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Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers

Public Policy and the Federal Budget — Workshop Session

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Key Constructivist Methodology:

  • Integration of teacher-directed instruction with small group work

Teacher: Leslie Martin

School: West Forsyth High School, Clemmons, N.C.

Grade Level: Ninth Grade

Course: Economic, Legal and Political Systems

Lesson Objectives:

  • to understand the Federal budget process, recognize the forces the influence budgetary policy
  • to 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
  • to evaluate how the processes and forces affect the final budget


The Lesson
Over three class periods, Leslie Martin’s ninth-graders 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. 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. 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 its revised budget 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.

Support Materials
The support materials found under Sections will lead you through the viewing of the workshop video and the related activities and discussions for “Public Policy and the Federal Budget.” These materials can be used by individuals and by facilitators of workshop sessions.

The support materials identify key concepts, provide discussion ideas for each video segment, and recommend follow-up activities for after the workshop session.

Additional Materials 
The following materials—Lesson Plan, Teacher and Student Perspectives, Essential Readings and Other Lessons—provide background and context for the lesson seen in the workshop video. They also supply the tools you need to adapt this lesson and its teaching strategies for your classroom.

Lesson Plan

Information on Leslie Martin’s method of teaching the lesson on the Federal budget, the national standards this lesson addresses, assessment methods, additional resources, and her teaching materials, including:

Lesson Materials

  • Background References (PDF)
  • A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Budget (PDF)

See Lesson Plan

Teacher Perspectives

Leslie Martin’s reflections on the following topics:

  • What students learned
  • Other reflections
  • Assigning students to groups
  • Making groups more dynamic
  • Questioning strategies
  • Keeping students on task
  • Achieving standards
  • Hands-on learning
  • Challenges for students
  • How you know the lesson is working
  • Role of the teacher
  • Teaching controversial issues
  • Constructivist teaching
  • Using a variety of teaching methodologies
  • Connecting constructivism and civics
  • Her background
  • Her evolution as a teacher
  • How to get started
  • Role of technology


See Teacher Perspectives

Student Perspectives

Leslie Martin’s ninth-grade students’ reflections on the following topics:

  • Leslie Martin’s teaching style
  • Working in groups
  • Role-playing
  • Lessons learned
  • Constructivist learning
  • The issues
  • The group’s process
  • Civics education


See Student Perspectives

Essential Readings

Becoming a Constructivist Teacher
By Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Martin G. Brooks
In this chapter from In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993, 1999), the authors identify and describe a dozen behaviors that characterize a constructivist teacher. Jacqueline Brooks is Associate Professor in the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Martin G. Brooks is Superintendent of the Valley Stream Central High School District in Valley Stream, New York.

Creating Effective Citizens
This position statement, which was prepared by the NCSS Task Force on Revitalizing Citizenship Education, was approved by the NCSS Board of Directors in May 2001.


See Essential Readings

Other Lessons

  • Dividing the Federal Pie
  • Budget Cutting vs. Revenue Generation


See Other Lessons

Series Directory

Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers


Produced by State of the Art, Inc., in collaboration with the National Council for the Social Studies and the Center for Civic Education. 2003.
  • ISBN: 1-57680-679-0