Lesson Plan: Differences Between the House and the Senate

Constitutional Foundations for the House and the Senate

Philanthropist David Rubenstein talked about the debate that occurred during the Constitutional Convention. He spoke about the Connecticut Plan that became the structure of the Congress.

Description

The legislative branch is divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate. While these chambers are both tasked with making laws, they differ in terms of their size, structure, rules and procedures. This lesson has students first examine the Constitutional foundations of these differences and then explore the ways that these two institutions are currently different. This lesson can be used in a traditional classroom or in a classroom with one-to-one devices.

Procedures

  • INTRODUCTION:

    Begin class by having the students view video clips 1 and 2 (listed below) and answer the questions that are associated with them. Discuss the answers with the class and address any misconceptions.

  • VIDEO CLIP 1: Constitutional Foundations for the House and the Senate (2:09)

    • What were the proposed ideas for Congress in the Virginia Plan?

    • How was Congress structured in the Connecticut Plan which was also known as the Great Compromise?

    • Which types of states did the House of Representatives favor?

    • Which types of states did the Senate favor?
  • VIDEO CLIP 2: The Great Compromise and the Differences between the House and the Senate (3:01)

    • Describe the significance of the Great Compromise which was also known as the Connecticut Plan.

    • How do the Senate and the House differ in terms of the number of members from each state?

    • How do the Senate and the House differ in the process in which members were originally chosen? How did this change?
  • APPLICATION:

    Have the students learn about the major differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate by viewing each of the following videos. Students should use the handout below to take notes and determine the differences relating to:

    • Size
    • Number of members per state
    • How members are chosen, terms
    • Leadership
    • Rules and efficiency.

    This part of the lesson can also be adapted to use as a jigsaw activity.

    HANDOUT: Differences between the House and the Senate (Google Doc)

  • SUMMARY:

    Similar to the comparisons that were mentioned in the video clips (e.g. football v. track team, bucket of crabs, cooling saucer), have the students write three separate statements that highlight the differences between the House and the Senate. For each statement, have them explain why this comparison illustrates the differences between the two institutions. Have each student present their favorite to the class.

  • EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

    Political Cartoon- Create a political cartoon that reflects one of the differences between the House and the Senate. In addition to the cartoon, provide a paragraph explain how this cartoon reflects this difference.

    Constitution Clips Scavenger Hunt- Pick 3 specific differences between the House and Senate that you found in the video clips. Search through the Constitution and find the part of the Constitution that it is either mentioned or alluded to. Provide a quote of that part of the Constitution and explain how it caused that difference.

  • ADDITIONAL PROMPTS:

    • How is the Senate becoming more like the House?
    • How are the Senate and the House different? What are the reasons for this?
    • Why did the founders make the Senate and the House different?

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • 17th Amendment
  • Amendment
  • Bicameral
  • Bill
  • Bipartisanship
  • C. E. O.
  • Coalition
  • Compromise
  • Constitution
  • Constitutional Convention
  • Direct Elections
  • District
  • Filibuster
  • Great Compromise
  • House Of Representatives
  • Individual Power
  • Leadership
  • Legislative Body
  • Majoritarian
  • Moderate
  • Pace And Efficiency
  • Popular Vote
  • Proportional
  • Rules Committee
  • Senate
  • State Legislature
  • Terms
  • The Great Compromise
  • Traditions
  • Unanimous Consent
  • Unlimited Debate
  • Vacancy

Topics

Constitutional FoundationLegislative Branch

Grades

Middle SchoolHigh SchoolUniversity