The Three Branches of Government!
George Washington
Is it a balancing act?

A WebQuest
For 4th-5th Grade Social Studies Students

Designed by

Brenda Foster
AHTC Summer Institute 2008



Our Founding Fathers fought the Revolutionary War to gain freedom from the tyranny of a British king and a strong federal government. After the war ended in 1783, it is understandable why they chose to govern themselves using a system called the Articles of Confederation. This was a system that would not allow for any one person to have too much power.  Although the Articles of Confederation gave tremendous power to the states or people, a dreadfully weak Central government was created.


Realizing this system did not work, the 13 American states needed a new government - one that would allow a balance of power between the state and federal government. In the words of George Washington, the government created by the Articles of the Confederation was "little more than the shadow without the substance."


In 1787, delegates from most of the thirteen states were sent to a Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to draft this new form of government known as the Constitution. One of the greatest problems at this convention centered on how to divide the powers within the federal government to avoid the risk of dictatorship or tyranny.


This leads us to our investigation.  Our Founding Fathers dealt with this problem by assigning all power to what is called the Three Branches of Government (Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch) while guaranteeing that another could check the power of any branch.


Let us now go on a Web Quest to explore why our Founding Fathers chose to handle that problem in this particular way?  Will it work?


    How will the Three Branches (parts) of Government solve the problem of dividing the powers equally within the federal government?


    How can these three branches check others to allow for a balance of power?





You will take on one of the following roles:


   Executive Branch Member

   Legislative Branch Member

   Judicial Branch Member


The Task

You will work with a small group of students to research and explore one of the Three Branches of Government. You and your group will use this information to create a multimedia presentation to the class (PowerPoint, skit, commercial, etc.) which will clearly and acccurately portray the responsibilities and structure of your branch.

You will also use your researched knowledge of the function and structure of your branch of government to role-play a scenario of a bill (created by student groups pursuing a class or school law) as it goes through the process of becoming a law. You will fill out a bill form during this simulation to propose a law and describe your branch's role in the law making process.



The Process


You will be assigned to a team of 4-7 students and will work together to perform the following tasks.

1. Choose one of the three branches of government. (Executive, Legislative, Judicial)

2. Use the links below (and other sources) to research and explore your chosen branch.

3. Use your researched knowledge and multimedia resources to plan a multimedia class presentation of your chosen branch of government. Suggestions include (but are not limited to) the following: PowerPont, skit, commercial, etc. This presentation should accurately and clearly address the following points:


   What are the major responsibilities or function and structure of your branch?

   How does your branch create a balance of power within the federal government?

   How does your branch check on the powers of the other branches?


Please review the Class Presentation Rubric in the evaluation section.

4. Be prepared to use your researched knowledge to role-play a given scenario that will accurately show the involvement of your branch in transforming a Bill into law.

5. Working with your group, you will fill in a Bill Form that explains the role of your branch in fulfillling this duty. You will also propose a bill advocating a school or classroom law (See Bill Form).


Please review the Historic Role Play Rubric in the evaluation section.


Use the following resources and others to help you to research and to learn about your chosen branch of government and to plan your presentations.




The Three Branches of Government Study Guide (7 lessons)


Role of the Three Branches of Government - videos, etc.  (


The Duties of the Three Branches of Government


PowerPoint Tutorial


The Three Branches of Governmnet - Info.usa


The Three Branches of Government  (Bens U.S. Guide to U.S. Government for Kids)


The Three Branches of Government (Palese Web Team)


The Three Branches of Government (The Learning Booth)


The Three Branches of Government


The Three Branches of Government (Congress for Kids)


How a Bill Becomes a Law


How a Bill Becomes a Law - Three Branches of Government


The Constitution of the United States - Read a historical document


Checks and Balances


Role of the Three Branches of Government


The Three Branches of Government - Uen




Your final grade will comprise of the following two scores on which you will use rubrics to rate yourself.


   Group Score  - score derived from a combination of both a presentation rubric and a performance rubric


   Individual Score - derived from a short response question.



Group Performance Rubric

Group Presentation Rubric


Short Answer Response Question:


Explain how the three branches of government operate within the system of checks and balances.



I hope you have enjoyed your journey to learning a little more about our government and how it works.   If you are interested in learning more, check out the following Websites.  Have fun!


Additional Resources on the Three Branches of Government






TeacherLINK @ Utah State UniversityTeacherLink Resources, %Deborah Byrnes (

The Three Branches of Government Study Guide (7 lessons)