Dumping the Flow Chart of the Legislative Process

Watching C-SPAN or using the old textbook flow chart can be a pretty boring way to teach the legislative process. As future voters, it is important for students to understand how lawmaking works and what role they will play in that process.

Endorsement page of H.R. 3370 showing the conference process, 1946, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Endorsement page of H.R. 3370 showing the conference process, 1946, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
National Archives Identifier 6036903

But how can you do it without putting your students to sleep?

Making the abstract “process” into something more concrete does the trick. Instead of just telling your students that a senator introduces a bill, show your students a bill introduced in the Senate. Instead of lecturing about a committee report, let your students read a committee report so they can figure out what the purpose of the report is and what information is contained in it. “Seeing” the legislative process happen can make it more meaningful, and thus more memorable.

DocsTeach Legislative Process lesson screen shot
DocsTeach Legislative Process lesson

That’s why we created this lesson on the legislative process. With this lesson, your students will discover the legislative process by analyzing documents created by Congress—the first hand evidence of the process as it occurred. Each document requires students’ careful interrogation to determine what congressional action is illustrated within it. Students then match that action to the appropriate step in the legislative process chart. Although there are 20 documents in the lesson plan, each one was selected for its brevity. Students should read each document less for the content and more for the big picture action that it represents. A shorter version, using only 10 documents, is available on DocsTeach, the National Archives site for finding and creating interactive learning activities with primary source documents that promote historical thinking skills.

Let us know what you think of our legislative process lesson, and how it worked in your classroom. We’re eager to hear from you!

One thought on “Dumping the Flow Chart of the Legislative Process

  1. Vindication! Without reading the instructions I was successfully able to arrange the documents correctly. Now on to other worlds to conquer. I’m impressed.

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