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Making Civics Real Workshop 3: Public Policy & the Federal Budget  
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Workshop 3

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Lesson Plan: Teaching the Lesson: Overview, Goals and Planning

Over three class periods, Leslie Martin’s ninth-graders at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina, create, present, revise, and defend a Federal budget, and then reflect on what they have learned. Students participate in a simulation, working in small, randomly assigned cooperative-learning groups. Using such computer applications as PowerPoint and Excel to illustrate their recommendations, they first create a budget for presentation to the class that represents the priorities of the Executive Branch. They are next introduced to the actual 2001 Federal budget, and in a whole-class, teacher-led discussion, discuss some key concepts involved in creating a Federal budget. These concepts include entitlements, which they learn account for nearly half of the Federal budget, and the difference between zero-based budgeting, which they practiced in the first part of the simulation, and incrementalism (reallocating dollars from the previous year’s budget). Students return to their cooperative-learning groups to revise their budgets based on new ideas they have heard in the presentations and Federal budget realities that were addressed in the whole-class discussion. Finally, a few groups present their revised budgets, and the remaining students, who have previously each selected a Congressperson whose views are compatible with their own, simulate a Congressional hearing on the budget.

Leslie Martin’s overall goal is to have students participate in thoughtful discussions, evaluate important issues in U.S. government and policy-making, and understand the process by which political decisions are made. Her specific content goals are for students to understand the Federal budget process, recognize the forces the influence budgetary policy, identify factors that influence members of Congress when voting on the budget, develop relevant questions on the budget from the point of view of a specific Member of Congress, and evaluate how the processes and forces affect the final budget. Leslie Martin’s process goals are to have students recognize the importance of participating, listen to ideas and perspectives of others, recognize the consensus-making process, master the skills of group interaction, organize and present a persuasive argument, use appropriate technology to communicate ideas, and demonstrate the ability to support their ideas.

The students have been prepared for this lesson in a variety of ways. They have read the overview section in their textbook, United States Government, Democracy in Action (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 1998), on the Federal budget process, including a brief presentation on entitlements and incremental budgeting. They know that the President presents a budget, sends it to Congress, and then negotiates until Congress passes the budget legislation. They have each done a report on one of the 14 executive departments, in which they described the agencies within that department. In specific preparation for this lesson, each student has chosen a member of Congress, whose views are compatible with his or her own, to represent in the Congressional debate. They conducted research on how that politician typically votes so that they could represent his or her views authentically. Finally, they have explored the meaning of “pork barrel politics,” using an analysis by Senator John McCain as a basis for discussion. This classroom is technology-rich and students are accustomed to preparing presentations using applications like PowerPoint and Excel.

Overview, Goals, and Planning    |     Activity 1
Activity 2     |     Activity 3     |     Activity 4     |     Activity 5     |     Activity 6     |     Activity 7     |     Scheduling and Adaptations

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