Lesson Plan: How Interest Groups Work

Interest Groups and Lobbying

Author Stephanie Vance discussed the role of lobbyists and interest groups in Washington, D.C.


This lesson looks at various examples of representatives from special interest groups explaining their mission, funding and actions. Using these examples, students will analyze how the purpose and structure of specific interest groups can determine what public policies interest groups support and what actions they take.


  • WARM-UP:

    Have the students define the following vocabulary words in their own words before beginning class:

    • Special Interest Groups

    • Lobbying

    • Public Policy

    • Advocacy

    Review the student's definitions of the vocabulary words and ensure that they have a working understanding of these concepts.

    Have the students view the following video clip to introduce the concept of special interest groups. Students should answer the questions associated with the video clips. The following handout can be used for students to answer these questions.

    Handout: How Interest Groups Work (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 1: Interest Groups and Lobbying (3:00)

    • What is meant by lobbyists "selling ideas"?

    • How do people perceive interest groups and lobbyists? How did this perception develop?

    • What is meant by people being "special interests"?

    • What are examples of special interest groups?

    After reviewing students' responses to the introductory clip about special interest groups, students will explore examples of various interest groups. Have the students complete the chart on the handout and take notes on the information listed below. Students can view all of the video clips or be assigned video clips in a jigsaw format.

    • Funding/Membership

    • Purpose of the organization

    • Examples of actions by the organization

    • Types of public policies this group would support/oppose

    • How the funding and membership of this organization relates to its purpose


    After completing the chart on the handout, have the students either discuss or provide a written response to the following prompt:

    • Using specific examples from the video clips, describe how an interest group's funding and membership can impact its purpose and public policy priorities.

    As an exit slip, have students answer the following question in a short paragraph:

    • Do special interest groups help or hinder citizens' ability to have their opinions heard by the government? Explain your answer.

    Interest Group Comparison- Choose two of the interest groups featured in the lesson relating to the same topic and compare them. Discuss how they are organized, their mission and their strategies.

    Interest Group Research- Choose a topic that interests you. Research an interest group that specifically relates to your topic. Use their official website to research how they work. For your interest group provide the following:

    • Summary of their mission

    • Description of how they are funded and/or who their members are

    • Actions and initiatives

    • Public policies that they support

    • Why is it important to understand an interest group's funding and membership?

    • How do the names of interest groups reflect their values and purpose?

    • How can special interest groups benefit individuals?

    • How can special interest groups impact public policy?

Additional Resources


  • 501(c)4
  • Advocacy
  • Coalition
  • Corporation
  • Dues
  • Interest Groups
  • Lobbyist
  • Partisan
  • Public Policy
  • Regulation
  • Special Interest


Interest Groups & Lobbying


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