- Why was the separation of powers included in the US government?
- What are the three branches of government?
- How does the checks and balances process work?
- What are some examples of how separation of powers works in our government today?
- Students will understand how and why separation of powers was included in the US Constitution.
- Student will describe the three branches of government and explain how the checks and balances process works.
- Students will explain real life examples of checks and balances in action.
- Handout C: Montesquieu and Madison Venn Diagram Answer Key
- Handout D: Separation of Powers Video Viewing Guide Answer Key
- limited government
- John Locke
- James Madison
- judicial review
- republican government
- checks and balances
- separation of powers
Have students work alone or in pairs/small groups to fill in the first two columns of a KWL Chart (What I Know; What I Want to Know; What I Learned): What are the three branches of government and how do they function together?
Separation of Powers with Checks and Balances Activity: Montesquieu and Madison [45 minutes]
Have students read Handout A: Montesquieu Excerpts from the Spirit of the Laws and Handout B: Madison Excerpts from Federalist No. 47 to compare and contrasts their views on separations of power and checks and balances. As students read, have them complete Handout C: Montesquieu and Madison Venn Diagram. Depending on student background knowledge, you may want to divide the reading assignments and/or use grouping strategies since these excerpts are rather long.
Separation of Powers and Checks with Balances Activity: Constitutional Principle Viewing Guide [15 minutes]
Have the students watch the Constitutional Principle Video on Separation of Powers. Students should complete Handout D: Separation of Powers Video Viewing Guide as they watch.
Have students finish the KWL chart they started in the warm-up focusing on the Learned column.
Students find current events reports related to separation of powers and checks and balances, and share them in class, explaining how Montesquieu and Madison might interpret the events described.
Students will take one of the branches of government and focus on a speciﬁc example of a situation and how that situation would play out amongst all of the branches.
Constitutional Principles: Separation of Powers
Do you understand why separation of powers is important for protecting our freedom? This short, engaging video focuses on the constitutional principle of separation of powers. Clear definitions and graphics, an engaging historical narrative, brief scholar interviews, and memorable quotes will make this 6-minute video perfect for use any time of the year!
Checks and Balances in Times of Crisis
James Madison wrote in Federalist 51, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” The executive and legislature were designed to battle each other for power, but what does this look like in practice? The federal government is currently shut down as President Trump and Democrats in Congress have been unable to agree on a budget to pass. Specifically, the two sides have so far refused to compromise on the issue of constructing a wall along the southern border.