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.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

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.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

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.

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 11, 12

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.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

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.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Video
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: K, 1, 2

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?

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

What Should the U.S. Do About North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons?

The United States and North Korea are involved in escalating tensions related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The U.S. opposes North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons. The Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, however, believes he needs nuculear weapons to remain in power. While war with North Korea is probably not imminent, the prospect has caused alarm. A nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea would have devastating consequences.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

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.

  • Resource Type: Interactives, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12