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March 1, 2013

What is sequestration? – Lesson Plan


Economics, U.S.

Estimated Time:

One 45-minute class period

Grade Level:



Students Will:

  • Learn the definition of sequestration.
  • Learn about government budgets, spending and cuts.
  • Learn about the potential impact of Sequestration on communities across America.
  • Learn the difference between layoffs and furloughs.


  1. Begin a discussion about sequestration by proposing these warm up questions:
    • What is a budget?
      • An estimate of costs, revenues, and resources over a specified period, used to predict future financial conditions and goals. (Source: BusinessDictionary.com)
    • What is debt?
      • A duty or obligation to pay money, deliver goods, or provide service under an agreement. (Source: Business Dictionary.com)
    • How much money do you think the U.S. government has borrowed?
  2. Have students watch the first part of this PBS NewsHour Report on Sequestration: Despite Gloomy Urgings, No Signs of Give From Congress on Sequester
  3. Ask students what they think will happen.  Questions might include:
    • What is a layoff?
      • The act of suspending or dismissing an employee. (Source: Free Dictionary) What is a furlough? A temporary layoff or a reduction in work days with a corresponding reduction in take-home pay  (Source: Free Dictionary)
    • What are the differences between a layoff and a furlough?
      • A furlough is a temporary, defined period of unpaid time off, at the end of which the employee returns to work on a paid basis. On the other hand, a layoff is the removal of an employee from the workforce, without pay and without guarantees of returning to work. (Source: Lawyers.com)
  4. Students should use this writing prompt to assess their understanding of the issue:
    • What is sequestration?
      • It’s a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The cuts would be split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending.
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  • The Materials You Need

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    Relevant National Standards:
    • Standard 8: Understands the central ideas of American constitutional government and how this form of government has shaped the character of American society
    • Benchmark 4: Understands the concept of popular sovereignty as a central idea of American constitutional government (e.g., the people as the ultimate source of the power to create, alter, or abolish governments)
    • Benchmark 7: Understands how the design of the institutions of government and the federal system works to channel and limit governmental power in order to serve the purposes of American constitutional government
    • Standard 20: Understands the roles of political parties, campaigns, elections, and associations and groups in American politics
    • Benchmark 1: Knows the origins and development of the two party system in the United States, and understands the role of third parties
    • Economics
    • Standard 5: Understands unemployment, income, and income distribution in a market economy
    • Standard 8: Understands basic concepts of United States fiscal policy and monetary policy
    • Common Core Standards
    • Common Core Literacy Grades 9-12
    • Key Ideas and Details
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
    • Craft and Structure
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
    • Intergration of Knowledge and Ideas
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
    • • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
    • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.10 By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

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