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.

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

Snowden and the NSA

A mere nine months ago no one knew the name Edward Snowden. Now not a week goes by without a news story related to his revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA). No doubt your class has already begun to ponder the implications of NSA information gathering and what it says about our system of governance. Does the executive branch, which controls the NSA through the Department of Defense, have too much power? How do we resolve the tension between liberty and security? Is Snowden, who released classified information, a traitor or a whistleblower? Were his actions morally justified?

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.

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

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 Power of One Decision: Brown v. Board of Education

When minority students decided to take their challenge of the “separate but equal” doctrine to the Supreme Court, the 1954 decision handed down by the court in Brown v. Board of Education and enforced by the executive branch, changed their lives and America forever. In this lesson plan, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Brown v. Board of Education,” students gain insight into decision-making at the Supreme Court, learn about the people behind the case, construct a persuasive argument, and evaluate the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.

Grades 8, 9-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Lesson Plans