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.

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.

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

The Appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor

The U.S. Constitution grants the President the power to appoint people to a variety of government positions. These appointments require careful thought and consideration since the people can have a great impact on the lives of many Americans during that President’s term. Some appointments need even greater thought and consideration, and those are to the federal judicial system and more importantly, to the Supreme Court of the United States. Justices of the Supreme Court (and other federal courts) serve lifetime appointments. Their rulings as they interpret the Constitution, and other situations as outlined in Article III of the Constitution, can have far-reaching effects for generations. With this awesome power to appoint comes an equally awesome responsibility to make sure that the individuals are the best people for the job. In this lesson, students will examine the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was also the first female Justice. Students will examine the process by which a President makes the selection and the steps that lead to that person being confirmed by the Senate (or not).

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

Commemorating Presidents’ Day Resources

Teach your high school students about the constitutional legacy of George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan this Presidents’ Day. These free, ready-to-use lessons will engage your students in learning about these important presidents and how they shaped the history and Constitution of our nation. Each lesson was written and reviewed by scholars and contains questions to test student knowledge.

Grades 9-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Lesson Plans