• Identify the role and duties of the president

  • Compare and contrast the two houses of Congress

  • Explain how the federal judicial system functions

Key Concept

  • Each of the three branches of government has unique roles and responsibilities.


Tier 2 delegate
Tier 3 judicial review
Test Words compare

Evidence-Based Reading

  • Clarify Meaning: Outlining this lesson will help students understand the complexity of the branches of government. Outline the section on the executive branch with students. Stress the need to find the main topic of each paragraph. Point out that the boldfaced words can indicate important items to place in the outline.

Research It

  • Use .gov Websites: You may wish to extend this research activity by dividing students into groups based on the branch of government the person they wrote about is part of. Have each group create a presentation about their branch of government, how people become members of that branch, and the members they researched.

Workplace Connection

  • Understand Flow Charts: Explain that flow charts show information in steps to clearly indicate what happens first, next, and last. Have students work in small groups to research how a bill becomes law and to create a flow chart illustrating this process. Circulate among the groups, asking questions to help guide their work, such as where in Congress does a new bill start? (in the House of Representatives)

Writing Practice

  • To help students with this activity, tell them to make sure that the characteristics of each branch that they are comparing are similar in nature, even if they are different in function. Work with the whole class to make a table on the board with three columns: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. In the first row, under the first heading, write enforces laws. Elicit from students what should appear in the other two columns (legislative: makes laws; judicial: interprets laws). Help them identify that, even though the specific functions of the three branches are different, all three roles relate to laws. Point out that if one role related to laws and another related to taxes, there would be little use in comparing or contrasting them. When students have completed their paragraphs, make sure they have compared and contrasted related characteristics and used words that signal comparison and contrast.

Before Lesson

Students have learned that the Constitution divided the government into three branches. Ask students to name the three branches. (legislative, executive, judicial) Tell students that they will be learning more about the functions and responsibilities of these three branches in this lesson.


Explain that the government was divided into three branches in order to separate and set limits on its powers. This separation of powers keeps any one branch from becoming too powerful. Ask students to describe how a restaurant is organized. (Some cook, some serve food, some clear tables, some seat guests, some manage business aspects.) Point out that each group has its own roles and responsibilities. Similarly, the government is divided into three branches, each with its own roles and responsibilities. Ask students to create in their notebooks a three-column chart with the headings Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, and Judicial Branch. Tell students that as they read, they should list the roles and responsibilities of each branch of government under its name.

Guided Practice

  • The Federal Government
  • The Legislative Branch
    • Powers
    • Organization
  • The Judicial Branch

Core Skill

Identify Comparisons and Contrasts: Before they write their sentences, have students suggest language that can be used to compare or contrast the information in the Presidential Campaign Spending table. Then point out that comparisons are often used as evidence to support other ideas, such as arguments or predictions. After students have written their two sentences, invite several students to write their sentences on the board. Discuss how the comparisons support the predictions in those sentences.

Compare and Contrast: Provide students with online or classroom book examples of block and point-by-point comparisons. Ask how the two differ (block: one topic covered, and then another; point-by-point: comparisons are made immediately, within paragraphs). Have students work with a partner to complete their analyses and descriptions.


Multiple-Meaning Words: To help students understand the term pocket veto, explain that in this context pocket has nothing to do with clothes. Here, it means to put away. Ask students if they know of other words with more than one meaning. (Possible answers: lead, pass, ruler)

Investigate Structure and Function: Divide students into small groups. Assign each group a specific branch of government. Have each group investigate its assigned branch and create a flow chart displaying the structure and functions of that branch of government. Remind students to use visual cues such as position, lines, and colors to illustrate patterns and relationships. Display the completed charts in the classroom.

Lesson Review