The American Presidency: Core Documents

This collection of documents on the presidency begins with Alexander Hamilton’s commentary on the sections of the Constitution related to the executive branch and ends with President Barack Obama’s address to the nation defending his interpretation of executive authority under the Constitution to use force against the Syrian regime. The documents cover the executive’s role and the specific topics of presidential selection, term limits, and impeachment.

Grades 10, 11, 12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Primary Sources

Article II: The Executive Branch

Article II lays out the Executive Branch of the government, headed by the chief executive, also known as the president. The branch is responsible for enforcing the laws. The article outlines the requirements to be president, the election process, and the duties of the office. Learn all about Article II in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.

Grades 5, 6-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Modules (Teaching Unit)

Executive Power in Times of Crisis

This lesson explores the use of executive power in times of crisis in relation to both the Constitution and the legislation of the time. Using exclusive primary source material from the National Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, students will explore how President Lincoln, President Reagan, and President Obama utilized their executive power against the respective threats of their time.

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.

Grades 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans

Starter Kit: Executive Branch Podcast

In this episode of our Starter Kit series, a primer on the powers of the President, both constitutional and extra-constitutional. What can a president do? How long do a president’s actions reverberate? Why don’t we do treaties anymore?
Also, a super-inefficient mnemonic device to remember the 15 executive departments in the order of their creation.
This short episode includes a one-page Graphic Organizer for students to take notes on while listening, as well as discussion questions on the back side.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Audio

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.

Grades 8, 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Essays

Congress and the Separation of Powers – Virtual Exhibit

Why does the U.S. Constitution separate the government into three branches? At the nation’s founding, the Constitution’s framers understood that executive, legislative, and judicial responsibilities differed, and they provided for these distinct functions. They also believed that concentrating authority in one body would result in tyranny. They therefore divided the government into legislative, executive, and judicial branches, so that no single part would become too strong, and empowered each to limit or “check” the powers of the others. This exhibit examines Congress’s unique role and the ways in which it can balance or dynamically shape and challenge the powers of two other branches.

Starter Kit: Checks and Balances Podcast

We exist in a delicate balance. Ours is a system designed to counterweight itself, to stave off the power grabs that entice even the fairest of us all. The U.S. government is comprised of humans, not angels, so each branch has the power to stop the other from going to far. The only catch being, of course, they have to actually exercise that power. In this episode, with the inimitable Kim Wehle as our guide, we learn what those checks actually are, and how the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches (ostensibly) keep things democratic.
This short episode includes a one-page Graphic Organizer for students to take notes on while listening, as well as discussion questions on the back side.

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.

Grades 6, 7, 8
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans