Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Sign, Sealed, Delivered You're Theirs

American Federal Government

Clayton Canon | Published: November 8th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 180 minutes


In this lesson, students will engage in inquiry and literary components to help gain an understanding of and define interest groups, provide examples, and analyze how they affect the political process in the United States.

Essential Question(s)

How do special interest groups affect democracy?



Students engage in a Circle Maps activity to define and identify characteristics of interest groups.


Students explore the concept of interests groups by using a 3 - 2 - 1 activity to analyze their understanding.


Students complete a First Word Last Word activity to explain the meaning and characteristics of interest groups.


Students extend their understanding of interests groups by completing a Concept Card mapping activity.


Students are evaluated when they share out about their Concept Card mapping activity with the rest of the class. There will also be an exit ticket, which will give individuals the opportunity to display their levels of mastery.


  • Pens, pencils, and colored pencils.

  • Rulers, tape, and glue.

  • Poster-sized sticky notes

  • Standard sticky notes

  • Concept Card Mapping Decks

  • Article handouts


30 Minute(s)

Circle Maps Activity

Divide students into groups of 3-4 based on heterogeneous grouping (groups with students at varying academic levels). Give each group a copy of the concept Circle Map (attached above).

Instruct students to write down as many adjective or descriptors for the key term "special interest group." They are also welcome to include nouns and examples that pertain to the term.

After 15 minutes of work time, have a member of each group share out the words that they have placed inside of their circles. Devote 10 minutes to this portion of the activity.

4. Have the groups reconvene. Instruct them to come up with a 2-3 sentence summary of what the term "special interest groups" means. This should be written within the square on their circle maps, as well as on the sticky note that you have given them. When they have written their summary on the sticky note, the groups need to arrange sticky notes in a square around the class Circle Map.

5. Ask students how they would summarize, or define, the term special interest group.


Have students watch the Crash Course video over interest groups, paying close attention to their circle maps activity. This video is approximately 8 minutes.

Refer back to the definition of interest groups that students determined in the Engage activity. Ask students the questions posed in the video:

  • Are interest groups good for American government? Why or why not?

  • Are interest groups bad for American government? Why or why not?

  • What is the relationship between PAC funds and interest groups? How does this impact Congress?

3 - 2 - 1 Activity (30 minutes)

At the beginning of class, allow students to complete a Gallery Walk of the posters from each of your classes from the previous day. This should take 10 minutes, at the most.

Hand out a 3 - 2 - 1 Sheet to each student. Instruct them to answer the questions on the handout based on the previous circle maps activity and the gallery walk from the beginning of class.

Ask students how they addressed each of the 3 - 2 - 1 questions.


First Word Last Word Activity (30 minutes)

Place students in groups of 3-4. Instruct student groups to create an acrostic with the term special interests. Tell the groups to construct a group of words, using the letters of "special interest" as the first or last letter in the word (example attached above) that connect to, represent, or help define the term. Students will only be doing the first word side at this time.

Ask students how they assigned descriptors to the term. Also, ask them what prior knowledge they brought to the activity.


Students will read the CBS News' article, "When it comes to lobbying, one group stands out." As they read, have students jot down on a separate sheet of paper the impact of big business interest groups.

Have a class discussion about the reading.

  1. What [did you write down] is the impact of big business interest groups lobbying Congress?

  2. Whose voice is not heard in the lobbying efforts?

  3. For example if Google is exerting their influence (and spending money) on Congress, what might be a consequence of their efforts?

  4. If the ordinary citizen is no longer listened to because of special interest groups, how can they make their voices heard?

Concept Card Mapping Activity (60 minutes)

Still in their groups of 3-4, hand out sets of the Concept Mapping Cards (attached above).

Instruct student groups to sort the cards using cause and effect. There will be multiple possible outcomes, so encourage students to be ready to justify their reasoning. It is possible for groups to have similar responses.

Once students have completed each situation, ask them to write 1 positive and 1 negative outcome of each situation.

Ask students how they arrived logically at their conclusions about the hypothetical situations.


Last Word Activity (15 minutes)

Hand out, or have students retrieve their First Word Last Word Activity pages. Instruct them to complete the Last Word side in light of the additional information. Students will turn in the final product when they are completed.

Exit Ticket Activity (5 minutes)

Have students fill out the exit ticket slip to answer the question "to what extent do interest groups advance and harm democracy?"

Some exit ticket questions may include...

  • What role do interest groups have in influencing public policy?

  • How has the American tradition of joining organization resulted in a wide range of interest groups?

  • How does lobbying bring group pressures to bear on the process of making public policy?

If you need remediation you can reteach the content or refer students to the following website to help them reach mastery.