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Congress is in Session!

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I can't take credit for this one...my fellow teacher Mike first successfully used this idea, and then I was able to pull it off.

This activity is ideal for intermediate or advanced level classes. In our college, we have an "American Culture" class. One of our lessons involves the basics of the U.S. Constitution and how Congress passes a law. It can be pretty dry stuff, until you get the students to form their own Congress! After your explanation of "Congress", "checks and balances", and "bills into laws," tell your students that this class is now the "Congress". For your next class, your students must have a 1 or 2 minute speech prepared for a "bill" they would want to pass that would directly affect the school. Any bill! Such as: Abolishing the examination system, no littering, more money for books, eliminate this class requirement, etc.

During the "Congressional Session", select students at random to give their speil...then sit back and watch the debate begin! You'll be surprised how everyone will want to get their two cents in, especially when they know the debate will eventually be put up to a vote. Limit each debate to a certain time period, so you can get at least three or more votes in. I counted the "Yes" and "No" votes one at a time, and this made for high drama...as each bill was very narrowly passed or was defeated!

Alter this idea to suit your needs. For example, it might be a good idea to break up your class into small groups to discuss and draft a bill beforehand (to be debated the next class). For added dramatic flourish, appoint yourself President and "sign" the bill into law. (or veto it if you choose!)

To my British and Commonwealth friends: You could make your class into a Parliament...the same mechanics would be involved.

Roberto
Jishou, China
razula@yahoo.com

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