As they framed the Constitution, many of the Founding Fathers were wary of a powerful chief executive who might overshadow the legislative branch. By constructing the separation of powers within the federal government with a system of checks and balances, the Framers sought to limit the power of the president. Students will investigate not only the formal checks as laid out in the Constitution, but also explore the informal checks on presidential power that have emerged in the modern era. Free registration required to access lesson plan.
U.S. v. Nixon (1974)
This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about United States v. Nixon (1974). It contains background information in the form of summaries and important vocabulary at three different reading levels, as well a review of relevant legal concepts, diagram of how the case moved through the court system, and summary of the decision. This resource also includes eight classroom-ready activities that teach about the case using interactive methods.
Grade 9-12 Executive Branch Document Exploration
The purpose of this lesson is to assist student exploration of several of the primary source documents related to the creation of the executive branch. Through independent reading followed by a round robin assignment and an essay to explore current application of executive power, students will develop their historical inquiry skills and understand the scope and meaning of executive power under the U.S. Constitution.
Grade 6-8 An Energetic Executive
The purpose of this lesson is to assist student understanding of the expressed and implied powers of the president. By the conclusion of this lesson, students will understand the scope and purpose of these powers and be able to describe how they play out in real life. Students will also understand the importance of constitutional checks on presidential powers–examining the ways that a president could abuse his or her power should constitutional checks not exist.
The Pursuit of Justice
The Pursuit of Justice book, written by Kermit L. Hall and John J. Patrick, analyzes 30 Supreme Court cases chosen by a group of Supreme Court justices and leading civics educators as the most important for American citizens to understand. An additional 100 significant cases included in state history and civics standards are summarized. The complete book or individuals chapters can be downloaded.
Exploring the United States Constitution eBook
Each chapter connects one or more of the billions of primary source documents in the holdings of the National Archives to the principles found in the United States Constitution. These documents exemplify the workings of the three branches of the federal government as laid out in our Constitution. This eBook is available as a Multi-Touch book for iPad and Mac on iTunes, or for PC, Android devices, Mac, iPhone, iPad, or eReader with Scribd.
The Constitutional Convention: Lesson 3: Creating the Office of the Presidency
This lesson focuses on the arguments over the various characteristics and powers of the office of president as debated at Constitutional Convention of 1787. By examining the views of delegates as recorded in James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, students will understand the arguments of those who supported either a strong, independent executive, or a very limited and highly controlled executive. Students will also see why, in the end, the delegates compromised.
Balancing Three Branches at Once: Our System of Checks and Balances
Using primary source documents, your students can see clear demonstrations of how one branch of our government can check another, and when it should.