America's Legislators Back to School Program

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Elementary School Lesson Plan I - Compromise

Why Don't We All Agree?



Age-level: 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades


One of the most important concepts for students to understand is that conflict in the legislative process can be very productive. When people disagree, they must work together to find a solution that works best for everyone. Often through this debate, many details that may have been overlooked by one party will be noticed by another and brought to the attention of the whole group. Debate and compromise are useful ways of crafting the best solution to a problem.

In this lesson, students will work together to plan a class party. They will learn to compromise with each other in order to make the party work for everyone.


During this lesson, students should

  • Compromise with each other in order to achieve a common goal.

  • Justify solutions suggested to achieve goal.

  • Revise plans made by own group in order to gain approval of those plans by the other group.


One 45 minute lesson.


Worksheet for planning party

National Standards

National Standards for Civics and Government, K-4 Content Standards addressed:

    • 5-E Traits for Democracy





Explain to the students that one of the most important skills for legislators to have is the ability to negotiate and compromise. Legislators must listen to and try to please many different types of people. They must all agree as a group about the laws they create. Legislators must negotiate with others to insure that the ideas that are most important to them are included in the laws. They must also compromise with the other legislators in by giving up or changing certain things they may have wanted in the laws. By compromising, legislators can at least get some of what they wanted to achieve in creating a law.

For example, it is Jennifer's turn to cook dinner for her family. Jennifer wants to cook spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and she wants to make banana splits for dessert. Her mother wants her to include a vegetable. Her brother wants green beans. Her sister hates green beans. Jennifer likes salad. Jennifer negotiates with her brother and sister to get them to agree. Her sister will compromise and agree to a salad if she can have walnuts on her banana split. Her brother will compromise and agree to a salad for dinner if Jennifer will make garlic bread. They all agree, and their mother approves of the dinner plans. The siblings have found a plan that works for everyone.

Main Activity

Tell the students that they will be planning a party for the class, but they must find a plan that works for a majority of the class members. Tell them that any plan must have final approval from you, that you can veto any plan that you find inappropriate. Don't give any other rules for their planning.

Divide the class into two groups. Hand each group the planning worksheet for the party.

Explain that each group will have ten minutes to come up with a plan. At the end of ten minutes, the two groups will swap papers.

Explain that once the groups have swapped, they must come up with one plan for the whole class based on what they know the other groups want. Give them a new worksheet. Tell students to focus on the points they have in common. Give them ten minutes to revise their plan.

At the end of ten minutes, call both groups together and discuss both plans. Allow each group to revise the plan based on the discussion.

Put the plans to a vote, or create one plan based on the class discussion and then vote on it. Continue revising and voting until one plan emerges as the clear winner of the majority of students.

Remind students during this process that they have a common goal, and that if they can't agree, the goal will not be met and no party will get planned.

Note: This lesson could be very frustrating for students. The teacher should modify this process to make it instructive for the students based on their needs and level of understanding. The students should see that this process is frustrating, but not to the point of anger or to a breakdown of the common goal. Some groups may also need some guidance in crafting a plan, such as selecting a group leader and/or someone to write down the plans.


After voting, ask students what they noticed about negotiating and compromising with their fellow classmates. Make the connection between the classroom and legislators. Legislators must negotiate and compromise all the time as part of their jobs. Sometimes, this can be difficult for them. Sometimes, it is not.

Ask students to imagine they are legislators. How might they promote negotiation and compromise? Are there particular traits that legislators should have to be good at compromising?

Follow Up/Extensions

  • Let the students have the party they have planned. By allowing students to put the solution they have crafted into action, they will learn important lessons about how difficult it is to create the best solution and to compromise to get that solution.

  • Don't give the students any input about things they may have forgotten in their plan. If they forget to plan for napkins or a stereo system for the music, they will learn a valuable lesson about how difficult it can be to make the best plan.


The National Conference of State Legislatures website has interesting and instructive information about state legislatures. www.ncsl



This project is supported by a Robert H. Michel Civic Education Grant sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center, Pekin, IL.





Posted 9/13/01
Updated 4/11/2010