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

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

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.

Presidency on Trial: Assessing the Limits of Presidential Power

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.

George Washington and the Presidency

This short video highlights the crucial role played by George Washington in writing upon the “blank slate” of the Constitution. Washington was self-conscious about the importance of establishing principled precedents in his interpretation of Article II and what it said—or did not say—about the extent of executive power. According to Professor W. B. Allen, Washington was “conscious and deliberate” as he and his advisors gave meaning to the outline of the Constitution.

Grades 11, 12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Video

The President’s Roles and Responsibilities: Communicating with the President

In order to become informed participants in a democracy, students must learn about the women and men who make decisions concerning their lives, their country, and the world. The president of the United States is one such leader. As a nation, we place no greater responsibility on any one individual than we do on the president. Through several activites, students learn about the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. president and their own roles as citizens of a democracy.