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The political system of the USA

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Мета: поглибити знання учнів про політичну систему США; удосконалювати вміння та навички читання та усного мовлення; розвивати навички творчості та роботи в групах; виховувати почуття колективізму та патріотизму
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Lesson

The political system of the USA

 

Мета:  поглибити знання учнів про політичну систему США; удосконалювати вміння  та навички читання та усного мовлення; розвивати навички творчості та роботи в групах; виховувати почуття колективізму та патріотизму.

 

 

PROCEDURE

 

1.Warm up.

   - Who is the President of the USA now?

   - Where does the President of the USA live and work?

   - What names of Presidents of the USA do you know?

 

      Teacher. The United States is an indirect democracy - that is, the people rule through the representatives they elect. In the beginning, only white men with property could vote. Over time, the vote has been given to more and more people. Today any citizen who is at least 18 years old can vote. The capital of the country is the City of Washington, situated in the Columbia District - a territory not included in any of the states.

The early American way of life encouraged democracy. The colonists were inhabiting a land of forest and wilderness. They had to work together to build shelter, provide food, and clear the land for farms and dwellings. This need for cooperation strengthened the belief that, in the New World, people should be on an equal footing, with nobody having special privileges.

    The urge for equality affected the original 13 colonies' relations with the mother country, England. The Declaration of Independence in 1776 proclaimed that all men are created equal, that all have the right to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

The Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution after it, combined America's colonial experience with the political thought of such philosophers as England's John Locke to produce the concept of a democratic republic. The government would draw its power from the people themselves and exercise it through their elected representatives. During the Revolutionary War, the colonies had formed a national congress to present England with a united front. Under an agreement known as the Articles of Confederation, a post war congress was allowed to handle only problems that were beyond the capabilities of individual states.

 

2. Reading.

Students work in  groups of two. They read the texts in their

groups, then exchange their representatives, and these representatives retell the texts they’ve read to the members of another groups.

 

Before you read

Use the dictionary to know the meaning of the new words.

 

a) Before reading try to remember what you have already known about the political system of the USA.

 

Group 1

thin_red.gifTHE CONSTITUTION

The Articles of Confederation failed as a governing document for the United States because the states did not cooperate as expected. When it came time to pay wages to the national army or the war debt to France, some states refused to contribute. To cure this weakness, the congress asked each state to send a delegate to a convention. The so-called Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in May of 1787, with George Washington presiding.

The delegates struck a balance between those who wanted a strong central government and those who did not. The resulting master plan, or Constitution, set up a system in which some powers were given to the national, or federal, government, while others were reserved for the states. The Constitution divided the national government into three parts, or branches: the legislative (the Congress, which consists of a House of Representatives and a Senate), the executive (headed by the president), and the judicial (the federal courts). Called "separation of powers," this division gives each branch certain duties and substantial independence from the others. It also gives each branch some authority over the others through a system of "checks and balances."

Here are a few examples of how checks and balances work in practice.

  •     If Congress passes a proposed law, or "bill," that the president considers unwise, he can veto it. That means that the bill is dead unless two-thirds of the members of both the House and the Senate vote to enact it despite the president's veto.
  •     If Congress passes, and the president signs, a law that is challenged in the federal courts as contrary to the Constitution, the courts can nullify that law. (The federal courts cannot issue advisory or theoretical opinions, however; their jurisdiction is limited to actual disputes.)
  •     The president has the power to make treaties with other nations and to make appointments to federal positions, including judgeships. The Senate, however, must approve all treaties and confirm the appointments before they can go into effect.

Recently some observers have discerned what they see as a   weakness in the tripartite system of government: a tendency toward too much checking and balancing that results in governmental stasis, or "gridlock."

 

Group 2

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BILL OF RIGHTS

The Constitution written in Philadelphia in 1787 could not go into effect until it was ratified by a majority of citizens in at least 9 of the then 13 U.S. states. During this ratification process, misgivings arose. Many citizens felt uneasy because the document failed to explicitly guarantee the rights of individuals. The desired language was added in 10 amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights guarantees Americans freedom of speech, of religion, and of the press. They have the right to assemble in public places, to protest government actions, and to demand change. There is a right to own firearms. Because of the Bill of Rights, neither police officers nor soldiers can stop and search a person without good reason. Nor can they search a person's home without permission from a court to do so. The Bill of Rights guarantees a speedy trial to anyone accused of a crime. The trial must be by jury if requested, and the accused person must be allowed representation by a lawyer and to call witnesses to speak for him or her. Cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden. With the addition of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution was ratified by all 13 states and went into effect in 1789.

Since then 17 other amendments have been added to the Constitution. Perhaps the most important of these are the Thirteenth and Fourteenth, which outlaw slavery and guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws, and the Nineteenth, which gives women the right to vote.

The Constitution can be amended in either of two ways. Congress can propose an amendment, provided that two-thirds of the members of both the House and the Senate vote in favour of it. Or the legislatures of two-thirds of the states can call a convention to propose amendments. (This second method has never been used.) In either case a proposed amendment does not go into effect until ratified by three-fourths of the states.

 

 

thin_red.gif                                               Group 3

 

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

The legislative branch - the Congress - is made up of elected representatives from each of the 50 states. It is the only branch of U.S. government that can make federal laws, levy federal taxes, declare war, and put foreign treaties into effect.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms. Each member represents a district in his or her home state. The number of districts is determined by a census, which is conducted every 10 years. The most populous states are allowed more representatives than the smaller ones, some of which have only one. In all, there are 435 representatives in the House.

Senators are elected to six-year terms. Each state has two senators, regardless of population. Senators' terms are staggered, so that one-third of the Senate stands for election every two years. There are 100 senators.

To become a law, a bill must pass both the House and the Senate. After the bill is introduced in either body, it is studied by one or more committees, amended, voted out of committee, and discussed in the chamber of the House or Senate. If passed by one body, it goes to the other for consideration. When a bill passes the House and the Senate in different forms, members of both bodies meet in a "conference committee" to iron out the differences. Groups that try to persuade members of Congress to vote for or against a bill are called "lobbies." They may try to exert their influence at almost any stage of the legislative process. Once both bodies have passed the same version of a bill, it goes to the president for approval.

Group 4

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EXECUTIVE BRANCH

The chief executive of the United States is the president, who together with the vice president is elected to a four-year term. As a result of a constitutional amendment that went into effect in 1951, a president may be elected to only two terms. Other than succeeding a president who dies or is disabled, the vice president's only official duty is presiding over the Senate. The vice president may vote in the Senate only to break a tie.

The president's powers are formidable but not unlimited. As the chief formulator of national policy, the president proposes legislation to Congress. As mentioned previously, the president may veto any bill passed by Congress. The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president has the authority to appoint federal judges as vacancies occur, including justices of the Supreme Court. As head of his political party, with ready access to the news media, the president can easily influence public opinion.

Within the executive branch, the president has broad powers to issue regulations and directives carrying out the work of the federal government's departments and agencies. The president appoints the heads and senior officials of those departments and agencies. Heads of the major departments, called "secretaries," are part of the president's cabinet. The majority of federal workers, however, are selected on the basis of merit, not politics.

Group 5

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JUDICIAL BRANCH

 

The judicial branch is headed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the only court specifically created by the Constitution. In addition, Congress has established 13 federal courts of appeals and, below them, about 95 federal district courts. The Supreme Court meets in Washington, D.C., and the other federal courts are located in cities throughout the United States. Federal judges are appointed for life or until they retire voluntarily; they can be removed from office only via a laborious process of impeachment and trial in the Congress.

The federal courts hear cases arising out of the Constitution and federal laws and treaties, maritime cases, cases involving foreign citizens or governments, and cases in which the federal government is itself a party.

The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices. With minor exceptions, cases come to the Supreme Court on appeal from lower federal or state courts. Most of these cases involve disputes over the interpretation and constitutionality of actions taken by the executive branch and of laws passed by Congress or the states (like federal laws, state laws must be consistent with the U.S. Constitution).

 

Group 6


POLITICAL PARTIES AND ELECTIONS

   Americans regularly exercise their democratic rights by voting in elections and by participating in political parties and election campaigns. Today, there are two major political parties in the United States, the Democratic and the Republican. The Democratic Party evolved from the party of Thomas Jefferson, formed before 1800. The Republican Party was established in the 1850s by Abraham Lincoln and others who opposed the expansion of slavery into new states then being admitted to the Union.

The Democratic Party is considered to be the more liberal party, and the Republican, the more conservative. Democrats generally believe that government has an obligation to provide social and economic programs for those who need them. Republicans are not necessarily opposed to such programs but believe they are too costly to taxpayers. Republicans put more emphasis on encouraging private enterprise in the belief that a strong private sector makes citizens less dependent on government.

Both major parties have supporters among a wide variety of Americans and embrace a wide range of political views. Members, and even elected officials, of one party do not necessarily agree with each other on every issue. Americans do not have to join a political party to vote or to be a candidate for public office, but running for office without the money and campaign workers a party can provide is difficult.

Minor political parties - generally referred to as "third parties" -- occasionally form in the United States, but their candidates are rarely elected to office. Minor parties often serve, however, to call attention to an issue that is of concern to voters, but has been neglected in the political dialogue. When this happens, one or both of the major parties may address the matter, and the third party disappears.

At the national level, elections are held every two years, in even-numbered years, on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. State and local elections often coincide with national elections, but they also are held in other years and can take place at other times of year.

Americans are free to determine how much or how little they become involved in the political process. Many citizens actively participate by working as volunteers for a candidate, by promoting a particular cause, or by running for office themselves. Others restrict their participation to voting on election day, quietly letting their democratic system work, confident that their freedoms are protected.

 

3. Agree or disagree with the statements. Give your reasons.

1. The so-called Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in May of 1727, with George Washington presiding.

2. The Constitution divided the national government into four parts, or branches.

3. The Bill of Rights guarantees Americans freedom of speech, of religion, and of the press.

4. With the addition of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution was ratified by all 50 states and went into effect in 1789.

5. The legislative branch - the Congress -- is made up of elected representatives from each of the 50 states.

6. Senators are elected to five-year terms.

7. The chief executive of the United States is the president, who together with the vice president is elected to a six-year term.

8. The president's powers are formidable but not unlimited.

9. The Supreme Court meets in New York, and the other federal courts are located in cities throughout the United States.

10. The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices.

11. Today, there are three major political parties in the United States.

12. The Democratic Party is considered to be the more conservative  party, and the Republican, the more liberal.

 

4. Work in groups.

    The students in 6 groups get cards with parts of the phrases and try to match them.

 

    1. The Articles of Confederation failed as a governing document or the United States because

    2.  The delegates struck a balance between

    3.  The desired language was added in

    4. With the addition of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution was                 ratified by

    5.  Americans regularly exercise their democratic rights by   

    6.  Members of the House of Representatives are elected to

    7. Both major parties have supporters among a wide variety of

    8. At the national level, elections are held every two years, in                 even-numbered years, on the first

 

    a) 10 amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as                 the Bill of Rights.

    b)  all 13 states and went into effect in 1789.

    c)  the states did not cooperate as expected.

    d) those who wanted a strong central government and those         who did not.

    e) voting in elections and by participating in political parties                 and election campaigns.

    f)  Tuesday following the first Monday in November.

    g) Americans and embrace a wide range of political views. 

    h)  two-year terms.

 

5. Fill in the gaps with the necessary words.

1. The USA _________ of fifty states.

2. The President of the USA is the ___________ of the government.

3. The US President is __________ every four years.

4. The USA is ____________ in the _________ part of the North American continent.

5. The US territory is rich in coal, oil, iron and other  _________ resources.

6. The _______ river in the USA is the Mississippi.

7. New York is the largest ________ centre of the USA.

8. Chicago is the _________ largest city in the USA.

9. G. Washington was the first __________ of the USA.

10. Alaska was ____________ from Russia in 1867.

 

6. Finish the following sentences.

 

1. The USA is….

2. The capital of the USA is …

3. The United States is washed by …

4. The USA is situated …

5. The US President is …

6. The USA borders on …

7. New York is …

8. The Mississippi with its tributaries is …

 

7. After reading activities.

Translate the following sentences into English. Do it in written form.

1. Сполучені Штати Америки – одна з найбільших країн     світу.

2. Загальна площа США -  9,372,610 кв. км.

3. Президент США є головою держави. Він обирається     непрямим народним голосуванням (indirect popular vote).

4. Президентська влада велика, але вона контролюється     Конгресом і Верховним судом.

5. Колонізація Британією Північної Америки почалася в 17     сторіччі.

6. Війна за незалежність тривала 4 роки і скінчилась     утворенням нової держави – Сполучених Штатів Америки.

 

  8. Relaxation.

Read the joke silently to make sure you understand each sentence. Retell the joke

 

Balzac as a Handwriting Expert

Balzac, the famous French writer, was a man of great talent. But he himself was proud of his ability to tell a person’s character by his or her handwriting. He often told his friends that he could tell anybody’s character exactly by his handwriting.

One day a woman friend brought him a young boy’s exercise book. She said that she wanted to know what Balzac thought of the boy’s character.

Balzac studied the handwriting carefully for a few minutes. The woman, however, told him that the boy was not her son and that he might tell her the truth.

“All right,” said Balzac. “I shall tell you the truth.” And he said that the boy was a bad, lazy fellow.

“It’s very strange,” said the woman smiling. “This is a page from your own exercise book, which you used when you were a boy.”

 

9. Writing.

Imagine you are in the USA now. Write a postcard. Use the questions.

-  Who are you with?

-  Are you having a lovely time?

-  Is the weather good or bad?

-  What have you done interesting for the last week?

-  What did you do yesterday?

-  What are you doing now?

-  What are you going to do?

 

10. Test. How Americans Say.

Match the phrases in the right column with the phrases from the left one:

 

1. May I introduce my sister Linda?          

                    a) Мені жаль.

2. Let me introduce Smith.                         

b) Вибачте.

 

3. Let me introduce you to Mary.               

c) Можу я представити мою сестру Лінду?

 

4. Meet my brother Henry.                         

d) По-моєму, це вірно.

 

5. I’m very pleased to meet you.                                         

e) З днем народження!

 

6.   I think so.                                                                                               

f) Дозвольте мені представити Сміта.

 

7.    I don’t think so.                                                                        

g) Надіюся, з вами все в порядку?

 

8.  To my mind, it is right.                          

h) Не потрібно дякувати.

 

9.  In my opinion, you are right

i) Так?

 

10.  I suppose. They are late.                        

j) Хвилиночку…

 

11.  I hope you are well.                               

k) Я так не думаю.

 

12.  Happy birthday to you!                        

l) Познайомтеся з моїм  другом  Генрі.

 

13.  Many happy returns of the day!           

m) Дуже радий  познайомитися.

 

14.  I’m very sorry.                                      

n) Дозвольте мені  представити  вас Мері.

 

15.  I’m sorry.                                               

o)  Вибачте.

 

16.  Sorry.                                                     

p)  Приємно  познайомитися.

 

17.  Excuse me.                                            

q)  Гадаю, вони   запізнюються.

 

18.  It’s quite all right.                                 

r) Найкращі побажання в  цей день!

 

19.  Not at all.                                              

 

s) На мій погляд, ви праві.

 

20.  Just a minute…                                     

t)  Я так вважаю.

 

21.  Yes?                                                      

u)  Все  в порядку.

 

 

11. Home task.

Write a quiz about the USA. Use reference books to help you.

Write questions about history, geography, famous people and places.

 

 

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