Am I Missing Something? Special Interest Groups


Special Interest Groups Video and Lesson Plans

Video Message

  • Some people think special interest groups have too much power over lawmakers. 
  • Most people are part of special interest groups.
  • Special interest groups contribute to the process of representative democracy by providing information to lawmakers and representing the interests of different segments of the population.


  • To strengthen understanding of the need for interest groups in supporting the interests of all segments of the population.
  • To develop an awareness that special interest groups provide needed information to legislators.
  • To compare causes, agendas, and interests of various interest groups. 
  • To increase student understanding and appreciation for representative democracy in America.

Ultimate Impact

  • Recognition that all people are part of interest groups.
  • An understanding of the need for interest groups in supporting the interests of all segments of the population.
  • Favorable change in impressions of the political system held by the public. 
  • Increased citizen knowledge, understanding, appreciation, and participation in the political system.
  • A greater understanding and appreciation for representative democracy in America.  

Activity #1:

Activity #2:

Activity #3:

A graphic organizer activity for comparison of characteristics and causes of interest groups.

A survey of students and adults to determine groups to which they belong.

Graphing and display of interest group survey results.

Suggested Timeframe:

1 Class Period

Suggested Timeframe:

2-3 Class Periods

Suggested Timeframe:

1 Class Period




  • The student will summarize and interpret the message of the video to identify the purpose, audience, and effectiveness of the message.
  • The student will apply knowledge of vocabulary used in the video by using it appropriately in verbal and written activities.
  • The student will apply analogical thinking to make comparisons between selected interest groups.  
  • In order to determine interest groups represented by a group of adults and students, the student will construct, distribute, and compile results of a survey instrument.
  • The students will predict, analyze, and graph results of an “Interest Group” survey to draw conclusions about the opinions of a given group of adults and students.




  • Discuss concept of “special interest groups”, allowing students to develop a working definition.
  • Introduce the video and show to the group.
  • Discuss student impressions of the video, identifying the purpose of the film maker and intended audience.
  • View the video again, with students listing interest groups mentioned. 
  • Work in small groups to compile a list of additional groups that could be considered “interest groups”. 
  • In large group, teams share lists compiled and have students identify groups to which they belong. 
  • Discuss the goals or agendas of the interest groups identified, using the internet to gather additional information. 
  • Using a graphic organizer, students  compare the similarities and differences in goals, positions, or agendas of two chosen interest groups.
  • Discuss the issue of competing agendas of groups to which students might belong. 




  • Introduce the lesson by reviewing the video and/or the interest groups identified in lesson #1. 
  • Make predictions about groups to which students in the school or people in the local community might admit to belonging.
  • Discuss use of surveys in gathering information. 
  • Compile research questions to be included on a survey to determine the interest groups to which local students and adults belong. 
  • Create and illustrate the survey.
  • Distribute to students and adults. 
  • Compile results. 
  • Analyze results to draw conclusions about local special interests.
  • Reflect on the process, results, and conclusions drawn from the activity in an essay.



  • Introduce lesson by discussing the survey results compiled. 
  • Discuss ways survey results are reported and shared with others. 
  • Demonstrate procedures for creating graphs from gathered data. 
  • Working in small groups, students compile graphs and a written narrative for major interest groups identified. 
  • Students create a display of survey, the results, information gathered, and conclusions drawn.
  • Close lesson by discussing other ways information is gathered about individuals. (ie: on-line surveys; “cookie attachments” on internet usage, telephone surveys, census data, purchases, etc.)
  • Reflect on the ethical issues of gathering information about people and the integrity of information from various sources. 



Activity #4:

Activity #5:

Simulation of a school board meeting at which parents, students, and staff members appeal to the board to save programs and jobs.

Development of a presentation or product that represents the causes of an interest group.

Suggested Timeframe:

2 Class Periods

Suggested Timeframe:

2-3 Class Periods



  • Given a situation, the students will role-play an identity to represent the interests of a given group.  
  • The students will plan, create, and present a video clip, PowerPoint, or audio public service announcement (PSA) that demonstrates an understanding of the role interest groups play in society.



  Day 1

  • Introduce the role playing activity by announcing that the _______school board has decided to drastically cut funding to half of the listed special programs as a result of the budget shortfall. 
  • Announce that the decision about which programs will be eliminated is to be made after tomorrow’s open board meeting. At the meeting all groups being considered for cuts will be allowed five (5) minute to make a statement defending the need for their program. 
  • Using the identity cards provided or teacher created identity cards, each student will be assigned to one of the following groups:  

1.  Superintendent (teacher or other)

2.  School Board

*Board President (1)
*Members (4-6)

3.  Parents/students (2-3) representing each of the following:

*Soccer Team

*Track Team

*Tennis Team

*Vocational Ed.

*Gifted Program

*Middle School Band

*Art Program



*Special Teachers

  • Allow students to meet with other members of their interest groups to select a spokesperson, compile research to share, develop and practice statements. 

Day 2:

  • Call the board meeting to order and announce the agenda for today’s open meeting.   “Superintendent” turns the meeting over to the School Board President to set the order for the presentations. 
  • Allow each group to present their case to the board to preserve funding. 
  • After the final presentation, the “Board” will go into a “closed session” to determine the course of action.
  • The President of the Board will reconvene the meeting to announce the decision of the board.
  • Debrief the lesson by asking students to discuss the following:

                  Board Members

  • Were the decisions difficult to make?
  • Had you made up your mind prior to the statements? 
  • Did you change your mind as a result of the statements?

                   Members of Groups:

  • How did you feel when the cuts were announced?
  • Did you feel as though it was real?
  • What would you have done after the announcement of cuts to get the Board to change its mind? 

                      To all: 

  • Could this really happen? 
  • What would you actually do if your favorite programs were slated for the cuts? 
  • Was this a worthwhile activity? Why?
  • Would you like to attend a school board meeting? 

 Multiple day pacing at the discretion of the teacher:

  • Introduce the activity by reminding students that they have the power to make a difference if they support a cause. 
  • In a small group, have students identify a cause or group to support. 
  • Review video with the students.
  • Identify elements of design in preparation for designing a similar product.
  • Students establish the criteria by which the projects will be evaluated, and compile a rubric.
  • Form teams and develop storyboard/ script/talking points to be included in a student created product.
  • Video, tape, or compile PowerPoint.
  • Present to group for peer review.
  • Teams analyze projects and revise as indicated. 
  • Share completed products with authentic audience.
  • Evaluate products using rubrics developed by students.


Submit student created presentations and videos to the Trust for Representative Democracy at the following site:



Developed by Carol Western Paola, Mississippi Project Citizen Co-Coordinator, for Representative Democracy in America: Voices of the People, a national project sponsored by the Alliance for Representative Democracy, a partnership of the Center for Civic Education, the Center on Congress at Indiana University and the National Conference of State Legislatures' Trust for Representative Democracy. 

Additional Resources


Lesson Worksheets | PDFs

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