The Report on a Bill in Congress module is meant to teach students how to access and interpret information about bills before Congress. To access free printer-friendly PDF versions of lesson plans and worksheets, please subscribe to our email list using the form in the sidebar or bottom of this page.
Supplies: internet access, printer, paper, pencil
- Under guidance by the teacher, the student should visit the Thomas Legislative Information System at www.congress.gov.
- The student should select a bill before congress to examine. The site will list most-viewed bills as well as provide various ways to search for bills. A sample screenshot is shown below, with the relevant areas highlighted in red.
- The student should access the page for a specific bill. The screenshot below highlights in red key sections corresponding to the number and name of the bill, a summary of the bill, the cosponsors of the bills, and the status of the bill in becoming a law.
- Give the student a printed copy of the Report on a Bill in Congress Worksheet to fill out using the information on congress.gov and other online resources.
- The student should then write a report on the specific bill, using the Worksheet as a guideline, as if writing for a student newspaper.
Report on a Bill in Congress Worksheet
If you have not already done so, visit www.congress.gov under guidance from a teacher and select a bill in Congress.
Bills have a unique legislation identifier based on who created the bill. House Bills are labeled H.R. followed by a number. Similarly, House Resolutions have the format H.Res.#, House Joint Resolutions are H.J.Res.#, Senate Bills are S.#, Senate Resolutions are S.Res.#, and Senate Joint Resolutions are S.J.Res.#.
What is the legislation identifier of the bill you selected? What type of bill is this?
You can click on a bill to bring up its details page. A tracking bar shows the stages of turning a bill into a law and the bill’s current stage. Different tabs show various information about the bill. Look through the bill’s page and answer these questions.
Who are the sponsors of the bill?
Based on the bill sponsors, would you say this bill is more favored by one party or similarly favored by both parties?
What bill’s current status in the lawmaking process? Has it passed any branch of the US government?
The Summary tab shows a summary of the bill in simpler language.
Briefly describe the purpose of the bill.
The Text tab shows the full text of the bill. Try reading the full text.
How easy is it to read and understand the full text?
Write down three words or sentences from the full text that you do not understand.
Next to the legislation identifier is the short title of the bill.
What is the bill’s short title?
You can use the short title to search for online news articles about the bill under guidance from a teacher. Find at least one news article about the bill.
What is the name of the article source?
Summarize the news article.
Does the author of the article support the bill? What is the author’s view?
Using another website as necessary, under guidance from a teacher, find out the name of your Senators and House Representative.
Who are your two Senators?
Who are is your House Representative?
Are any of your representatives sponsors of the bill? If not, what are their positions on the bill?
Think about the bill as a law. Under guidance form a teacher, look up other online resources to help explain the bill if you still have questions.
How well can you understand the bill? How well do you think other voters understand the bill?
Do you support the bill?