The Legislative Race
This game presents a simplified version of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress. Although any member of the House of Representatives or the Senate can propose legislation, few bills pass through the multi-step process required for a bill to become law. Bills are introduced in the House or Senate; attract co-sponsors; and are studied and debated in committees that either pass them onto the the full chamber or not. Bills must pass both chambers in identical form to advance to the President, who can sign a bill into law or veto it.
By playing this game, students will experience the law-making process designed by the Founders and incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. This game is intended to introduce students to the important role Congress plays in our republic.
- By what process does Congress determine which proposed bills will pass?
- Do the majority of bills introduced in this board game version of Congress pass?
- At what step in the legislative process are bills likely to get stuck in this version of Congress?
- Where would you estimate bills are most likely to stall in the real House and Senate?
“Legislative Race” board game
Note: this PDF is scalable to be printed 25.5 x 33 (poster) or 8.5 x 11 (letter)
Dice (3 dice per group of players)
Matching tokens for each team of 2 players (we suggest that you use small interlocking stacking bricks, like Legos or similar brands)
Recommended Grade Levels
chamber, bill, law, sponsor, co-sponsor, committee, reconcile, amendment, conference committee, floor
This activity centers around a board game illustrating the legislative process.
Learning Activities - Teacher Instructions
Prior to Class Set-Up
- Print and cut out Bill Cards corresponding to the number of students in the class. Each student should receive a Bill Card.
- Decide how many teams (two players on each team) a class will have. Gather matching tokens for each team.
- Decide how many groups of teams a class will have. Groups should be made up of 2-3 teams (totaling 4-6 students). Print the corresponding number of game boards and student instructions.
- Gather 3 dice for each group of teams.
In Class Set-Up (5 minutes)
- Divide the students into teams of two. On each team, one team member will take on the role of a member of the House of Representatives and the other team member will take on the role of a U.S. Senator.
- Hand out Bill Cards, and instruct students to write their name as the “Sponsor” of the bill and decide as a team on a title of their companion bill. Instruct the students to write the title of their bill in the section labeled “Bill Title.”
- Distribute matching tokens to each team.
- Group the teams of 2 players into larger groups, made up of 2-3 teams.
- Hand out game boards to each larger group. Instruct each group to place the game board in the center of play, and to place their token on their corresponding start space.
Gameplay (30 minutes)
- Advise the students to read through the instructions of the game before beginning to play.
- Keep a copy of the instructions for your reference as you walk around the classroom to check their progress in the game.
Reflection (10 minutes)
Instruct each player to write a brief response to the guiding questions on their Bill Cards to turn in after class.