Q23: Why do you need to know who your U.S. Senators are?

A. so that you know who is in charge of the courts
B. so that you know who enforces the laws
C. so that you can share your opinions on legislation
D. so that you know who has been censured and tried for treason

Question Background Information


It is sometimes easy to think that one vote doesn't matter, but the truth is that it can and does. There are countless examples in history where one vote made a difference in the Senate. One vote in the Senate can mean the difference between a bill passing or dying, or between a presidential nominee being appointed or denied. But how do senators know how to vote? 

Part of the answer is that they have to know what the people want. They have to listen to the voices of their constituents. 

Constituents make their voices heard by speaking up. They can call, email, send letters, attend town hall meetings, and speak with their senators face to face, and share their concerns. If the people do not share their concerns, then the senators will not know how they feel and will not be able to consider these concerns when they determine how they will vote.

Additional Content

Offline Activity


It’s important to make sure that your voice is heard and that the people who represent you know what concerns you. Why? Because if the people do not speak up, then their representatives will not be able to effectively do their jobs. In this activity, students will learn how to write a letter to their senator and share their concerns. 


  • Print a copy of the letter-writing guidelines for each student. 
  • Provide each student with a letter template.
  • A rubric is available if this is a graded activity. 
  • Find the names and addresses of your state’s Senators at 
  • Have business envelopes and postage so that the students are able to mail their letters to their senators.

Note: an equivalent exercise can be adapted for members of the House of Representatives (instead using to find which representative to contact).  See Question 29.

Required files

The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes a rubric.

Teaching Materials.


  1. Letter writing is generally a solitary activity. However, depending on the age and/or skills level of the students, you may want to have them work in pairs. 
    • Divide the class into pairs based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C).
  2. Explain to the students that they are going to write letters to their senators to express their concern about a topic. 
    • Brainstorm with the students on possible topics -- taxes, civil rights, war, laws, various protests, net neutrality, gun laws, healthcare, government investigations, etc.
    • If the students are struggling with this, ask them about current events. How do they feel about a political happening? Why do they feel this way? What do they want their senator to do about an issue (e.g. vote “no/yes” on an bill, sponsor a bill, or encourage members of a federal agency to vote “yes/no” on an issue).
    • Be aware that some students may wish to write about personal or controversial topics, but may not bring these up during the brainstorming session. To make sure that they realize that they can write about the topics, end the brainstorm with a statement about how the list they see on the board is not exhaustive and that they can choose any topic they wish. 
      • If students are writing about a specific bill or resolution, make 
        sure that they identify it correctly: 
        Senate Bills: "S._____" 
        Senate Resolutions: "S.RES._____" 
        Senate Joint Resolutions: "S.J.RES._____"
    • You may wish to emphasize the following: 
      • You are the only person, other than the senator, who will read the letter.
      • You are not grading them on the topic they choose. The goal of this exercise is to write a letter and make their voices heard. It is 
        not to choose a topic that everyone likes or agrees with.
  3. Write the names and addresses of your state’s senators on the board.
  4. Review the letter writing guidelines with the students.
  5. Have them create an outline or rough draft on the template before writing a final copy.
  6. Circulate throughout the room as the students complete their letters to check for understanding and help as needed.
  7. Have them write the final copy on a clean sheet of loose-leaf paper.

Note: An equivalent exercise can be adapted for members of the House of Representatives (instead using to find which representative to contact). See question 29. 

Discussion Prompts

Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting.

  • The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question. 
  • The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events, and historical events. 


Our government was created for the people, by the people. It exists to protect the rights of those who live in this nation. Making one’s voice heard is important because it tells our representatives what we expect from them.

Prompt 1

Why do you think it is important to know who your senators are? What are ways to find out who your senator is and how to contact him or her? 

Prompt 2

Sharing one’s opinions can be a little intimidating no matter what. However, failing to speak up can be even worse in the long run. Why should you write about controversial topics and send your opinions to your senator? Is there any value in sharing potentially unpopular opinions? How will speaking up benefit the nation? What current or past events support your opinion? 

Additional videos