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How a Bill Becomes a Law
Target Age Group: 6-8th grade students

Project Duration: 1-2 days

Objective: Teach students about some of the Representatives’ experiences on the first day of a new Congress

Vocabulary/Concepts: Speaker, majority and minority leaders, the Clerk, election, quorum, oath of office

Materials: The First Day of Congress section from the Kids in the House web site or printouts from the Web site, oath of office text, voting cards (optional) and a small box

Notes: Students learn about some events on the first day of a new Congress by role-playing and completing worksheets.

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bullet Introduction:
This lesson plan is designed to provide students with an interactive lesson on some of the activities of Members-elect at the beginning of a new Congress. Use the First Day of Congress section of the Kids in the House Web site, or printouts of the Web site so the students can follow along as you cover the opening day events. The Kids in the House Web Site:

To make the lesson plan interactive, you can assign the following roles to students:

  • The Clerk
  • A reading clerk
  • The Delegates (one each) from the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa
  • The Resident Commissioner (from Puerto Rico)
  • Two Speaker nominees (optional)
  • The Speaker-elect (if you choose not to assign nominees for Speaker)
  • Two tellers (one from each party)
  • The Dean of the House
  • The remainder of the class will act as the Members-elect

bullet Procedures

1) Distribute Materials:

The students will need a copy of the oath of office and voting cards (optional). If the students do not have access to individual computers, print out the First Day of Congress pages from the Kids in the House Web site.

2) The House Convenes:

Using the Web site or printouts, tell to the students that each new Congress is required by the Constitution to convene for the first time at noon on January 3, unless Congress has passed a law designating a different opening day. Use the following steps to walk the students through each First Day activity.

Step 1: Tell the students that, on the first day of a new Congress, the House Chaplain offers a prayer before the day’s activities begin. Take a moment to represent the prayer.

Step 2: After the Chaplain’s prayer, the Members-elect recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Havethe studentsrecite the Pledge of Allegiance as if they were the Members-elect.

Step 3: Roll Call (Option 1)
Until recently, a reading clerk called the roll of all Members to ensure a quorum. If you choose this option, instruct the student you have designated as the reading clerk to call roll. (Use your class role, so that all the students are included) Students may respond to the roll call by saying “present.”

Step 3:Roll Call (Option 2) In recent Congresses, the roll has been taken electronically. Members insert their official voting cards into the chamber's electronic voting machines to register their attendance. If you choose this option, have the students place their voting cards in a box that represents the voting machine. (A shoe box with a slit in the top is suggested.)

Tell the students that the roll must be called or voting cards counted to establish a quorum, before the House can conduct any business.

Step 4: The student acting as the Clerk announces the results of the elections for the Resident Commissioner, from Puerto Rico; the Delegates (one each) from the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa; and any deaths or resignations of Members since the general election. Use the names of the students assigned to these positions for the announcement.

3) Election of the Speaker:

Step 1: (Option 1) Choose two students as the nominees for Speaker and write their names on the blackboard so the other students can vote. Note: the nominees are also eligible to vote.

Step 1: (Option 2) To avoid a “popularity contest,” choose someone other than your students as the nominees for Speaker. For example: Use current House Representatives or celebrities as the nominees. Write the nominees’ names on the blackboard, and have the students vote.

Step 2: Have the student acting as the Clerk call the class roll. The students should respond by saying the last name of their choice for Speaker.

Step 3: Have the students acting as the party tellers confirm the vote. Have the student acting as the Clerk announce the name of the Speaker-elect.

Step 4: Tell the students that a Committee of Members, selected by the Clerk, walks the newly elected Speaker-elect to the Chair. The nominee who did not win the election introduces the Speaker-elect. Then the Speaker-elect addresses the House.

Step 5: The student acting as the Dean of the House administers the oath of office to the Speaker-elect. Use the following script:

Dean of the House: “Mr. Speaker (Or Ms. Speaker) do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God?"

Speaker-elect: “I do.”

If you chose Step One: (Option 2), explain to the students that the Speaker-elect must take the oath of office before being sworn in.

5) Members Take the Oath:

After taking the oath of office, the Speaker administers the oath of office to all Members-elect. Have the students read the oath of office out loud with you.

6) The First Day of Congress worksheet 

Print and distribute the First Day of Congress worksheet to each student.

First Day of Congress worksheet

Parents & Teachers
Tools for Learning

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A Little Known Fact
The Clerk is in charge of the display of fine arts in the House and House wing of the Capitol! Learn more in Time Warp: Art.

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Take a Trip!
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Glossary Terms
Key Words
Use the glossary to learn key terms.

Joint Resolution
Roll Call

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