.
    • Place the Committee Signs in each corner of the room.
  2. Have students pick up a nametag as they enter the classroom. They should put Representative and their last name on the nametag (leaving room for their role title) and take out their completed bill as they sit down.
  3. Collect the students’ bills and instruct students that they should address each other as “Representative [Last Name]”. Remind students that each one of them is a full voting member of the House of Representatives, though the Speaker is not a voting member except in the case of a tie.
  4. On the board, list the titles of the jobs that will need to be filled. The elected positions will be the Party Clerk, Party Leader, Party Whip, Speaker, and House Clerk. The selected positions will be four Committee Chairs and four Committee Clerks. After the election, ask students to pick up the name tag with their new role listed on it.
  5. You may divide the class randomly into Democratic and Republican Parties. Or, for extra challenge, you might consider assigning students to the opposite party than the one they actually prefer. Mirror the real House by designating the party that currently holds a majority as the Majority Party. Give that party a thin majority of members. For example, with a class of 22, 12 majority and 10 minority members
  6. Direct students to move to the area of the room where their party sign is located and form a Party Caucus. Explain that a Party Caucus is a meeting of the party.
  7. Read aloud the job description of the Party Clerk. Direct the parties to nominate and elect a Clerk. Give the Party Clerk their job description and the Party Folder.
    • Direct Party Clerk to conduct election of Party Leader, Whip, and (only for the Majority Party) Speaker per instructions on their job descriptions in the Party Folder.
    • Hand out additional job descriptions to Party Leaders, Whips, and the Speaker as they are elected. Explain to students how the Speaker is elected in the real House.
  8. Conduct an election for House Clerk and give the House Clerk job description and House Folder.
  9. Assign students to committees at random by party. Pre-plan the numbers to give the majority party a thin majority or equal numbers on each committee. Have students to go to their committee area based on the location of the committee sign.
    • Have students determine the Committee Chair, who must be a majority party member. A suggestion is to use a variation of the seniority system by designating as Chair the oldest majority party member of the committee who does not yet have an additional office (Leader, etc.).
    • The Chair selects the Committee Clerk. This can be anyone from either party who does not yet have an additional office.
    • Give each Chair and Clerk their job description. Give the Clerk the Committee Folder and direct the Clerk to complete the Committee Roster with help from the other committee members.
  10. Have students return to their Party Caucus.
    • The remaining time should be used for parties to develop a tentative platform using research materials to determine your assigned party’s platform.
    • The Party Leader will recognize party members to propose issues (not specific bills) to vote on.
      The Party Clerk will write them on Platform Sheet in the Party Folder.
    • The Party Clerk then conducts a vote on each issue and records result on Platform Sheet.
  11. Vote is nonbinding on individual members (straw poll).
  12. At end of class, give the Speaker and House Clerk Handout F: Bill Introduction—Speaker and Clerk Briefing. Direct them to review for homework.
  13. Give the Speaker Handout G: Assignment of Bills to Committees—Information for the Speaker of the House to study.

Activity III: Bill Introductions and Committee Hearing Registrations » 60 minutes

  1. Have House, Committee, and Party folders, nametags, and party pins ready in a basket for each class to pick up as they enter the room.
  2. Return the bills to students to think about how they will introduce their bill.
    • Students will have one minute each to introduce their bill.
    • Students will explain to members why their bill should be supported. They should focus on the big picture as the details will be discussed in hearings.
  3. Committee Clerks should refer to their Hearing Calendar in the folder.
    • Each committee will compete for bills to be assigned to them.
  4. Direct the Speaker and the House Clerk to take out Handout F: Bill Introduction—Speaker and Clerk Briefing and Handout G: Assignment of Bills to Committees—Information for the Speaker of the House from the previous lesson. Answer any questions the Speaker and House Clerk may have about the procedures.
  5. The Speaker and House Clerk should have Handouts F and G in front of them.
  6. Explain to the members that as bills are introduced the Speaker will assign them to a committee. The sponsor will deliver the bill to the assigned committee.
  7. Explain that members will volunteer today to testify on the bills, but that they will not testify until committee hearings are held.
    • Each bill should have three witnesses—the sponsor, a proponent, and an opponent.
    • Each bill sponsor should determine the proponent and opponent witnesses for their bill and remind them that they will need to read and research this.
  8. Yield to the Speaker to call the House to order and follow the procedure on Handout F: Bill Introduction—Speaker and Clerk Briefing.
    • Continue until each bill has been introduced and is assigned to a committee.
    • If one or more committees do not have bills assigned to them, the Speaker may decide whether to allow those committee members to join other committees, act as witnesses, or perform other tasks.
    • The Speaker and House Clerk should complete Handout G: Assignment of Bills to Committees—Information for the Speaker of the House.
  9. At the end of class, give the Committee Chair and the Committee Clerk Handout H: Committee Procedures. Any participants who will be acting as witnesses should receive and complete Handout I: Witness Form.

Activity IV: Committee Hearings » 20-45 minutes

  1. Have House, Committee, and Party folders and nametags ready in a basket for each class to pick up as they enter the room.
  2. Members should sit with their committees.
  3. Distribute many copies of Handout J: Amendment Form and Handout K: Committee Tally Sheet to the Committee Clerk.
  4. Brief the House Clerk and ensure that he or she has the Bill Roster and House Calendar available. Direct them to steps two and three in their job description when committees bring them the completed bills.
  5. Brief all members on the general procedures from Handout H: Committee Procedures. Urge students to strictly follow the written procedures step-by-stop for each bill.
  6. Direct the Committee Clerks to read Handout H: Committee Procedures aloud to the members before the Chair selects the first Bill to be heard. Each committee will work to review the bills assigned to their committees simultaneously.
  7. When the hearings end, give the Speaker, House Clerk, Party Leaders, Party Whips, and Party Clerks Handout L: House Session Procedures to study for homework.

To save time, you may reduce the time to testify or question witnesses, and/or reduce the number of amendments allowed for each Bill.

Activity V: Party Caucus » 90-135 minutes

  1. Have House, Committee, and Party folders, nametags, and party pins ready in a basket for each class to pick up as they enter the room.
  2. Members should sit with their party caucus.
  3. Give each Party Leader and Party Clerk Handout M: Caucus Procedure.
  4. Give each Party Clerk Handout N: Caucus Position.
  5. The Party Leader and Party Clerk of each party should review the procedures form with their party members.

Activity VI: House Session » 45 minutes

  1. Have House and Party folders, nametags, and party pins ready in a basket for each class to pick up as they enter the room. Ensure that the Speaker has a gavel.
  2. Have students sit with their party in the House Session.
  3. The Speaker and the House Clerk should be in the front of the room.
  4. Answer any questions from the House Clerk, Party Leaders and Whips, and Party Clerks.
    • Distribute many copies of Handout O: House Tally Sheet to the House Clerk.
  5. Brief other members quickly on the general House Session procedures.
  6. Yield to the Speaker.
  7. The Speaker will then follow the directions on Handout L: House Session Procedures to conduct the House Session to discuss and vote on surviving Bills.

Activity VII: Veto/Override/Adjourn » 30-45 minutes

  1. Prior to this step, review the Bills passed in the House Session and determine which to sign and which to veto using Handout P: Veto. Have the vetoed Bills ready to give to the Speaker.
  2. Have House and Party folders, nametags, and party pins ready in a basket for each class to pick up as they enter the room. Ensure that the Speaker has a gavel.
  3. Give the Speaker and the House Clerk Handout Q: Override Procedure and review it with them away from other students.
  4. Give the Speaker the first vetoed Bill.
  5. Yield to the Speaker to follow Handout Q: Override Procedure.
  6. Continue until all Bills are reviewed.
  7. The Speaker will adjourn the House.
  8. Debrief the activity with students by having them reflect on their experiences as Members of the House and the roles they played on committees, in parties, or in administrative roles.

Note: You may ask for students’ help to reassemble the materials in the folders to use for the activity in the future.

Give Feedback

Send us your comments or questions using the form below.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Close