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

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

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

Congressional Power of Impeachment

In the Constitution, the Congress is given the sole power of impeachment and removing the President and all civil officers from office. This power of Legislative Branch provides a significant check over the Executive and Judicial Branches. This lesson provides explanations of the Constitutional basis of the power, the process for removing officials and the history of impeachments and removing these officials from office. It also provides discussions on the standards of impeachments and how those are interpreted by Congress.

Grades 8, 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans

Civic Friendship: ‘I Am Rooting Hard for You’

“You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
It doesn’t sound like a note that a politician would write to the man who had just defeated him in a hotly contested election for the highest office in the nation just a few months prior, yet these are the exact words penned by President George H.W. Bush to his successor, newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton, on January 20, 1993. Many of the tributes to the former president recounted the story of this note as evidence of the character of the man, of his grace and humility. In this eLesson, students will explore the importance of character traits like humility and respect in the individuals who hold public office and how commitment to the rule of law has sustained the executive branch throughout the country’s history.

Grades 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans

The Constitutional Convention: Creating an Executive

History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This simulation places students at the Constitutional Convention and asks them to explore one of the fundamental quandaries faced by the framers: how to create an executive branch that lacked monarchical prerogatives yet could make the government function more efficiently. By discussing and debating the various options, students will gain a deeper understanding of the choices the framers faced and why they opted for particular structures, ones we live with today.