Lesson Plan: Checks and Balances

The Constitution and Checks and Balances

The Constitution and Checks and Balances


The principle of checks and balances prevents one branch of government from becoming too powerful. Examples of checks and balances include vetoing of bill, ratifying treating, judicial review and others. This lesson provides video clips with examples and explanations of checks and balances.


  • WARM-UP:

    Have the students answer each of the following questions before starting class.

    • What are the three branches of government?

    • What responsibilities does each branch have?

    • In what ways is power limited under the U.S. Constitution?

    As a class, view the video below and have the students respond to the following questions. After viewing the video, review the concept of checks and balances and the powers of each branch of government with the students.

    Video Clip: Checks and Balances (1:49)

    • In the video clip, Mr. Giles is discussing the idea of "checks and balances." Based on his description, explain the concept of "checks and balances." What are examples of this?

    • How does the idea of checks and balances prevent one group from gaining too much power?

    Using the Checks and Balances Handout have the student watch each of the video clips. For each video clip, students will describe the actions in the clip, explain who has this power and who is being checked by this action. Review this information to address any misconceptions before moving on.

    Video Clip: The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (3:27)

    Video Clip: Judicial Impeachment Trial (1:20)

    Video Clip: Education Secretary Confirmation Hearing (:51)

    Video Clip: President Obama urges Senate Ratification of the START Treaty (2:05)

    Video Clip: Obama and the Veto Override (2:42)

    Video Clip: History of Presidential Pardons (2:30)

    Video Clip: Supreme Court Nominee Announcement (2:13)

    Video Clip: Neil Gorsuch Confirmation Hearing (2:14)

    Video Clip: Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review (1:31)


    Have the students break into small groups and assign each of the groups one of the following examples of checks and balances. Each group will describe this example of checks and balances, and prepare arguments about why it is important to maintaining a limited government. Students will present their descriptions and arguments to the class.

    • Pardon and Clemency
    • Veto and Veto Override
    • Nomination and Confirmation of Federal Judges
    • Nomination and Confirmation of Cabinet Members
    • Ratification of Treaties
    • Impeachment of Judges and the President
    • Judicial Review

    Individually, have the students respond to the following writing prompt:

    • How effective are checks and balances in preventing one branch from gaining too much power?

    Argumentative Essay Free Response Question- Respond to this writing prompt presented in the style of the Argumentative Question component of the redesigned AP Government and Politics exam.

    Concept Map- Draw a concept map showing the different checks and balances that each of the three branches have.

    What-If- Pick one check that a branch of government has over another. Imagine what would happen if the check over that branch did not exist. Explain the potential consequences of not having that in place.

    Additional writing prompts-

    • Which example of checks and balances is most important? Explain your arguments.
    • Which branch (if any) do you think is the weakest? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources


  • Bill
  • Branches Of Government
  • Citizenship Rights
  • Clemency
  • Commute
  • Confirmation
  • Congress
  • Constitution
  • Hearing
  • House Of Representatives
  • Impeach
  • Judge
  • Judicial Review
  • Marbury V. Madison
  • Negotiations
  • Nominee
  • Nullify
  • Override
  • Pardon
  • President
  • Ratify
  • Senate
  • Separation Of Powers
  • Supreme Court
  • Treaty
  • Veto


Constitutional FoundationExecutive BranchJudicial BranchLegislative Branch


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