Lesson: Follow a Bill!

Connecting Math and Language Arts to Civics

Students will learn how a bill becomes a law in California by participating in the KidsŐ Corner activity, Follow a Bill! They will then apply some the steps that they learned to create a school-wide initiative that they will first introduce to the student body in a survey. After reviewing the survey results and revising the initiative to reflect the interests of the student body, students will then present their initiative to the student council for a vote.


Grade Levels: 4th Đ 8th




Time: 3 class sessions (approx.)



Computers with internet access

Follow a Bill! worksheet

Chart paper

Examples of surveys

Microsoft Excel or similar spreadsheet program (to be used with older children)



1.     Begin lesson by asking students if they have a way to make changes at their school (this is most relevant if there is a formal student council established).  Talk about how ideas are presented to the student council.  Record on chart paper the steps that are involved (or ask students to research further the decision making process of the student council).  Ask if they can recall any events or changes that have happened recently (if they cannot recollect anything, this is OK, it will be something to reflect on throughout the lesson).  Instruct students that they will be learning about how ideas become laws in California. Introduce students to the Follow a Bill! section of the KidsŐ Corner web site and tell them that they will be following a good idea that one of our State Senators introduced as a bill.  Have students work in teams of two and inform them that they will be recording information on a worksheet while they go through the section.  Introduce the Follow a Bill! worksheet and instruct students to write down all of the steps that the bill had to go through to become law.


2.     Talk with the class about the steps that Senator SpeierŐs bill had to take to become a law.  Record all of the steps on chart paper.  If there is an active student council, compare the steps that an idea must go through at the school in order for it to go into effect at the school site (you may want to invite members of the student council to speak about this).  Discuss the similarities and differences. 


3.     Create a class initiative.  Have students work in teams of two to three to decide on an idea that they would like to develop into an initiative for the school to vote on.  Have the students present their ideas and create a Ňt-chartÓ for the rest of the class to assess the pros and cons for the ideas.  Narrow the initiative ideas down to a few class favorites and develop them further, taking into account the pros and cons that were mentioned. 


4.     Survey public opinion of the initiative.  Instruct students that they will now find out what the rest of the school thinks about their idea.  They will conduct a school survey to research the popularity of their initiative.  Create a simple survey form together including the following information: basic demographic data (sex, age, grade level, etc.), a question that restates the initiative (Do you think _______ is a good idea for the school? Why or why not?), a question about other ways to improve the school (Do you have other ideas of how to improve the school?); Note: you may want to have students review other surveys to get an idea about how a survey is constructed.


5.     Instruct students to work in teams of two. Have them practice presenting the survey to each other before they present it to other students. Instruct each team to survey 10 students.  It will be important to decide ahead of time how to approach other students (before school, at recess, after school).  The most effective way would be to make appointments with teachers to present the survey during class, but this is not always feasible.  Encourage students to survey a variety of students that represent the whole student body (different ages, sexes, grade levels, classrooms etc).


6.     Create a student tally sheet for students to record their results.  Combine all student results in a class tally sheet or create a spreadsheet of database.  Have student teams compare and contrast their results that they gathered with the rest of the survey results. Encourage students to draw conclusions about the data that they collected. You may want to decide on one initiative to pursue (if you had more than one) based on the results of your survey.


7.     Have students write a persuasive writing piece that supports the initiative, siting specific results from their survey data.  As a class, make revisions to the initiative(s) based on the information that was gathered.  Then create a report to accompany the initiative (based on the ideas that the students presented in their writing pieces).  Present the initiative to the student council (or the principal if no student council exists) and request that the school vote on it.


8.     Encourage students to make buttons and posters to publicize their initiative.   When the vote is taken, discuss the results.  Congratulate the students for all of their hard work and involvement, regardless of the outcome.  Let them know that they have been a part of democracy in action!


Extension: Encourage students to track other bills by visiting www.leginfo.ca.gov.


Please note: Depending on the age and grade level of your students, portions of this lesson can either be extended or omitted (especially in terms of statistical measures and writing pieces).



CA Math Standards

Statistics, Data Analysis, and Probability

Grade 4: Students organize, represent, and interpret numerical and categorical data and clearly communicate their findings

Grade 5: Students display, analyze, compare, and interpret different data sets, including data sets of different sizes

Grade 6: Students compute and analyze statistical measurements for data sets; Students use data samples of a population and describe the characteristics and limitations of the samples

Grade 7: Students collect, organize, and represent data sets that have one or more variables and identify relationships among variables within a data set by hand and through the use of an electronic spreadsheet software program


CA Language Arts Standards

Grades 3rd & 4th:  Writing Strategies

Students write clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea. Their writing shows they consider the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process (e.g., prewriting, drafting, revising, editing successive versions).

Grades 5th-8th: Writing Strategies Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. The writing exhibits the studentsŐ awareness of the audience and purpose. Essays contain formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed.


CA Social Studies Standards

Grade 4: 4.5 Students understand the structures, functions, and powers of the local, state, and federal governments as described in the U.S. Constitution.

Grade 8: 8.3 Students understand the foundation of the American political system and the ways in which citizens participate in it.





Follow a Bill!

Write down the steps that Bill takes you through for a bill to become law. If you need additional space, please write on the back of the paper or attach another sheet of paper.


Step 1:                               _____________________________________________________________________




Step 2:                               _____________________________________________________________________




Step 3:                               _____________________________________________________________________




Step 4:                               _____________________________________________________________________




Step 5:                               _____________________________________________________________________




Step 6:                               _____________________________________________________________________




Step 7:                               _____________________________________________________________________




Did the bill become a law? ______If so, when?______________________________


Follow a Bill! Answer Key

Write down the steps that Bill takes you through for a bill to become law. (Please Note: Students may choose to add additional steps.).


Step 1:                         Senator Speier decides to write a bill requiring more children to ride in car seats, and that their parents should have tougher punishments if they donŐt do this.


Step 2:                         The bill is introduced to the senate, where it has to go through committees. It goes to the Transportation Committee, which passes it and makes some changes. Then it goes to the Appropriations Committee, which focuses on money and budget issues. It passes there too.


Step 3:                         The bill is read aloud to the senate a second and third time. The second reading helps Senators remember the bill and think more about it before the third reading. Once a bill is read the third time, Senator Speier explains it and the Senators discuss the bill.


Step 4:                                     The bill is voted on by the Senators and it is passed.


Step 5:                         The bill goes to the Assembly, which has the same process of committee hearings, third readings, and voting. (Note: Students can break these steps up into three individual steps) .


Step 6:                         The Assembly passed the bill after several back and forth votes with the Senate because the Assembly wanted to make a few changes to the bill that had to be approved by the Senate.


Step 7:                         The bill was given to the Governor for his approval and signature. Governor Gray Davis approved the bill and signed it into law on September 24, 2000. (Then, Secretary of State Bill Jones placed it within the California Codes, a grouping of all the laws for the State.)


Did the bill become a law?  Yes    If so, when?    September 24, 2000.